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Hands-on Gear Review

Graco SnugRider Elite Review


Stroller and Car Seat Combo

Price:   $100 List | $75.99 from Amazon - 24% Off
Pros:  Light, easy fold
Cons:  Poor car seat attachment, maneuverability
Bottom line:  Harder than average attachment with Graco seats
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Graco

The Skinny

The Graco SnugRider Elite strolls in the middle of the pack with a performance that failed to impress. While it scored above average in the review, it wasn't really a stand out in any metric, and we frankly expected more from a Graco-brand frame stroller that only woks with Graco car seats. It offers a hard to use storage bin, shallow cup holders that present a potential safety concern, and car seat attachment that requires more effort than it probably should for a product specifically designed with its own car seats in mind. Overall, this Graco product has limitations including Graco only compatibility, poor maneuverability, and low scores for ease of use and quality. We feel even if you already own a Graco car seat, you would be better off with another stroller and Graco adapter.

RELATED: Our complete review of stroller and car seat combos

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
BabyGearLab Review Team


Last Updated:
Sunday
June 19, 2016
The Graco SnugRider Elite is a dedicated frame stroller that works with any Graco Classic or Click connect infant car seats. It features a one hand standing fold, all wheels suspension, and a storage bin with zippered pocket. This product is one of the lightest in the group and is very easy to setup. It offers an adjustable height handlebar that rotates on a pivot and a parent console with two cup holders.

We had high expectations for the Snugrider, knowing that Graco created this product to be custom-tailored for use with Graco's own brand of popular car seats. But, as you'll read below, we came away from our testing disappointed.

Performance Comparison


The SnugRider Elite with the Graco Snugride Classic Connect 30 attached.
The SnugRider Elite with the Graco Snugride Classic Connect 30 attached.

Ease of Attaching Car Seat


For a product specifically designed for its own brand of car seat you'd think attaching a Graco seat to the Graco SnugRider would be easier. The SnugRider earned a 6 of 10 score for ease of car seat attachment, which is the average for the group, and 4 points below the high score of 10 earned by both Bugaboo strollers that require adapters for every car seat they work with. The low for the metric is a 1 for the BOB Revolution Flex Combo thanks to its 2 step attachment process that includes restraint straps that parents might forget or choose not to use, leaving baby open to potential injuries.

The car seat attaches to the SnugRide Elite in a similar fashion to the car seat base.
The car seat attaches to the SnugRide Elite in a similar fashion to the car seat base.
Releasing the Classic Connect 30 from the SnugRider Elite requires pulling on the release handle on the back of the carrier  just as you would to remove it from the car seat base.
Releasing the Classic Connect 30 from the SnugRider Elite requires pulling on the release handle on the back of the carrier, just as you would to remove it from the car seat base.
We tested our SnugRider with the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 and the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35. Both seats should just click into place when you put the carrier onto the frame and apply a little pressure. We had similar problems with both of them appearing to be properly latched in place, but not really being fully connected when we tugged on the handle. The back portion fo the carriers install easily and could leave parents thinking it is secure, but in our tests for both models we had to apply more pressure to the foot portion of the carrier to get the bottom latched in place. Even when we heard the audible click, it wasn't always truly attached so we recommend parents give the carrier handle a good tug to determine how well they have done their installation job.

The Click Connect 35 attaches to the SnugRider in the same manner it attaches to the car seat base.
The Click Connect 35 attaches to the SnugRider in the same manner it attaches to the car seat base.
The Click Connect 35 detaches easily from the SnugRider with the release handle on the back of the carrier.
The Click Connect 35 detaches easily from the SnugRider with the release handle on the back of the carrier.
Because this frame product is made with only one goal in mind, carrying a car seat, it seems unfortunate that the seats are so difficult to fully attach. We had some similar problems with other strollers, but the cause was usually a conflicting canopy or seat fabric mucking up the connection of the carrier and the attachment point. Given that this isn't an issue here, it just ends up feeling like the two products weren't designed with the other in mind at all. Removing the seats is marginally easier than attaching, and overall the Click Connect 35 was slightly easier to install and use with the Elite, making it the best combination for this stroller.
The attachment lever on the Click Connect 35 sits well below the frame on the SnugRider giving it a free floating feeling. While it doesn't seem able to detach spontaneously there is movement when you tug on the handle.
The attachment lever on the Click Connect 35 sits well below the frame on the SnugRider giving it a free floating feeling. While it doesn't seem able to detach spontaneously there is movement when you tug on the handle.

