Phil & Teds Verve Review by Best Buggy
The stylish and neat folding Phil & Teds Verve was one of a handful of pushchairs that really caught my eye at the Harrogate Nursery Show but yet a couple of years ago I was convinced that the Phil&Teds Vibe was THE pushchair for our toddler and unborn baby, but after a good look around it we decided not to buy it. I did not dare let onto my husband that I had come full circle and was thinking of buying a pushchair that in many ways was very similar. But certain features really attracted me including the reclining lower seat; being able to put a Maxi Cosi car seat on with the toddler underneath; the doubles kit is situated well forwards so that I hoped not to kick the lower seat whilst walking like I do on the Dash; and importantly for me the Phil & Teds Verve is one of the few double pushchairs in the UK which has a 20kg weight allowance for both seats thus allowing my now larger two and a half year old toddler the choice of seats and some longevity to be able to ride for another year or so. I knew that the Verve couldn’t replace my ‘shopping’ pushchair, as frankly there is no space for more than a couple of tins of beans in the Verve basket with the doubles kit on. However I did hope that the Verve would be my ‘walking’ pushchair – ie to be easy to push with two children in, and it was on this basis and understanding that I decided to buy a Verve.
I have to say given the Phil&Teds Verve cost me the best part of £800 I really hoped to love it. But it wasn’t love at first sight. I loved the styling, chassis and fabrics but I have to say I didn’t enjoy setting the Verve up. The pushchair arrived with no obvious instruction booklet. I felt pretty confident to have a go at setting it up given I have unpacked lots of pushchairs, and also I had seen a demo at Harrogate. But I was stumped. Eventually a kind Phil&Teds member of staff rescued me and sent me off to watch the online video which solved the conundrum (the handlebar had to be raised up!), and gave me access to the open chassis where I found the instruction booklet buried deep inside the shopping basket! (Phil & Teds are now looking into this as the instruction booklet should have been on the top of the box).
The main chassis itself was easy to construct. Some kind person at Phil & Teds had very kindly blown the air tyres up for me which meant they simply popped into place. But the doubles kit as a lower seat caused me problems and I still can’t get it attached without a lot of trying. I am finding it difficult to get both sets of hooks to grip at the same time. Even when the lower seat is firmly attached its easy to pull the doubles kit out of alignment. There are three pin holes, one for each of the recline settings. When at home you can hear and see the seat click into each pin hole, but you can’t when you are outside and walking. You naturally just lean down and push the seat as far upright as you can. But if you do not look then its easy to miss the lowest pin hole setting which leaves the doubles kit partially unattached below the pin holes. The doubles kit recline is very easy and simple to do one handed and best of all it is silent – therefore no waking up a sleeping baby!
My lower seat hood hangs down the back and even after the lovely people at Phil & Teds checked I was attaching it correctly and sent me a replacement hood, I still can’t resolve this niggly issue. I believe it is because the upper hood has two thick bars to keep it in place but the lower hood has one thick and one thin bar at either side, and the thin bar doesn’t seem enough to hold the back up. Folding the Verve the first time took both of us hunting for the tiny button under the lower seat to press to push the lower seat upwards. I wish Phil&Teds had painted it red! We tipped the pushchair upside down and still couldn’t see it! Once we found it, we then discovered that the button doesn’t simply push in. It takes a while to keep reclining the second seat to find the point at which the button ’gives’ before being able finally push the lower seat forwards into the fold position. I do find it frustrating to be stood in a car park with two impatient children trying to get this button to work. I think the final straw for me on that first evening was when I folded down the very stiff side ‘wings’ which hold the Verve together and I trapped my thumb in the mechanism which really hurt! I have to say I went to bed that night feeling very disappointed. But I truly wanted to love the Verve and after spending so much on it I wasn’t going to give up easily. So the next day I tackled the Verve head on and got us all outside in it, and I have determinedly used it ever since.
