Thule Chariot Cross 2 Review
Pros: Activity attachments for biking, jogging, and skiing, enclosed seating
Cons: Hard to stow, no car seat compatiblity
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Thule Company started over 70 years, establishing in Sweden in 1942 when the founder, Erik Thulin, began making gear for Swedish fisherman. Twenty years later, they created the first ski rack that was followed with a roof rack that had a basket. Today, Thule has obtained international recognition for supporting active lifestyles with gear designed to transport toys like bike racks, cargo carriers, sports racks for winter and water toys, and more. Thule also makes strollers and bike trailers for outdoor parents with babies.
Ease of Use
The Chariot Cross is an improvement over the old version that it replaces with a slightly better than average ease of use performance.
Ease of use impacts your daily experience and is essential for preventing regular frustration.
Fold and Unfold
The Cross folds using two hands; it has an automatic lock (above left), and self-stands. The process isn't hard, but it is convoluted with anywhere between 3-12 steps depending on how small you need it to be. It has color-coded buttons (above right) that help remind you what needs to happen to fold including the quick release wheels. The self-stand feature is probably only useful for storage, but it is an added benefit much of the competition lacks. Unfolding is about the same and is a reversal of the folding steps.
The Cross brakes are much more accessible than the old Cougar brakes and are now sandal foot-friendly and single-action (above left). We didn't have any trouble setting them, and they have a useful color-coded indication (above right).
The main storage bin hangs off the back between the rear wheels and under the handlebar. The basket is large and holds our extra-large diaper bag, though the narrow shape of the bin means we had to jam it in. The basket has a maximum capacity of 8.8 lbs, which is not great for two children as supplies can easily weigh more than 8 lbs. We imagine many parents will overfill the basket thanks to its larger size and we worry this could make it a potential tipping hazard.
It also has a stow pocket inside the cabin for little treasures and snacks. The pockets are big, but younger kids won't be able to reach them when buckled in. Each seatback has a pocket for additional storage of parent items, and we didn't have any items fall out during testing.
The sunshade is not a traditional canopy. It is a piece of fabric that clips on to block the sun and can move up or down. There is a vinyl window at the top for peeking on little ones when you recline the seats. Ventilation is not part of the sunshade. The front of the Cross, where children climb in, is a zippered cover that can be mesh or vinyl depending on the weather.
Both seats have identical 5-point harnesses that are easy to put on and take off. Adjusting the straps is a non-rethread style with an 8-inch range of infinite height possibilities. The buckle is easier than its predecessor on the Cougar 2 because it no longer requires nesting of the top buckle portions.
The seats on the Cross recline which is an improvement over the Cougar. Both move independently for individual comfort. The operation is a simple one-handed process with three positions. None are flat enough for serious napping thanks to the adventure possibilities of this product, but the slope should be sufficient to lull most little ones. Children sit with their legs stretched out in front of them negating a need for leg or footrests. The style of the seat does allow for more freedom of movement than a traditional stroller even though it is not adjustable.
Car Seat Compatibility
This stroller does not accept infant car seats. It does, however, have an optional Thule Baby Supporter and Thule Infant Sling (see accessories below) for younger babies. These products can only be used for strolling and parents should never use the Cross on uneven terrain or for jogging with babies under eight months old (discuss with your pediatrician before heading out).
Ease of Setup
The Cross took about 11 minutes to assemble which is average for ease of setup. It has an international style manual with all of the languages grouped in each section and the corresponding pictures at the end or beginning. This design makes the manual frustrating, and it requires flipping back and forth to follow. It isn't hard to put together, but there are more pieces to assemble than the Cougar 2, and it requires one tool that comes with the stroller.
The Chariot Cross has impressive maneuverability tying with some of the jogging stroller contenders. All of the top scoring options have larger rubber air-filled tires that improve pushing and turning significantly over the smaller plastic wheels.
