Best of Economy Class - 2002
Earl Eagle Peasant
It seems rather incredible to us that the least expensive economy car you can buy is also the most comfortable to drive. It’s a paradox that has plagued manufacturers for decades, yet Earl seems to have figured out the answer. Behold, the Eagle Peasant. More fit for, at least, a baron than a lowly serf in our opinion.
In any case, this fine basic mode of transportation is anything but basic. You get a slate of upscale equipment for an economy car, including power windows and locks with remote keyless entry, a 60W AM/FM stereo system, and multi-way adjustable woven cloth front seats (10-way driver, 8-way passenger) with an added half inch layer of memory foam under the covers. Add to this standard air conditioning, cruise control, and variable intermittent wipers, and somehow make it on a shoestring budget, you’ve got yourself the Eagle Peasant.
We’re not sure where the savings on engineering costs went, because it wasn’t in quality or ride control, because both are superb as well.
While we try to unravel this mystery, we suggest our readers go look at one in person. It’s well worth the trip.
“…funky styling, great reliability, and a low price might just have you saying THAT’S MY JAM!..”
Pros: Low purchase price, good reliability, good fuel economy
Cons: Poor comfort, poor environmental resistance
Ardent Piper LS 1.4L
“…exactly what we would all expect from an economy car from Ardent. Low cost, inexpensive upkeep, great road manners, and a terrible gas drinking problem…”
Pros: Low purchase price, great drivability, low maintenance cost, good environmental resistance
Cons: Poor fuel economy, poor comfort
Rocha Spok 413
“…an upscale version of their previously tame and sedate Spok. It appeals to a rather small niche, that being economy car lovers who will slap down a fortune for luxury…”
Pros: Great fuel economy, good comfort, low maintenance cost, great environmental resistance
Cons: Highest in class purchase price
Courageux 3 Style
“…bar none will take you farther on a tank of gas. And, true to its heritage, will do so in French comfort and style…”
Pros: Best in class fuel economy, good comfort
Cons: Poor drivability, high maintenance cost
Bogliq Beagle 515B
“…we can’t stress enough how much of a letdown this model was. Beyond its nimble handling in the city, the thin veneer pulls back easily…”
Pros: Best in class drivability, good comfort
Cons: Worst in class reliability, high maintenance cost, General Engine Advisory
“…the Parade bills itself as an upscale commuter, but it can only go so far with its charade…”
Pros: Good reliability, best in class environmental resistance, good drivability
Cons: Worst in class fuel economy, very mediocre otherwise
Hampton Fennec IV 1.8 Prime*
“…tries to fit in the same niche as the Spok 413 but doesn’t hit the mark as well…”
Pros: Good fuel economy, great comfort
Cons: High purchase price, highest in class maintenance cost, poor reliability, poor enviromnental resistance
Hakumai Joy HR-Line
“…continuing Hakumai’s newfound tradition of making you second guess your purchase for a very, very long time…”
Pros: Best in class reliability, lowest in class maintenance cost, low purchase price
Cons: Poor to Worst in Class in all other categories
Deer and Hunt Bambi GreenAir
“…goes to extremes to try to eke out every mile per gallon, but makes too many compromises in the process…”
Pros: Low maintenance cost, good environmental resistance
Cons: Worst in class drivability, poor reliability, high purchase price
Best of Midsize Class - 2002
Hampton Ferret V 2.8 Prime
While Earl is off performing alchemy on compact cars, Hampton is in its own corner rewriting the rules on what a mid-sized car can do. It’s not groundbreaking to have exquisite comfort and sublime handling in a modest sized package. What is groundbreaking is also to throw in excellent safety, and a modest price tag as well.
Appealing to the broadest list of attainable check-boxes that could be on a mid-sized shopper’s list is quite an undertaking, but a quest worthy of Hampton and their endeavor in the Ferret 2.8 Prime.
Under the hood is a twin-cam, 24 valve, 2.8 liter straight-six with variable valve timing and 165 horsepower. While it wasn’t our top pick of the year, it was close, with a better torque curve but a little much exhaust noise for our liking.
But once you take in the interior from the driver’s standpoint, the exhaust note seems to just fade into the background. The Ferret 2.8 Prime is loaded with leather seats, heated in the front, and with power 10-way adjust on the driver’s side. Additional standard features include your usual complement of power equipment, a 140W stereo system, automatic climate control with air conditioning and air filtration, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, and power adjustable foot pedals.
The amount of thought demonstrated doesn’t just abruptly end there. The Ferret also includes such standard safety features as multi-channel ABS, 7 air bags, and an enhanced passenger safety cell with improved rollover protection. This makes the Ferret one of the safest vehicles on the road.
Our only issue is that we have heard of instances where Ferret vehicles have experienced premature rust-through on the quarter panels and rockers.
