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Maclaren Atom stroller REVIEW: a dynamic mini-traveler with XL features

Apr 2021 | Eli writes & you read in 16 min
A super small, lightweight, and a handy 'racer '. What makes the Maclaren Atom pushchair outstanding, compared to other strollers in the holiday-use category, could be the high-quality wheels, elaborate details, and quality upholstery that is nice to look at as well as to touch.

Extra functions in a small package make the first ultra-compact stroller from the British Maclaren brand an excellent companion for (not only) summer holidays.

In short:

+ lightweight and compact
+ quality materials
+ sturdy wheels with individual suspension
+ high position of the handlebar, which is leatherette-covered with holes for ventilation in the under part
+ craftsmanship, details, reflective elements
+ large, UV protective hood
+ seat padding
+ well-balanced center of gravity
+ essential accessories included (carry bag, reversible seat liner, rain cover)
+ simple front-wheel lock activated with a foot (no need for bending down)

- higher price tag (corresponding, however, with the quality materials and the lifetime warranty for the chassis
- shorter seat surface length (derived from the type of the stroller and its compact fold)
- slightly reclined seating position (backrest is never fully upwards)
- no bumper bar
- two-handed fold
- puzzle system of the five-point harness buckle
- an older child tends to lock the front wheels during the ride

And in long ;-) :

In 2019, the renowned and worldwide-first producer of umbrella strollers - Maclaren - released its first ultra-compact model, the Atom. This practical, compact holiday stroller will be enjoyed by many parents that had enough of those cheap, rattling ultra-compacts while not being interested in the most popular and most imitated one (Atom's biggest rival - the Yoyo - is, because of so many accessories available separately, one of the most expensive strollers in the carry-on category).

The Atom combines a low basic weight of 5.4 kg (without the hood, shopping basket, and carry strap) and a high weight capacity of up to 25 kg. Its folded dimensions are, at the same time, small enough to comply with the carry-on regulations (better always check in advance with your airline guidelines). Moreover, the dynamic style and luxurious finish of high-quality materials, typical for Maclaren, are also present.

When my kids saw the Atom for the first time, their first question was: "Is it a 'fast' stroller (as in fast cars)?" "Yes," I answered, "it is," seeing how, lightweight, easy to handle this dynamic-looking stroller was. They liked it even more when I mentioned the name of the brand - Maclaren, which naturally reminds them of the famous car brand.

All three of my children loved the design, and truth to be told, it sparked my interest as well. Every time I looked at the Atom, the unique quality of materials, the detailed finish, and the soft-touch single handlebar (positioned surprisingly higher than I was expecting) tempted me. After we picked up the stroller from the shop, the boys were going for a day out with their grandma and immediately insisted on taking the Atom with them.

Configurability

The Maclaren Atom is usually available as a 'style set' for (the cost, when reviewed, was approximately 390 EUR). The style set comprises the stroller along with a reversible seat liner, carry strap, harness padding, carry bag (to carry the stroller on your shoulder as well as to protect the stroller while transporting it), handlebar cover, and rain cover.

I will describe the stroller in detail a little bit later - for now, I would like to talk a bit more about accessories. I need to underline the softly padded seat liner, which is even reversible (one side breathable, the other for colder weather). To prevent slipping down the seat, the liner features two integrated velcro straps, which I found to be quite a smart invention.

The wrist strap is more or less for decoration in my opinion - the stroller should be in your hands anyway, and it doesn't tend to run away from you, so there was not a real need for me to use this strap.

Having said that, the tether strap is still a nice option to have, especially if your older child is willing to hold onto it (you can use this trick when you have both of your hands full).

The carry bag with one single shoulder strap might get useful during longer car rides, where it protects the stroller from getting damaged in a full car boot. With it, you can put the stroller in and out of the car without the risk of the wheels or any other part of the stroller getting stuck somewhere, as well as save it from being scratched.