Weight and Folded Size


The Snugrider Elite weighs 13.3 pounds which is on the heavy side for a frame product and only 1 pound less than the larger and more versatile UPPAbaby Cruz.
The Snugrider Elite weighs 13.3 pounds which is on the heavy side for a frame product and only 1 pound less than the larger and more versatile UPPAbaby Cruz.
Where the SnugRider makes up some ground in our tests is for weight and folded size. Given that new moms are often limited on how much weight they are allowed to lift, we feel the weight and size of a combination product is worth a lot and that is what makes the frame strollers so good at what they were designed to do. The Graco earned a 9 of 10 in this category, tying with all the frame strollers we looked at. These options are designed to be lightweight and easy to carry. The heaviest in the group is the BOB Revolution that weighs over 26 pounds. The UPPAbaby Cruz Combo earned top honors for lightest standard size stroller with a weight of 14.3 pounds, which is only a pound over the Graco's 13.3.

The SnugRide measures about 6,473 cubic inches when folded. Only the Britax B-Agile 3 Combo is smaller at 6,414 cubic inches, but you did a few more perks given it is a full size stroller not a bare bones frame product. The largest in the group is once again the Revolution at over 15,000 cubic inches. And while the Cruz is lighter, it is about 2,000 cubic inches bigger than the Graco.

Folding the SnugRider starts with the release button on the handlebar.
Folding the SnugRider starts with the release button on the handlebar.
The Graco has a one handed fold that is fairly easy to fold. It has 2 steps, auto-locks, self-stands and has a carry strap. The fold process doesn't require bending unless you are over 6 feet tall, and it rolls like luggage once folded. While the fold process is similar to the Chicco Keyfit Caddy, the Caddy is easier to manage overall. Unfolding the Graco is also pretty easy with 2 steps and no bending required; it earned the highest score in the group for the unfolding process.

Commuting with the SnugRider isn't too bad thanks in part to its smaller size and easy lifting weight. Getting this product into and out of car trunks is easier than most, and finding a place to put it on a bus or subway is also easy. It does conform to the 2x4 rule on some transportation so you may not need to fold it, but if you do the whole thing self-stands which means you may not have to hold on to it while managing baby and a diaper bag. It is also pretty good in tight spaces with a smaller overall length than some of the competition and with the handlebar pivoted up it can stay out of the aisle should you stop at a table for a snack.

Maneuverability


We prefer the single front wheel design on the SnugRider compared to the dual wheel design found on many cheaper stroller options.
We prefer the single front wheel design on the SnugRider compared to the dual wheel design found on many cheaper stroller options.
Most strollers with plastic wheels suffer to a certain degree when it comes to maneuverability. We liked that Graco has ditched the dual front wheel design so many other frame products chose, but it doesn't seem like they improved it enough to really say it manages better than the other frame products, and in fact they all earned a 4 of 10 for this metric. The high for the group is 9 for the Revolution jogging stroller that is designed to maneuver well at speed and over various terrains. The low is 3 for the Chicco Bravo LE Combo another plastic wheeled stroller with dual front wheel design that causes the stroller to veer off course when they get snagged on small rocks and baseboards.

The Graco is similar in handling to the Chicco Caddy, with significant enough flex in the frame to often lift the front wheels off the ground when pushing. This product negotiates hard flat surfaces fairly well and can turn in tight space or make it through narrow doorways without too much trouble. It is okay once you push off road, but turning is a chore and not something we recommend parents bother with for very far. It has trouble on curbs and stairs too, and while the brakes don't get locked up, they do drag and catch when you aren't expecting it, causing the stroller to tilt forward when you aren't ready.

Safety


The SnugRider has double action brakes which require more steps to set than single action options making them more of a risk in our opinion if parents forget to set both sides or choose not to.
The SnugRider has double action brakes which require more steps to set than single action options making them more of a risk in our opinion if parents forget to set both sides or choose not to.
The Graco managed the average score of 6 of 10 for safety. The high for the metric is 8 shared by the Britax B-Agile and the Bugaboo Cameleon 3 Combo, while the low is 5 for the Chicco Liteway Plus Combo. The Graco had a lot of company tying with 8 other strollers in this review.