So onto the great points of the Phil&Teds Verve. The Verve is one very stylish pushchair. You can not ignore how beautiful the aluminium frame is with, in my case, the contrasting black and red styling. It is gorgeous. The perceptions of the Verve are of a very neat package. However as I discovered to my surprise the Phil&Teds Verve is actually slightly longer than the Britax B-Dual, but it is the seating positions of the Verve that give the Verve its biggest strength because it handles superbly. It drives across everything I have thrown at it to date with ease, from grass, to cobblestones, up and over small kerbs by simply driving straight at them, through huge potholes, along bumpy unmade roads and more. In fact I keep looking out for things to challenge the Verve with and haven’t yet found anything it can’t handle head on (*EDIT I have since tried the Verve across soft sand and it couldn’t be pushed forwards. My husband said the front wheels were starting to bend as I pushed. However we also tried bumping the Verve up several steps and we found that was relatively easy, although heavy, and the doubles kit didn’t hit the steps which is good). It is the only pushchair that I can drive straight into my house across the paving slabs and lintels. All other pushchairs need reversing. Going up a step or a kerb is simple. The Verve flies into the air and up you go. It is equally as easy to drive off a step forwards. I have to say though that performance is affected by the balance of the children on the pushchair. Its slightly harder to tip up a kerb with the heavier child in the top seat, but not much. However I do find the Verve noticeably heavier to push with the heaviest child at the front but it is definitely much easier to push with the heaviest child underneath. The Verve is extremely light with no children in, but with a 2 and a half year old and 9 month in, it isn’t as light as I had hoped compared to other pushchairs. This may sound strange, but I think the trick to walking with the Phil & Teds Verve is to glide with it rather than push. Active pushing seems to make it harder! The Verve drives beautifully in a straight line. It turns extremely easily. The neat design makes things like opening a shop door easy because you simply reach around the side to grasp the door handle (ie there are no seat units in the way) and the Verve turns on the spot to glide through. The Verve has very much a single pushchair feeling. I love the stability of the four wheels. Even across all the rough ground, the wheels never got stuck at all. I can not fault the way the Verve handles.
However beyond that, I am afraid I have a few niggles. I have to say that Phil&Teds have some very loyal followers. Having talked about the Verve to some of them, I am finding that really the Verve is the flagship Phil & Teds pushchair and actually irons out or resolves many niggles that they have had with previous Phil & Teds, and thus they love the Verve. But having never owned a Phil & Teds before, but having used several other brands of tandem including a Graco, iCandy, Baby Jogger and Britax, those are where my comparisons come from.
A big niggle is the cramped space underneath the seat. I believe its actually good space for a Phil&Teds pushchair. But the feet of my 9 month old already touch the end of the shopping basket. I have wondered why Phil&Teds haven’t extended the basket to the front of the frame? I didn’t realise how cramped and claustrophobic the lower seat looks for my daughter until a friend pointed it out to me – BUT my daughter is perfectly happy in the lower seat and requests to be in there, so as long as she is happy, then I don’t mind! But the Verve main seat is marketed as being suitable for an up to six year old (and there is plenty of room in the upper seat for this age of child) but given the weight limits for both seats are the same, I think its an easy mistake to think that there would be sufficient room in the lower seat for a child of the same age. But the main seat is huge. There is plenty of room for an older child along with plenty of leg and head room.
I was surprised to find that the upper seat harness attaches to the frame underneath rather than being self contained on the seat unit. When there is no child in the upper seat, the harness relaxes and dangles down at the back. I have to say I am tired of untangling my baby’s legs from these straps when my daughter gets out. My baby also likes to kick the upper seat. My eldest hasn’t complained yet, but its worth noting this if you have siblings who like to wind each other up! I like the way the recline strap is held in place by a clip. This prevents the recline straps from dangling in the lower child’s face. However this only works when the seat is bolt upright. If you recline the upper seat (necessary for example when you put a car seat on), then the straps don’t fit under the clip and thus dangle down in the lower child’s face. The clip could have done with being a bit higher up.
Access to the lower seat is very poor. My two year old is struggling to contort herself in. The child can only access from one side because the storage clip blocks the other side. Every time she clambers in, the front of the seat pad slides forwards and I have issues then trying to get her to stand up enough to put the seat pad back into place so that I can seat her comfortably. It’s a shame there isn’t an all in one seat pad on the doubles kit like the front seat. It is also tricky to get a baby into the lower seat easily – I finding approaching from the top is best. But the lower seat is a hard seat rather than a sling. It is great that there is no bar at the back of the lower seat which means a comfy ride for any age child. There is a 5 point harness on the lower seat, plus the three position recline that is easy to do even with a heavy toddler in the seat.