The leatherette handlebar cover is good protection against damage caused by frequent folding or bad weather conditions.

The rain cover comes included with every Maclaren stroller. It is easy to use, fits the stroller well, and it is not too thick - so it doesn't take up too much storage space. It won't cover the feet of an older child entirely, though. It provides good-enough protection; I don't think this is the type of stroller you will choose for a planned, 2-3 hour-long walk in the rain.

Car seat

Not in every country, but Britax-RΓΆmer, Maxi-Cosi/Cybex, and other brand-type car seat adapters are available to pair with the Atom. They may get quite costly, though, and usually, it is necessary to order them in advance.

Carrycot/Newborn pram options

This micro-urban type of stroller is predominantly destined for travels - only a handful of parents will be tempted to use the Atom as a full-featured stroller system. To use the Atom even for the smallest of babies, it offers a lie-flat reclining position, a soft insert, and it is also possible to use some kind of a universal nest/cocoon for babies. This is an excellent solution for summer, further supported by the Maclaren-traditional safety net pull-out system integrated into the leg rest, typical for other Maclaren models as well. A conventional carrycot is also available - you can order the Maclaren Carrycot for approximately 120 EUR.

Stroller features and specs

Primarily, the Atom is rather tiny and very lightweight; therefore, it's easy to lift, push, turn, and maneuver. Together with the hood, shopping basket, and the carry strap, the weight of this stroller is still less than 6 kg. Thanks to the well-thought-of center of gravity, quality wheels with individual suspension, and an optimized position of the handlebar, it will not be a burden even during everyday manipulation. The Atom will breeze through smooth indoor surfaces but can handle some urban challenges as well. Unless, of course, you have to negotiate a pothole bigger than the wheel size - in that case, it is advisable to either avoid it or lift the front of the stroller off the ground rather than riding straight through.

When it comes to lifting the front wheels off the ground and pop up curbs (an important feature for me at least, since there are so many curbs around where we live), we didn't struggle at all - even with a heavier child on board. We have tested the stroller with the youngest Ferdinand (2 years old); then with Felix (4 years old, 16 kg) and finally, the oldest Florian tried it out as well (5 and half years old, and weighing over 20 kg - close to the maximum weight capacity of the Atom, which is 25 kg).

Initially, the design of the stroller parts seemed similar to other travel strollers to me. This is due to the ultra-compact fold design, I'm thinking - some things are always very similar even if looking at two ultracompacts from two very different brands). But if you only look closer (or get your glasses, like me πŸ˜‰ ), you will spot the uniqueness of the upholstery; the embroidered, quilted and printed details; the size of the hood, and the emphasis on ventilation everywhere possible.

The dynamic soul of Maclaren design is apparent in the Atom as well, despite differences compared to its umbrella style brothers. The pictures of galaxies on the side buttons, padding of the safety belts, and the image of the UFO on the summer side of the seat liner are delivering a playful tone so that the little ones identify with the Atom quickly.

The dark color makes the stroller naturally elegant without affecting its cheerful character. All in all, the best of both worlds - the baby, as well as the mum, will get each their own.

The handlebar

As a matter of fact, the marketing pictures of the Atom don't really do it enough justice. They actually don't show how unique the handlebar is. It is all in the details. You will get the stylish, leatherette handlebar cover, but there is an option to use the handlebar as-is, without covering it. The plastic material is somehow made to be soft-to-touch, with an almost velvety finish. Another advantage of the handlebar without the cover is the perforations on the sides, facilitating air circulation. A smart solution for sweaty palms or a better grip. Still, if it gets less comfortable (a few hours with sweaty hands might get it so), you can just go back to the comfort of the leatherette cover.

The one-piece - single handlebar is positioned slightly higher (my measurement is 103 cm from the ground) - even taller parents can enjoy a comfortable drive.

With my height of 176 cm, I certainly didn't struggle, and I believe every person of average height will be fine. For people measuring under 160 cm and over 190 cm, I would recommend trying the Atom out (and any other stroller for that matter) before purchasing it.

