The Bugaboo Cameleon is a modular stroller that includes a bassinet for newborns to 6 months and a toddler seat for children from 6 months to 37.5 pounds. It has a large removable canopy, adjustable suspension and is easy to push, but only on smooth surfaces. Its fickle terrain ability is only the beginning of its ease-of-use issues.
Despite other features, the disconnecting seats are worrisome. The Bugaboo Cameleon comes with a five-point, fully padded harness and a bumper bar for an added layer of protection. In addition to the parking brake on the handle, a brake block keeps it from slipping when engaged. Some owners complain that the seat and bassinet don't click in easily and, unlike some other high-end strollers, there's no indicator that the seat is securely attached. At least one parent says her seat became unlatched with her child in it.
In addition, Bugaboo issued a press release in December 2011 stating that when the Cameleon is used with certain car seats/adapters with the child facing outward and the standing board attached, the car seat could become disconnected from the adapter. This wasn't an official recall, and affects models manufactured between 2009 and 2011.
Its TV debut doesn't tell the whole story. After being featured on the TV show "Sex and the City," Bugaboo strollers became a status symbol for parents, but its appearance didn't show the hassles of folding this stroller, trying to load its two pieces in a car trunk or taking it on public transport, which is the reality of city living for most parents.
The biggest complaint about the Cameleon is that it's difficult to fold. Its complex, two-handed fold requires the removal of the seat or bassinet first. An online video illustrating how to fold and unfold the Cameleon implies that it requires two hands and a foot, which is most unconvenient if you have a child to deal with. Stowing all the pieces in a trunk is also a hassle.
The Cameleon is easy to push and maneuver, but reviewers say it's hard to propel on more challenging surfaces, contrary to Bugaboo's multi-terrain claims. The seat and bassinet get mixed reviews for ease of snapping into the frame, as does the car seat option; the latter requires one of various adapters sold separately to accommodate various car seats. The fabric cover is removable and machine-washable.
A stroller for city living (maybe). The Cameleon's biggest fans seem to be parents who live in the city, walk virtually everywhere, don't need to fold it very frequently and don't take public transportation. One reviewer who took it on a bus whacked a fellow passenger on the head. Others complain about it not fitting in most car trunks. Quite a few owners say they have a second, more compact stroller, for travel, errands or car rides. At 20 pounds, the Cameleon is fairly lightweight for a full-featured stroller.
Because it comes with a bassinet as well as a toddler seat, this stroller should be able to take a child from infancy up to 37.5 pounds, about 3 or 4 years of age. However, a couple of parents say the age ranges didn't work for their kids. The seat is recommended for children from 6 months of age and up, and the bassinet from birth to presumably 6 months (the owner's manual says no heavier than 19.8 pounds). Some users say their child got tired of riding in the bassinet long before the 6-month mark, forcing them to use the seat earlier or deal with an unhappy baby. One owner purchased a car seat just so the child would have a transitional option, even though they didn't need it for a car. The reclining bucket-type seat may be uncomfortable; since it can't be adjusted, bigger babies' legs will dangle.
Storage is a problem; as well. The Cameleon's soft under-seat compartment is difficult to get to with the seat attached rear-facing, and almost impossible to access with the bassinet attached. All accessories except the rain cover and mosquito net are sold separately.
At this price, it should be white-glove service. The Bugaboo Cameleon comes with a limited two-year warranty. It has a poor reputation for customer service, with one respected source saying it's slow and arrogant. A number of owners say it took weeks for problems to be resolved.
Once upon a time, Bugaboos were "the" city stroller, thanks to exposure on a hot, hip TV show and the limited availability of high-price-point strollers. Now, high-end, highly maneuverable, lightweight and easy-to-use strollers are plentiful, and they cost less than the Cameleon. This stroller has a way to go to make it in the modern era of city-friendly strollers.
1. Baby Bargains
Excellent "Baby Bargains" is a popular and well-organized guide to baby-related products. Authors Denise and Alan Fields conduct hands-on testing as well as parent, manufacturer and retailer interviews. Their section on strollers is detailed and offers a wealth of useful information. Both the Bugaboo brand and the Cameleon are reviewed and rated against dozens of other popular strollers.
Review: Strollers, Denise and Alan Fields, Ninth edition
2. Which? magazine
Very good The Bugaboo Cameleon gets a full, thorough review that includes ratings for maneuverability, folding, ease of use, fit to car, ease of use on public transport and convenience features.
Review: Bugaboo Cameleon Review, Editors of Which? magazine, Jan. 2008
Very good MumsNet.com is a European website with articles, forums and product reviews. The Bugaboo Cameleon receives a score of 4 stars out of 5 from nearly 100 owners, getting high marks for durability, the adjustable handle, comfort and versatility. Some say it's easy to fold, but most disagree. Even those who love it say it takes up a lot of trunk space and the basket is hard to access.
Review: Bugaboo Cameleon, Contributors to MumsNet.com, As of Aug. 2012
Very good There are just a handful of reviews for the Bugaboo Cameleon, but it earns 4 out of 5 stars. Owners say the stroller is easy to steer and comfortable for baby, but is difficult to fold and awkward to get in and out of the trunk.
Review: Bugaboo Cameleon Stroller, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Aug. 2012
5. New York Magazine
Good Faye Penn and her baby Ezra test eight trendy strollers -- and an inexpensive Fisher-Price lookalike -- on New York City's cobblestones, buses, stairways and subways. Penn likes the Cameleon's super-smooth ride, but says it's awkward on stairs, and difficult to maneuver on and off public transportation. While this review is well done, and we appreciate its comparative nature and honest assessment of urban user experiences, its credibility is diminished by its age. Bugaboo updates its strollers regularly, so the 2008 model may not be the same as the 2011 model.
Review: This Is How We Roll, Faye Penn, Jan. 27, 2008
Good Editors at Baby-Gaga.com test 21 standard strollers in 11 performance areas. The Bugaboo Cameleon gets high marks, earning an overall A grade from both expert reviewers and parents, who like its top safety rating and excellent maneuverability. The stroller earns its lowest ratings in convenience, with some owners complaining that it's difficult to fold and bulky once folded.
Review: Bugaboo Cameleon, Editors of Baby-Gaga.com, Jan. 20, 2011
7. Canadian Family
Good The Bugaboo Cameleon is named one of the best overall in this roundup of nine top stroller picks. Martell points out that it's fully customizable and works from baby to toddlerhood. Moms like it because it can handle any terrain and steers easily on a variety of terrain.
Review: The 9 Best Single Strollers of 2011, Ali Martell, 2011
The 2007 version of the Cameleon gets an extensive review, complete with dozens of photos of its features, functions and accessories. (Bugaboo updates its strollers regularly, so the 2007 model may not be the same as the 2011 model.) The reviewer considers the Cameleon's ease of use, style, features and maneuverability, and focuses on the folding procedure. The stroller gets 4.5 stars out of 5 for its excellent suspension and attractive features, but editors say it doesn't perform well on more challenging terrain.
Review: Bugaboo Cameleon Review, "Annabel", Not dated