I am past the newborn stage with my baby, but I did set the pushchair up in newborn and toddler mode to try it out. I have to say my 9 month old did just fit and it was a lovely baby space with nicely padded sides. My daughter perched quite happily on the doubles kit at the front with plenty of headroom. Lack of headroom with the doubles kit on the front has been an issue for a child I know using a Phil & Teds Dash. Phil&Teds supply you with a mesh and a protective PVC cover to fill the gap at the back of the seat when in newborn mode. However I would have loved to have had something to use every day to block the gap at the back of the main hood. My daughter today, even when it was warm, was complaining that it was ‘blowy’. I have pushed the hood as far down as it will go but there is still a huge gap. I have to say I am not sure I would want my child so exposed through a British winter even with a cosy toes. I have to say I find both hoods extremely flimsy. It takes two hands to properly extend the main hood which means stopping and starting every two minutes as my daughter tries to adjust it herself (as she can with her other pushchairs). In summer the ‘follow the sun’ feature will be useful, and I appreciate Phil&Teds sell pushchairs all over the world, but I prefer a more solid hood for winter (or the option to buy one) rather than a sunshade type hood for summer.
Storage is a huge issue for me with any pushchair. As I said at the start I accepted fully that there was going to be no storage for my small weekly shop on the Verve. However I did have hopes to be able to put at least a small changing bag at the front of the shopping basket, but its impossible to get one past the child’s legs and feet. I thought my Pacapod Pods would hang onto the frame somewhere but I failed to find somewhere for them to attach. After speaking to the lovely team at Phil&Teds, who went away and tried out various storage items for me, I have ‘pimped my ride’ up with a Base Bag, and a Hang Bag and I have ordered a Shop & Drop to see if that helps resolve my storage issues to at least get basic nappies, wipes etc onto the Verve. With the doubles kit on, you can’t use the main part of the Base Bag, but I can easily get in my purse, keys, phone and some other bits in there. There is enough room at the sides of the doubles kit to put small items eg a child’s coat, bottle of water, muslins. My handbag will hang over the handlebar without hitting the lower child on the head but I really don’t recommend it when my eldest gets out of the front seat the front of the pushchair becomes very light and it takes hardly any pressure on the handlebar to make the front end lift up. There doesn’t seem to be any issue when my eldest is in the lower seat and the baby gets removed. It is a point to note because given the lack of storage it is tempting to hang bags off the handlebar.
But I have to say I love, love, love the way the Phil & Teds storm cover and sunshade are kept in neat pouches which velcro onto the frame. It is a feature that I wish other manufacturers would adopt for their raincovers. I would love to see velcro on pouches similar to these available to buy to put either side of the handlebar. My friend has bought panniers for her Verve but she says they don’t look good and apparently immediately removed them for emergency use only! Phil&Teds, PLEASE look into some stylish storage for the Verve and Vibe! The panniers just don’t match the look but us mums have to shop and get the shopping home somehow!
Other niggles include having to race my toddler to the Verve to remove the bumper bar before she mountaineers over the top of it to get into the seat. I am used to having a hinged bumper bar. I am glad that Phil & Teds have put protective stickers over the fixing holes for the bumper and doubles kit but it would have been good to have been supplied with some spares because I am sure that the stickers that are on, won’t last forever given I am removing and replacing the bumper bar several times on each outing. Our daughter is driving us both mad by constantly unzipping the bumper bar cover! I am sure she wouldn’t have touched it if it had a velcro fastening. My husband keeps getting annoyed with the harnesses because the straps are kind of back to front when you fasten them and he keeps telling me they are tangled! But I am used to this now. I do find the straps very easy to alter which makes swapping the children around simple. However I wish I could work out a way to tuck the long strap ends away easily. I like being able to put one part of the harness in at a time whilst releasing both parts simultaneously. The shoulder pads are beautifully luxurious and comfortable.
