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Hands-on Gear Review

Graco SnugRider Elite Review

Price:   $100.00 List | $92.99 at Amazon - 7% off
Pros:  Lightest, easy fold
Cons:  Poor car seat attachment, hard to push and turn
Bottom line:  Poor mover with difficult car seat attachment
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 a stand out in any metric, and we expected more from a Graco-brand frame stroller that only works 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 brand 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 REVIEW: The Best Stroller and Car Seat Combos for 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
June 19, 2016

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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.

The Graco SnugRider Elite  shown here with the Graco Snugride Classic Connect 30 attached  did not perform well in our tests for quality.
The Graco SnugRider Elite, shown here with the Graco Snugride Classic Connect 30 attached, did not perform well in our tests for quality.
We had high expectations for the Snugrider, knowing that Graco created this product to be custom-tailored for use with Graco's brand of popular car seats. But, as you'll read below, we came away from our testing disappointed.

Performance Comparison


This comparison chart includes the overall scores for the combination products tested in this review. The Graco SnugRider is shown in blue for easy comparison.


The information in the sections below include details on how the Graco compared to other products for each metric.

Ease of Attaching Car Seat


For a product specifically designed for its 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 for ease of car seat attachment, which is the average for the group, and 4 points below the high score of 10 earned by the Doona Combo that is a car seat and stroller together in one product.

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.

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 actually 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.

Because this frame product is made with only one goal in mind, carrying a car seat, it seems unfortunate that the carriers 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 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.

Weight and Folded Size


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 are 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 Doona is about 16.5 lbs and includes the weight of the stroller in its weight and size. The features and functionality of the Doona are similar to a frame stroller, but the car seat is permanently part of the stroller.

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 folding process doesn't require bending unless you are over 6 feet tall, and it rolls like luggage once folded. While the folding 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.

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.

Maneuverability


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 Graco is similar in handling to the Chicco Keyfit Caddy, with significant enough flex in the frame that it often lifts 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.

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.

Ease of Use


The Graco tied for just above 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 lb 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 the 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 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 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 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 pedal, then 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 SnugRider does not have a canopy. Because this frame stroller is built for infant car seat attachment, which sports their own sun shades, it keeps a lighter weight by forgoing the addition of what would be the 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 a cup in for fear they will topple out and onto the 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 is 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 the baby would normally be sleeping.

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.

Quality


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 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 coupled 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.

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.

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 14 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.

The Graco SnugRider Elite with the Classic Connect 35 attached.
The Graco SnugRider Elite with the Classic Connect 35 attached.

Conclusion


The Graco SnugRider Elite came in about the 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.
Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team

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

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