Bugaboo Bee Plus Review
This is the Bugaboo Bee Plus but it is the 2011 All Black Limited Edition. A typical Bugaboo Bee Plus has a silver chassis.
The Bugaboo Bee Plus is unusual in some respects – and these are what makes the Bugaboo Bee special and sets it apart from its competitors.
First of all the seat can face in either direction – that in itself is not unusual – but the Bee folds very neatly with the seat unit facing in both directions. A few other pushchairs fold with the seats on in both directions but none are as neat once folded as the Bugaboo Bee Plus. However the Bee fold is not as small as we hear people say, because it is fairly long and also the curved bars stick up. In our car in particular the Bee Plus has to fit long ways into the boot thus taking up more space than say the iCandy Peach which stacks at one end of the car boot, or even the Bugaboo Cameleon which is much flatter. The fold mechanism itself is amazing. The Bee literally slides into itself really neatly. Its so easy and simple and autolocks shut.
Secondly, the seat on the Bee “grows” with your child. Both the back of the seat, and the depth of the seat pad can be extended as your child grows. Thus there is no requirement for any harness height adjustors – the seat simply extends so that the harness is at shoulder height with the child in the seat. This makes it simple for one pushchair to be used by two different aged children. There is no requirement to rethread or alter harnesses to suit each child – or indeed as we once had – to have a pushchair set up for each child! The “growing” seat means that both our children at 18 months and 3.4 years old, looked incredibly comfy in the seat units, and could be easily swapped over. The eldest, who is rapidly growing out of pushchairs, looked extremely comfortable. The footrest is perfectly placed for her, and the hood is plenty high enough for some time to come.
In many respects we are not a fan of the Bee Plus but for us, these two things – the neat and easy fold, and the “growing seat” unit which makes our children look so VERY comfortable – are selling the Bee to us. We really are having to eat our words because we can’t argue with just how good the photos look of my children in the seat unit.
Before you go any further we really want to stress that the above paragraphs carry a HUGE amount of positive weighting for me - more than the lesser niggles that we have about the Bee Plus, which we will now outline.
So what don’t we like?
We are not keen on the open-ness of the seat unit – a child looks very exposed without a cocoon or footmuff. We prefer a child to have a little bit more side support particularly around the head area for sleeping. Yes, there is a small wing, but its not much.
We like my youngest to have some leg support whilst sleeping. Yes, we could extend the seat pad further out, but that makes the crotch strap move too. But we do not like to see his legs dangling down to the floor, when really they could be kept up level with his body in a different pushchair.
We don’t like the opening to the basket being around the front of the pushchair. We find it tiresome to have to keep walking round to find a handbag or purse. There is a tiny opening at the rear which keys or a phone fits through. With an older child outward facing, you are forced to fish between their legs to access the basket space.
We don’t like the rickety feel of the Bee. It feels a bit on the flimsy side…compared to other pushchairs. Outside our daughters nursery is a very small slope with a gate at the top that opens towards you. With most pushchairs it is easy to drive up to the gate, open it whilst reversing and then manoeuvre the pushchair around the side of the gate and through. But the Bee just doesn’t have the sturdyness that this small manoeuvre requires, and seems to lean / feels wobbly, and we have to say we have abandoned the Bee Plus for the nursery school run because of this. Mr BB’s very first comment on using the Bugaboo Bee Plus was “Doesn’t this feel rickety?”
What was useful in the nursery cloakroom, and in other small spaces, was the ability to slide the handle right back into the chassis so that the Bee takes up a very small footprint when parked ie no sticking out handlebar. WeI suspect this would be a useful feature on buses.
We haven’t quite got used to the front wheels being wider apart than the rear wheels! Bugaboo wheels have had issues over the last few months. Our Bugaboo Bee Plus had had new wheels put onto it, but we have still seen traces of the shimmying wheels that we have heard talked about. The small wheels make the Bugaboo Bee Plus, very much an urban pushchair.
We don’t know if it is just our Bee Plus, but the handle doesn’t always lock into place on one side when the pushchair is opened. We have to manually check the thoughtfully provided chassis lock stickers to make sure the handle is fully open and locked. These stickers are a great visual check. But we would really prefer it if both sides automatically locked into place without us having to check / manually lock.
Whilst folding the Bee is easy – press in the button on the side of the handlebar (NOTE: 0n the last Bee Plus pushchairs, there is a button on each side), and pull two latches up (a two handed fold) – unfolding the Bee is slightly more tricky when the seat is parent facing. This is because you need to get your foot right underneath the pushchair to then push near the white brake pedal to push the chassis open. I have to say after 6 failed attempts at this and practically falling over, I did hold onto the nearest wall and then I managed to push the Bee open!! I know I am an older parent, but I was really glad to hear recently, other Bee owners confess that they find hopping on one leg whilst pushing with the other, hard work too! One mum confessed that she has had to clean part of her car, just so that she can lean on that area whilst opening her Bee! Opening the Bee Plus when the seat is folded outward facing is less problematic. The chassis still needs to be pushed open with one foot, but it is simpler to access.
Once folded the Bugaboo Bee Plus does not freestand. We are having to store the Bee on its side which we are concerned will scratch the chassis.
We had a lot of issues at first trying to turn the seat around – its easy when you know how – but it took a lot of studying the Bugaboo tutorial videos before we mastered exactly where the seat needs to be before you can remove it. We were very frustrated for several days until we got the knack and correct point of the seat fold to be able to remove the seat.