I have to say I am not a fan of the ergonomically designed handle. It digs into the upper part of my palms and isn’t very comfortable. But the Verve is simple and stable to push one handed which is great if you have a walking toddler. There is a safety wrist strap which is great. I have to say I am worried about damaging the handlebar when folding the Verve – the handlebar drops to the ground upon folding – and eventually with help, I have located a makeshift cover to protect it but it would be lovely to have the option to buy a cover. The brake is located in the handlebar. The small “on” button is genius. I love it. It’s simple to apply and although the application isn’t always instant, it kicks in as soon as the pushchair moves. But the brakes are solid once applied. You can’t even move the Verve sideways a few inches once they are applied. However the release button is difficult to squeeze in, and again you need to roll the pushchair forwards a little bit to get the brake to fully release.
I have used a Maxi Cosi Cabriofix on top of the Verve as a travel system. I love the neat little adaptors. They are proving very simple to fix on although you do need to recline the upper seat a small amount to get the Cabriofix on. If you have a heavy toddler, the car seat mode is one time where you will appreciate that the doubles kit can take 20kgs. It is a very useful feature to have the use of a car seat at the same time as the doubles kit. You can add a Peanut bassinet to the frame in single mode but not in double mode.
I like the fact that the Verve is a tandem that looks like a single. We often want to take one child out alone, and until now we have had to work out which tandem pushchair is easiest to alter or construct into single mode. But by simply leaving the lower seat in the upright folded position you have a single pushchair ready to go (or you can fold it down for storage space or even remove the seat – but I am trying to avoid doing the latter!).
After my first initial experience of folding the Verve it has become easier. But one of the side wings which you have to undo and then do up each time you fold is extremely stiff and hard to do. Sometimes you have to rotate it slightly to align them to close. It is really not easy to do and not for someone with weak hands. Unlike Baby Gizmo, I have found it impossible to fold the Verve with the doubles kit hood attached without forcing the frame. I have asked Phil&Teds how Baby Gizmo managed it and they have also tried to replicate the fold. They have been unable to replicate the fold, as folding the Verve with the doubles kit hood attached apparently exerts too much pressure on the hood and doesn’t allow the Verve to fold correctly. Apparently the instruction manuals show the doubles kit hood as being removed for the fold. Meanwhile removing the doubles kit hood every time is hard on the fingers and irritating to do! To be honest given all the hood issues, it would be really neat if Phil & Teds took a leaf out of Maxi Cosi’s book and did a pull out fabric hood for the lower seat like the Cabriofix infant carrier.
One of the big selling points for me was the way the Verve folds with both seats on into a lovely neat freestanding package. However it folds into one large heavy package. The folded Verve is relatively easy to carry by the bumper bar (one reason why you shouldn’t remove the bumper bar) although it is a shame you can’t drag the Verve along by the back wheels. The Verve is heavy and also bulky to lift into a car. The first time I tried it, I had two burly men come running up and grab one end each and put it in for me. I have to say I was grateful. The bumper bar is one place to hold on to lift the Verve up, and if you pick the Verve the right way up you can use the handlebar to help lift it into a car. The Verve is quite large folded but it is a very neat rectangular shape which stores very well in the house or in a car. There are no bits sticking out!
So all round, I am sure if you are a Phil & Teds fan and used to all the quirks, then you will love the Verve and the improvements. I have to say I am still waiting for the love to kick in. I am fully aware that sometimes it takes a while to get used to a pushchair (it certainly hasn’t been love at first sight with all my pushchairs and most have had some niggles), but I think I have given the Verve a fairly good initial testing across a whole range of experiences.
There is no perfect pushchair, but if you want an excellent walking pushchair or one that will easily tackle all terrain then the Verve is definitely one to try. If you need to carry anything more than children ie shopping, then you need to think carefully about whether there are better options. But for me, as the ‘walking’ pushchair I needed, the Verve will do the job I bought it for and will carry my children from A to B in style for some time to come.
A huge thank you goes to the team at Out n’ About / Phil&Teds for their patience, time and input in answering my many questions.
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