The hood

Considering the type of stroller, the Atom's canopy is simply awesome. It offers several levels of protection and comfort features, and it is well made. A sun visor is integrated to be a part of the canopy. Additionally, you can extend the hood conventionally - by unzipping the wide panel forming another third of the hood. It even features the integrated, side silver-colored mesh parts, perfect for air circulation. The overall breathability of the stroller is also supported by the material the hood and the silent (magnetic) peek-a-boo window with an additional mesh that you'll find on the top of the hood. The viewing window is big enough and positioned well. The whole hood is intended to be used (mainly) in summer on holidays - that is why it comes with UV50+ protection, which will shield your child's head, back, and face against the strong sun.

This is, I would say, the maximal possible size of a hood for a stroller with this type of fold. The legs of your child won't be covered completely - you would need a much deeper hood, which is structurally impossible to do with an ultra-compact buggy - otherwise, it would definitely compromise the fold.

The hood (and the stroller) is made to look cooler with some cute details - labels depicting a plane and a piece of luggage on the other side. Taken into account, this is not a stroller suitable for winter, more the opposite - an open, well-ventilated stroller. And as such, the hood can get the highest score.

The seat unit

The seat unit is not the biggest one - with the measurements of the seat being: a backrest length of 42 cm, depth of 20 cm, and a leg rest length of 12.5 cm, the total length seat length measurement of the Maclaren Atom is 75 cm, which is not that much, even though very adequate to this type of a travel stroller. The width of 34 cm makes it, however, relatively spacious, width-wise. What the Atom lacks in backrest height, it balances with the height to the top of the canopy, measuring 66 cm ~ 16". If you need to leave your child in the stroller every day for long naps, the Atom is more suitable for smaller children. Older and taller children will fit the Atom too, no issues, considering the use for everyday errands or travel purposes.

A reclining feature, which also needs to be talked about, is typical for this category of strollers as well - the seat unit is slightly reclined even when in the fully upright sitting position. Reclining its backrest is not difficult, but putting it back to the sitting position, you need to pull the strap quite a bit harder.

A small lifehack I discovered - in the final stage, pull those two straps away from each other firmly even more, and you will find the seat in the most upright sitting position the stroller can offer.

My youngest didn't complain and looked comfortable even in the slightly tilted position. A bumper bar would, however, help in this area - some children like to hold on to that if the seat is always a bit tilted.

Even if the Atom stroller features the possibility to recline fully, little Dino preferred the half-sitting position more, also when sleeping. He usually woke up if I tried to recline him to a lie-flat - complained when finding himself laying completely flat πŸ˜€

The seat is predominantly black, with silver and white details. Looking through the pictures, it is evident that the materials (for example of the hood) are looking almost semi-transparent, which means they are very breathable. What is probably not entirely apparent from those pictures is the feel of the materials - the fabrics are really robust, substantial, yet at the same time light and soft... love at first touch. You can sense that this stroller will not come apart, the fabrics won't easily tear, and the color won't fade away soon.

The upholstery is removable and fully washable too.

Even though I am not very keen on dark strollers (the Atom was available only in dark shades at the moment), the perforated structure of the fabrics combined with white, grey, and silver didn't make me nervous about sharp sun and heat. We have tested this stroller during hot summer days too. With the UV protection and the light-colored seat liner, I can't say my child was sweating more than usual. This stroller destined is, because of its functionality, quite open and appropriately ventilated.

The leg rest is operated by underside clips that need to be locked - which, compared to the more conventional levers, I found quite unusual. If you want the leg rest to stay in the horizontal position, you need to lift the leg rest first, push in the mechanisms in, and let go - it is not difficult, just a bit different. To release the leg rest, a reverse process is needed - unlock the clips by pulling both towards the front, which will free the leg rest to "fall" down.

