Reviewed by Louise Totton
My two kids are both real dare devils – they would happily spend every single day of their holidays and weekends at either Blackpool Pleasure Beach or Alton Towers, and now they are both getting older, they go for the thrill rides every time. We have always had to travel for miles for them to get their adrenaline fix, as living in a village in rural Yorkshire, we have lots of open space and beautiful scenery, but not a great deal for thrill-seeking kids. Well, that was until earlier this week when a courier knocked on the door and brought (some) of that excitement straight to our door!
As I said, one thing that we do have in abundance around here is open space, and the kids – now aged 7 and 9 – both learned to ride their bikes and scooters properly from an early age. They are out on their BMXs on a very regular basis, but bizarrely both seem absolutely fascinated by the tiny electric ride-on Jeeps driven by 2-3 year olds and have been desperate for one themselves. No amount of explaining to them that they are too big, that the cars only travel at around 1.5mph and that even if they could shoe-horn themselves in, they would be incredibly bored dissuaded them – they have been after one for as long as I can remember!
Well, when the courier turned up last week, it seemed like all of their Christmases had come at once as he brought with him the Rollplay Nighthawk for them to try out. The Nighthawk is a battery powered 12v ride-on toy aimed at much older kids than anything else I have seen before. The shape reminds me of a cross between the spaceship from Flight of the Navigator (that’s how old I am!) and a stingray, with a seat and handles on top and wheels on the bottom. There is no steering wheel or handlebars as the rider steers the unit with only their body weight by leaning in the direction they want to turn. The Nighthawk travels at up to 12 kmph, which Google tells me is nearly 7.5mph! It is a seriously trendy and sleek looking bit of kit and the girls were itching to get their hands on it!
First thing is always first though, and we first needed to get it unpacked, assembled and charged. There is actually very little to do by way of assembly; the box contains the Nighthawk itself, a charger, a flag and a set of instructions. The only assembly required is to insert the flagpole into the recess in the Nighthawk and of course to charge the battery. Rollplay are a German company, so the charger is supplied with a European two-pin plug attached. They also include a standard UK three-pin adapter piece – the two-pin one clicks off the unit and the three-pin one clicks on in its place. This took less than a minute to assemble and we have kept the Euro bit for when we next take the car to France. The first charge takes around 12 hours, so we plugged it in the night before we wanted to use it so it would be fully charged for the morning. The battery is situated under the seat, which you need to remove in order to charge it up. The seat is locked into place with a plastic screw, which prevents the kids from gaining access to the battery and cables. The screw can be unlocked easily with a coin, then the seat lifts off. The battery terminals then unclip from one another and the charger is plugged into one end. Once the charge cycle is completed, you simply unclip the charger, reconnect the battery terminals and lock the seat back into place. The instructions suggest this charge should be sufficient for around an hour of usage.
So, fully charged and chomping at the bit, we loaded the Nighthawk into the car along with helmets and knee and elbow pads and headed off to the park. We are really lucky that our local park has plenty of areas that are ideal for a toy like this, but I am aware that not everyone is so lucky. We needed a decently sized area of reasonably flat, hard ground where we wouldn’t be getting in the way of people out walking with prams, wheelchairs or young children. The Nighthawk can’t be used on grass or soft ground or on anything rough or uneven. Because it has a top speed of 12kmph, we knew we would also need plenty of room to teach the kids how to handle, steer and, most importantly, stop the Nighthawk safely.
Once we had arrived and found our spot, the toss of a coin decided that my eldest (age 9) would be the first to try it out. We got her kitted out in her safety gear and sat her down on it. It does wobble rather a lot when you’re stationary because the principle is the same as a bike – the central wheels are larger than the side ones because you need to lean into the corners to make it turn. Once she was sat on it and we had familiarised her with the controls and the way it worked (brake pedal, accelerator pedal and the handles at each side), we were ready to go. We turned on the power button and she was off!
Because of the way it steers, the kids found it very intuitive to use and my eldest was zooming around happily in no time. As a parent, I was initially a little concerned about just how fast it seemed to go but she did master excellent control of it in virtually no time, and within a matter of 15 minutes was slaloming around park benches and judging distances very easily. It also stops very easily should you need to – removing your foot from the accelerator allows it to roll to a gentle stop and using the brake pedal stops it more urgently. This is obviously particularly important if you are in a public area and there are people around! I also had to keep reminding them to look ahead of them as they were driving as they were far too busy looking behind and to the side at various points, as kids have a habit of doing!
My youngest, who is a slightly more cautious and nervous child about things like this anyway took a little longer to get to grips with it but even then within a few goes of watching her sister and then trying it out herself was on her way pretty quickly, if not a little more awkwardly than the older one. We used safety gear for the whole time the kids were trying it out but I have to say that at no point did I feel that either of them were in danger of falling off it. One thing that I will be doing is wrapping some differently coloured tape around the handles to help with directing them, especially the youngest, as shouting ‘yellow side down’ or ‘blue side down’ would be easier than ‘left hand down’ and ‘right hand down’ for the younger one.
The instructions suggested we would around an hour’s use out of a full charge. We used it for around 50 minutes before the area started to get a little busy and we decided to take it back to the car and the battery was still going strong. There is no battery level indicator on the Nighthawk, so I couldn’t say how much of the battery we used but there was absolutely no loss of power at that stage so I would have thought you would get far more than the hour that the manual suggests out of the full charge. The maximum user weight for the Nighthawk is around 50kg – I honestly don’t know how much my eldest weighs but she’s a tall 9 year old and it had no problems with her size at all and moved just as fast with her on board as it did with the younger one.
The Nighthawk isn’t cheap, and I would imagine it would be a very considered purchase – probably a main Christmas or birthday gift. Because of that, my partner and I were looking very closely at the build-quality and durability of it, especially because it is something that is used outdoors where things are not always as predictable as they are at home. We were both very impressed with how it was put together. It is a good, substantial weight which for me immediately inspires confidence. The underneath is very solid and seems to be well designed, meaning that although it shouldn’t be used on an uneven surface, when my daughter did ride directly over a large stone, there was no damage at all. The plastic body isn’t made of cheap, flimsy plastic either and even after them performing some pretty tight figure-eights and slaloming around park benches, there is no damage or any significant scratches to either the top or the underside of the toy.
I would probably say my kids were bang-on the right age for this – it isn’t recommended for under-sixes anyway which I would absolutely agree with and I’d say that my eldest will probably still get a decent amount of use out of it before she is too big or heavy for it.
The kids thought this was the most fun they have had for ages – it really was a massive hit with them both and they absolutely loved it. I only wish they made an adult-sized one as I would love to have a try at something like this! They are available in either black or white (we were sent the black one) and they do look fantastic in both colours. They look very cool and sporty and both girls clearly felt like the bee’s knees whilst they were riding it – I even think it’s cured them of their yearning for one of the little Jeeps! I wouldn’t hesitate to rate this at 5/5, and they’re already looking forward to our next park visit so they can get it out again!