The SnugRider has double action brakes that require the user to push two pedals to fully park the stroller. Of course if you can push one you can push two, but our concern is parents might get distracted and forget the second brake or take the lazy route and choose not to engage it on purpose falsely thinking it isn't entirely necessary. This makes the double action brakes lower in our book than single action options that fully engage the brakes on both sides with only one pedal. The brakes are easy enough to set and average to release. The pedals are sandal foot friendly, but we still wish we only had to lift one as opposed to two. The sliding resistance of the brakes on an angle is poor and there is 0.75 inches of play in the brakes once set.

The parents console on the SnugRider has 2 shallow cup holders and a small storage tray that didn't fit several smartphones we tried.
The parents console on the SnugRider has 2 shallow cup holders and a small storage tray that didn't fit several smartphones we tried.
The Graco has dual cup holders located high and behind baby on the parent console near the handlebar. The holders are 2.25 inches deep and allowed multiple items to fall out with little effort during our strolling tests. Several of the cup holders in this review were not capable of keeping their goods in place so the Graco isn't alone in its trouble, but it does make us feel that perhaps it shouldn't be used with any item you don't want to fall on a sleeping baby. It should absolutely never be used to hold hot liquids of any kind at any time.

The SnugRider tipped to the side at 20.5 degrees. This is better than some of the competition and even a little steeper than the average for the group, but not as steep as we'd like to see. Parent should avoid taking the SnugRider on hills or any environment where it might be tilted off kilter. For back tipping weight the Graco tips with the lowest amount of weight hanging from the handlebar with only 18 pounds required to topple it backwards. The average weight for the group is closer to 30 pounds, with a high over 56 pounds for the Britax.

Ease of Use


The storage bin on the SnugRider is fairly large  but has poor access from pretty much all angles but the top with no car seat attached.
The storage bin on the SnugRider is fairly large, but has poor access from pretty much all angles but the top with no car seat attached.
The Graco tied for last place with the Chicco Liteway Plus Combo in ease of use with a score of 3. The high for the metric is 7 for the Chicco Bravo LE Combo, with most products coming in closer to 5. It is a tough category for a product that by design is lacking some of the key features and performance this metric looks for.

The storage bin on the Graco is fairly large, but thanks to poor access we were only able to fit our medium size diaper bag inside. It offers access to the bin from the front and back, but either are that great once you place the carrier on board. It does have a 10 pound weight limit, but we suspect you will have to place items in the bin one at a time rather than inside a bag. This could make grabbing items on the go easier, but it could be the worst possible option if you need to fold the stroller to take the bus and are left with random articles to hold in addition to the stroller and car seat with baby. It does have a zippered pocket in the storage bin which is sort of cool for carrying keys, phones, and wallets without fear of them falling out or being swiped by a slick passerby.

The SnugRider does not have a canopy. Because this frame stroller is built for infant car seat attachment, which sport their own sun shades, it keeps a lighter weight by forgoing the addition of what would be a second canopy. While a second canopy would certainly offer more protection and coverage, it isn't truly a necessity and often we found it mucked up the attachment for some other seats and strollers.

This stroller also offers a parent console with dual cup holders. The cup holders are too shallow to bother putting cup in for fear they will topple out and onto baby, and the space between them won't hold much either. It will accept 2 pounds worth of goods which increases the overall storage to 12 pounds, but we aren't certain what you'd put in the console to being with. While the holder are compatible with the bottles, sippy cups, and water bottles we used in our tests, several items also fell out while strolling landing inside the infant carrier where baby would normally be sleeping.

This dedicated frame product has no other conveniences for parents or passenger. This hurts its score for this metric, but is common for this kind of product and likely shouldn't influence whether or not you buy this stroller but rather whether or not a frame product fits your needs.

Quality


This Graco frame product had several rough edged plastic components with curled pieces of unfinished parts.
This Graco frame product had several rough edged plastic components with curled pieces of unfinished parts.
Like the other frame products in this review the Graco struggled in the quality metric. It earned a 4 of 10, which is better than the Caddy with the low score of only 3. The high for the group is 8 for the BOB Revolution.