Despite the leg rest being shorter, it is at least some addition to the comfort of smaller children during their naps - and an increase to the total seat depth for the bigger ones.

Thanks to the integrated safety net in the base of the seat, even the smallest children will be safe and enclosed, if needed. You don't need to worry about them slipping out of the seat. The safety net is secured on both sides of the seat (with studs).

I want to put your attention to the footrest - a lower platform, where the older children can put their feet. The Atom's footrest is beautiful, refined, featuring Maclaren logo details that are, moreover, contributing to its anti-slip properties. It is wide enough to provide a comfortable rest area. I've noticed my kids liked to use it fairly often.

The Atom doesn't feature a bumper bar. Instead of the bumper bar, my boys were holding on the rounded plastic sidebars. They are like that there for a reason - probably another one of compact fold designs. Still, I found them a suitable alternative, and we didn't miss a bumper bar that much.

When it comes to the comfort and safety of the seat, I have to mention the comfortable, fully adjustable 5-point harness. You can adjust the shoulder straps' position from a low to a quite high. The length of the straps is adjustable in the shoulder area as well as in the abdomen part, giving you, again, a wide range of lengths. They are secure and well-made, featuring soft padding with small graphic motifs, and are not falling down.

My only reservation is the puzzle system of closing the buckle (so popular these days, I noticed), where you have to add one part of the clasp into the other one and then push it into the clip. It could be difficult with a child having a paddy and move around chaotically. It is a shame that the popular Maclaren buckle with two safety elements (pressing it in the front and at the back simultaneously) is not present in this model. To open the buckle, you have to press the red side, but it being quite sturdy, the child will not get out on its own for sure anyhow.

The chassis

The chassis is made of aluminum, and it's truly super lightweight. Each wheel comes with an individual, soft, shock-absorbing suspension - though, don't expect any rocking. The chassis (not the wheels, which will wear down naturally over time) comes with a life-long warranty.

The wheels are rather small, and despite having suspension, the Atom can't handle any real terrain. You will tackle pavements (even the bumpier ones), cobblestones (of course, you will feel them), and occasional grass with the Atom without difficulties, though.

The diameter of the wheels is 12 cm, and their width is 3 cm. They are made of high-quality EVA foam, typical for Maclaren strollers. The good news is, after finishing the testing of this stroller, which involved various surfaces including gravel, grass, playgrounds, there wasn't a stone stuck to the tire.

What I also liked was that the distance between wheels in the front and the back was more or less equal. It is a good sign for maneuverability, which, as I already mentioned, is one of the strong points of the Atom buggy. The small yet practical foot-operated brake is located on the right, out of your way. I had no reservations about this system; it's simple but effective. It is even flip-flop friendly.

The locking system located above the front wheels is a mixture of one of the biggest advantages and also an important disadvantage of the Atom. Unbelievably practical and quick for the mom - you just need to push both sides by your foot, and there you go, going through grass or an uneven pathway is a breeze. Once the child is big enough to reach the button and activate the locking system, there is a chance it will do it randomly during a ride as an amusement. Better get aware of this before you are wondering why is the stroller not turning (true story) πŸ˜€

The fold

The fold cannot be done with one hand (in theory, it can, but you won't really ever do that, in my opinion - it is not a smooth process like that) nor in one step; it is, however, fairly simple. You will only need a few practice runs to master the technique. First, the handlebar needs to be folded down by pressing the large, white buttons. The rest can be managed one-handedly. You have to bend down to reach the two-button system on the central bar of the stroller. After shifting one button and pushing the other one, you lift the stroller swiftly, and that's all, the Atom is collapsed.

Minimalistic dimensions of the stroller when folded (53,5 x 45 x 24 cm) should be accepted by the majority of airlines.

To unfold the Atom, a reverse process is needed, starting with pushing the same two buttons, releasing the stroller. The automatic safety lock, which prevents the stroller from unfolding by itself, also needs to be tended to. One energetic swish afterward, and the Atom is ready to use.