The Cross is easy to push and turn no matter what the terrain. The new more adjustable handlebar only makes this easier We had no trouble moving over flat surfaces, grass, gravel, or up and down curbs.
This stroller has an adjustable suspension, making it one of only two in this review. This feature is quick and moves smoothly with clear indicators that make the adjustment a snap.
The handlebar has a variety of possible positions, is covered in dense foam, has an ergonomic design, and comes with a safety strap. We like the new rotating bar and see it as a significant improvement over the Cougar 2 handlebar. With the padded sling style seat that reclines, we think most passengers will be cozy in the Cross.
Weight and Folded Size
The Chariot Cross is a different kind of stroller with additional features that make it worthy of going off the beaten path. These features also make it heavier. It certainly is not going to be suitable for city living and crowded streets, but it isn't designed for that, and it makes no apologies.
The Cross weighs 31.6 lbs and measures 24,452 cubic inches when folded. Before you start thinking that is one massive beast, first notice that more than half of the competition weigh more than the Cross which makes it one of the lighter options! It's the folded size that hurts its overall score with only a few larger products in the test group. We caution parents to check their trunk space or car size before using the Cross, just in case it doesn't fit and needs to be returned.
For quality, the Chariot offers impressive attention to detail and high-end materials that come together well.
This product has a great design and uses materials that not only work well but feel solid and connect without flexing or jostling. Everything has its place and works well in conjunction with the other parts and components. The fabric is thick ripstop canvas with thermo-molded seats. The material integrates into the frame, and there are very few exposed fasteners. The windows are slightly tinted and a somewhat pliable plastic that feels durable.
This product can be used with twins and has inserts for baby positioning and infant slings. It does not accept any infant car seats and there are adventures you shouldn't take with infants like jogging, skiing or anything that moves over uneven terrain. However, it could be a good product for twins if your goals do not include car seat carriers. If car seat transportation is a must have you could pair this stroller with the Joovy Twin Roo+, a double frame stroller that accepts a variety of infant car seat brands, is lightweight, has 4 cup holders, and is very budget-friendly at $130.
Thule offers two additional conversion kits depending on the kind of activity you enjoy (it comes with the strolling and bike trailer kits):
- Thule Jogging Kit 2 — The jog kit comes with everything you need to start jogging. The kit is easy to attach and can be stowed on board the Cross 2 when not in use. You should not jog with your baby until they are at least eight to twelve months old or as directed by your pediatrician.
- Thule Chariot Cross Country Ski Kit — The cross-country ski kit comes with the necessary components for adventures in cross-country skiing. This package provides more fun and outdoor exploration for you and your baby during the snowy months. With skis and harness attachments you'll be up and skiing in no time flat.
Accessories for comfort include:
- Thule Infant Sling — While not suitable for all activities, the infant sling can come in handy for younger babies that are too young to sit up on their own. If you plan to stroll with an infant, you'll need to add the sling to your purchase.
- Thule Baby Supporter — The baby supporter provides additional support and comfort for babies 6-18 months old who may need a little more padding but are too big for the infant sling. This support assumes your baby can sit up unassisted but needs a little help filling up the standard seat.
- Thule Chariot Padding 2 — The Chariot padding adds some additional comfort to the standard seats, but it also provides some protection to the stroller and makes clean up easier for parents. This accessory is an easy way to help catch dirt, crumbs, and spills and can lengthen the life of your cabin interior.
Conveniences items include:
- Thule Console 2 — many parents feel a parent console is a true necessity for any great stroller. If you can't imagine strolling without a cup holder or quick access covered pocket, then the parent's Console 2 may be just the ticket to up your strolling game. This console clips on quickly.
- Thule Hydration Cage — Don't care about cup holders but wish there was a handy place to stow your water bottle? Staying hydrated is easy when you keep your bottle close at hand using the Thule hydration cage. This coolio holder attaches to the frame and holds most standard water bottles.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team