The material used on the SnugRider storage bin  looks like it might tear easily.
The material used on the SnugRider storage bin looks like it might tear easily.
The Graco frame has a lot of plastic components that disrupt the overall fit and finish look of this product. Even though the plastic parts feel sturdy the excessive connection points seem to create a lot of flex in the frame that makes it feel like the whole thing could fall apart at any moment. There are a lot of open holes were parts connect and some of the plastic pieces still had plastic shavings attached when we put it together. The attention to detail just isn't there.

The fabric used on the basket feels flimsy and collects dirt easily. The mesh sides are nice to see the good inside, but the mesh also feels cheap and we wonder how long it will be before it snags or rips open. The fabric does not lay nicely and has the appearance of laundry that sat in the hamper for a while and came out looking disheveled.

The SnugRider has an adjustable handlebar that pivots on a hinge to increase height which puts taller users closer to the stroller and results in kicking of the rear axle.
The SnugRider has an adjustable handlebar that pivots on a hinge to increase height which puts taller users closer to the stroller and results in kicking of the rear axle.
The handlebar on the Graco is adjustable at a pivot point between 37.25 and 41 inches from the ground. The bar itself is flat and not round with a rubber cover that feels like it will be difficult to clean and easy to get dirty. We didn't like the way the handle feels in the hand and the flat bar will be more uncomfortable than a round one on longer trips.

The wheels on this stroller are foam filled plastic. They are larger than those found on the other frame products in this review and they feel dense and sturdy. The wheels spin freely with little resistance and no visible wobble. The larger size looks more substantial and eludes to better maneuverability even if it doesn't deliver. It does have all wheel suspension that when couple with the larger wheels and flexing frame potentially offer a more comfortable ride for baby, so they don't feel every bump and crack on the path.

This product is hand wash only and has a 1 year warranty.

Ease of Setup


The Graco is easy to assemble and earned the second highest score in the group for ease of setup.
The Graco is easy to assemble and earned the second highest score in the group for ease of setup.
The SnugRider doesn't require much assembly and its limited parts helped it earn a 9 of 10 for ease of setup. Unlike some of the other frame products this one comes somewhat put together. It took us just under 6 minutes to unpack this stroller and get it ready to use. The documentation is only about average so it's good there isn't much to do It is far less complicated than the Chicco Caddy with color coded directions that make finding your language easier. We still think it would be easier to make different sections for each language, but color coding is better than all the languages occurring on the same page with no delineation.

Best Applications


If you already own or receive a Graco car seat as a gift and you want a simple frame product to transport baby in their car seat then the SnugRider might be a good option for you. It is budget friendly with a list price of $100, and it did manage to come in 7th out of 15 products in this review. However, it might be worth keeping in mind that some of the higher ranking or more versatile strollers in this review can work with a Graco car seat using an adapter, including the award winning B-Agile and both BOB products which may have scored lower but are easier to push and use than the Graco.

Value


With a list price of $100 the Graco may feel like a good value. After all it has a storage bin, zippered pocket, suspension, and a parent console. Unfortunately, it also doesn't score that well for car seat attachment with its own brand seats and given that this is what it is made for that is sort of a disappointment that makes it feel worth less than the list price. If given a choice we think the Chicco Caddy (same list price) and even the B-Agile ($150 more) are better values than this product. The Caddy has a second place score and works well with its native car seat, while the B-Agile earned higher marks than the Graco in every metric save for weight and folded size.

Conclusion


The Graco SnugRider Elite with the Classic Connect 35 attached.
The Graco SnugRider Elite with the Classic Connect 35 attached.
The Graco SnugRider Elite came in about middle of the pack in our tests for car seat and stroller combination. Only working with Graco products and being designed specifically for use with car seats we think it should have performed better in most tests, but definitely in the ease of car seat attachment metric. In the end the Graco doesn't do much well including the one thing it was built for. So while it might be your only option if you need a frame stroller for a Graco seat you already own, it isn't one we suggest parents choose.
BabyGearLab Review Team

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User Reviews


Most recent user review: June 19, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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