Another issue, which we still do not feel like we have completely grasped, is how to fold the pushchair when the seat is parent facing. The seat unit back needs to be folded down to the seat pad before folding. The Bee should then fold with the seat attached. But if the folded seat back is just a little bit too far forwards, then the seat unit falls off, as or after you fold it! We were not impressed when this happened several times in a row and scratched and dirtied my brand new seat unit This is one manoeuvre that is not featured on the Bugaboo instructional video and a friend came to the rescue and told me to only fold the seat forwards until it is parallel with the handlebar – a good tip. We should say that we did not get an instruction booklet with our Bee despite phoning and asking for a replacement to be sent out).
The extending seat is a brilliant idea – but to do so requires a real tug. Sometimes to be honest the tugging has been too hard and we have ended up having to leave the seat smaller than it needed to be, just to be able to get somewhere on time. Equally, what has been annoying is that the seat extension handle and the seat recline handle are very close together on the rear of the pushchair. I seriously can not tell you how many times I have gone to recline the seat but instead have ended up lowering the seat back. This for me has been one of the most annoying features, especially when it is so difficult to pull the seat extension back up again.
Things we sit on the fence about:
The Bugaboo Bee is suitable from birth which we have found surprising given that the seat unit does not lie completely flat, but the Bugaboo Cocoon is shaped underneath and probably levels the slightly wedged shape of the Bee seat out. The Bugaboo Cocoon is a brilliant cocoon. We used one in many pushchairs when our son was a baby and he was always very comfortable in it. He stayed in until he was around 10 months old, so it was good value for money. But the cocoon means that the baby is sleeping in something soft and flexible rather than in a carrycot. But personally we loved that our baby was strapped into the pushchair, but yet he was easy to remove because of the slits in the cocoon which allowed the harness to easily slip through. Would we have considered the Bee for our newborn baby? No, to be honest. Maybe as an occasional pushchair, but we much prefer a newborn to be in a carrycot. But if circumstances meant that the Bee was the best option, then we can’t fault the actual cocoon or way it works – its a personal preference on our part.
We would have liked to have seen a bumper bar on the Bee Plus. We can appreciate that one would obstruct the fold, but with such an upright and exposed seat, a bumper bar would probably give both parent and child a little more feeling of security,
Other things that we love:
We love the customisable nature of the Bugaboo Bee Plus. In line with the other Bugaboo pushchairs, there are a range of brightly coloured hoods, footmuffs, liners etc as well as people prepared to customise your Bee in many different ways.
Although we dont necessarily warm to how the Bee looks, there is no disputing the quality of the Bugaboo Bee, the quality of the finish, the seat units, the chassis, even the harness. The Bugaboo Bee oozes quality and attention to detail. Having used a Donkey, a Cameleon and now a Bee, there really is something indefinably special about having a Bugaboo. In some ways all the Bugaboo’s appear reasonably minimalistic and simple, but yet they go over and beyond most other pushchairs with neat hidden features! Sometimes these features are too simplistic though like the seat extensions.
The Bugaboo Bee is narrow – at just 53cms wide it is one of the most narrow pushchairs on the market. The width, combined with fantastic manoeuverability on hard surfaces, makes the Bee a great pushchair to use about town, to weave through crowds with, to easily get through gaps in shops and to take into lifts and tight spaces. It really is a fantastic pushchair to push on flat pavements and surfaces.
Before we got the Bugaboo Bee Plus, the Best Buggy Focus Group, including myself, all thought I would hate the Bugaboo Bee, mainly because I like sturdy pushchairs. All of the BBFG group have owned a Bee at some point. Some love theirs and still have one, and others were glad to sell theirs on. But contrary to the BBFG opinion, we have been left very much sitting on the fence over the Bee, to the point where I am not happy to let it go just yet. I want to give the Bee some more time to see if we can resolve some of the issues we have, make things easier for me to do etc. But this in itself is a negative because we have never been left feeling like we still need to learn how to use a pushchair after even a couple of days, never mind a couple of weeks. We can see that the Bee can be easy to use – but we think practice makes this perfect – but meanwhile it is very easy to fall out with the Bugaboo Bee and feel frustrated at not feeling the love that you read about online.
Just to add, before anyone thinks we are biased against Bugaboo, the Cameleon is the pushchair that we have owned for the longest period of time, and we have just ordered a Donkey for our family, based on a recent positive review period here at Best Buggy.
We are determined to ‘get the hang of’ the Bee Plus, and we will come back and write an updated review in the future.
*EDIT* Almost 18 months on, the Bugaboo Bee Plus is still here at BBHQ and is one of the longest serving pushchairs we own. We still have a love / hate relationship with it – especially when trying to unfold it parent facing, or changing the seat around, and we do tend to use it as a spring / summer pushchair as it is fairly open to the elements. However, as the Best Buggy website documents, we have since had other small pushchairs e.g. the Stokke Scoot, and most of those pushchairs have been and gone. Probably the main reason the Bee is still here is the huge seat – in every photo we take which compares the Bee with another pushchair, both our children, but especially our eldest looks supremely comfortable in the seat. Our youngest, now aged nearly 3, still has his seat on the smallest settings, so he has loads of room to grow. We have since obtained a longer crotch strap for the Bee too. We love how light the Bee is to lift and carry, and to be honest, at this point in time, there is very little in a similar ‘class’ to the Bee to offer as an alternative. We think the Oyster Gem and Easywalker MINI will offer the Bee some competition this year though!