The storage basket

The Atom comes with a for-its-type 'traditional' shopping basket - relatively easily accessible, but with the dimensions of 43 x 29 x 19 cm, rather small. The front and rear parts of the basket are shallow; only the center is deeper. Thanks to the open access, the shopping basket can handle a small to medium shopping load, but be careful not to lose anything - the smaller items are safer on the bottom. I would not recommend overloading the basket either. The rear part is attached by velcro, and under a heavy load (for example, several full bottles), it will get undone and drag on the floor. The shopping basket is in my opinion suitable for storing essentials such as a rain cover (it won't take its whole space), a blanket, a bottle, spare clothes, baby wipes, and some spare nappies. It is probably advisable to carry any real shopping only occasionally.

To maximize the storage space, a relatively large rear pocket in the rear canopy section is available. When we crossed paths with two ladies giving away free chocolate bar samples, the pocket managed to cope with about 30 of them πŸ˜€

The rear pocket is a suitable space for a 0.5l bottle (or a baby bottle), if it is not in the basket already, a snack, and some tissues. It could even handle the 'classical combo' - keys and mobile phone, but I am always scared that someone will steal them, so I better carry them on me.

MACLAREN ATOM SUMMARY

The Maclaren Atom is a beautiful stroller. For its category, the quality of materials feels ultimate. Based on the type, it comes with many advantages and, naturally, some disadvantages as well. Comparing the higher price derived from quality materials, wheels, and extra accessories, this functional stroller has several advantages over its competition.

Because of the functions and the fold, the Atom is head to head, if not slightly ahead, to the most predominant representant of the ultra-compact category, theBabyzen Yoyo travel stroller. Compared to the Yoyo, the Atom is cheaper, it comes with a wide range of essential accessories included, and can be reclined fully without any additional kit.

I would definitely put the Atom into the same group with the Babystyle Oyster Atom (with which it even shares the name), the Ergobaby Metro, the GB Qbit+ All-City, or the Easywalker Buggy XS. There are, however, differences in prices, accessories, and finish.

And none of them is as summer-ready as the Atom is!

The Atom is obviously destined for traveling-positive parents. Alternatively, you can use it as a secondary urban stroller - but I would only suggest small, occasional errands, not many-hour rides every day (this is generally true for ultracompact pushchairs).

The Atom will manage activities such as being fitted into the boot of your car and going shopping with no problem - they are made so easy thanks to the low weight, small dimensions, and good maneuverability. I would certainly not recommend it (together with other strollers of the same type) if you need a stroller for demanding terrain.

Additionally, the Atom is not the best choice for extremely tall kids and for really short parents, or for those who require a very upright sitting position.

Apart from that, I am happy to recommend the Atom and give this stroller a solid 80 %, taking the category and price range into account. Although I am already used to some standards when it comes to Maclaren strollers (I own a [[maclaren-techno-xlr|Maclaren Techno XLR umbrella stroller]] as a spare at our grandma's), I was nevertheless positively surprised with the quality finish and materials. Together with the higher handlebar and splendid included accessories, I would underline these features like the strongest selling points of this sturdy mini-in-size globetrotter.

MACLAREN ATOM SUMMARY IN NUMBERS:

Dimensions - unfolded: 103.5x45x87.5 cm
Dimensions - folded: 53.5x45x24 cm
Handlebar height: 103.5
Seat unit dimensions: 43 cm (backrest), 34 x 20 cm (sitting surface), 75 cm (laying surface length)
Front wheel diameter: 12 cm ~ 4.7 inch
Rear wheel diameter: 12 cm ~ 4.7 inch
Shopping basket dimensions: 43x29x19 cm
Seat unit weight capacity: 25 kg
Basket weight capacity: 2 kg

This was an unpaid review describing the advantages as well as the disadvantages of the Maclaren Atom stroller, and it is based solely on our own experience. The aim was to provide honest information for moms thinking about purchasing this or any other stroller.