Truly, for its price, it is a formidable offering.
Ardent Chancellor RS
“…representing both the entry level of the Chancellor lineup and the mid-sized spectrum in general, Ardent comes through with a solid, practical, inexpensive composition…”
Pros: Low purchase price, great drivability, great reliability, good practicality, good environmental resistance
Cons: Poor safety
Bogliq Buttress 119B
“…another solid inexpensive offering. It has better safety features than its Ardent archrival, but falls quite short in the area of comfort, and just doesn’t have the kind of road manners needed to overtake the Chancellor…”
Pros: Low purchase price, good safety, good practicality, good reliability, good environental resistance
Cons: Poor comfort, marginal drivability
“…the best alternative to the Hampton Ferret. Just pack light for weekend trips…”
Pros: Best in class comfort, great safety, good reliability, best in class environmental resistance, Engine of the Year
Cons: Highest in class purchase price, poor practicality
Earl Jupiter Space LE
“…least expensive car in the class. It’s a reasonable value, dead reliable, and quite comfortable, but lacking in overall package…”
Pros: Lowest in class purchase price, good comfort, best in class reliability
Cons: Poor drivability, poor practicality, poor environmental resistance
Deer and Hunt Goonie Sedan
“…quite well mannered on the road, and with a trunk that will carry all of the luggage you could imagine. More attention could have been paid to interior ergonomics, and safety marks are not as good as others…”
Pros: Low purchase cost, good drivability, best in class practicality
Cons: Poor comfort, poor safety, poor environmental resistance
Mont Royal MV EL
“…one of the more premium offerings, it just fails to stand out in any meaningful way…”
Pros: Good drivability
Cons: Mediocre in all other categories
Courageux C20 RS
“…wagon with top-notch safety. Serious reliability concerns hamper its placement on our list…”
Pros: Best in class safety, good comfort
Cons: Worst in class reliability, high purchase price
Rocha Madison 418
“…premium sedan that doesn’t feel premium…”
Pros: Good practicality, good environmental resistance
Cons: Worst in class safety, poor drivability, high purchase cost
Hakumai Raider XM20R
“…just can’t recommend it on its merits…”
Cons: Worst in class drivability, worst in class comfort, worst in class practicality, poor reliability, poor environmental resistance
Best of Sport Utility Vehicle Class - 2002
Earl Pioneer LE-6
Earl has taken the same magic it applied to the Eagle compact and sprinkled it liberally on its Pioneer LE-6 SUV. If a formula’s not broken, why change it? Earl’s engineers are well aware of the addage, and it seems to be the way they live their lives.
Again we come to an inexpensive offering loaded with features that belong on more costly competitors.
The typical power offerings are standard, as is a 100W stereo system, cruise, air conditioning, and a simple, yet effecive four-wheel-drive system for adventures off the beaten path. Seating surfaces are a vinylized leather. While less appealing than more expensive leathers, it is durable and easy to clean, something that active people will greatly appreciate.
And, as is typical of Earl vehicles, it is also projected to be very reliable.
Our only point of contention is that it seems to be more prone to rust than other competitors, but it’s by far not the worst either.
Pioneer? Earl has been, and continues to be.
Bogliq Baller 250P
“…we will see if bad timing ends up prematurely ending the Bogliq Baller. We hope not, as it is both functional and sumptuous…”
Pros: Best in class comfort, good drivability, good practicality, good offroad
Cons: High purchase price, poor reliability
Katsuro Road Cruiser
“…as stalwart and steady of a utility vehicle as there ever was. We just wish it handled regular roads a little bit better…”
Pros: Good reliability, great practicality, good offroad, best in class environmental resistance
Cons: Poor drivability
Rocha Colorado 640
“…not quite as nice inside as the Baller, but less likely to leave you stranded…”
Pros: Good comfort, good drivability, good practicality, good environmental resistance
Cons: Highest in class purchase price
Hampton Braemar II 3.0i
“…only thing you can buy less expensive than the Earl Pioneer. But as the tastes of SUV buyers get more sophisticated, we’re afraid that the classic rugged interior isn’t going to be up to buyers’ expectations…”
Pros: Lowest in class purchase cost, best in class offroad, good environmental resistance, good reliability
Cons: Poor comfort, poor practicality
Cascadia ALV 2.5 AWD
“…best of the all-road wagons. And definitely no slouch. We think it best for buyers where parking and maneuvering space may be at a premium…”
Pros: Best in class drivability, low purchase price, good reliability
Cons: Poor comfort, worst in class offroad, poor environmental resistance
Courageux C20 4ALL
“…comfortable, posh, sublime on the road. Keeping it on the road may be difficult, as yet another recall has just been issued on their turbochargers…”
Pros: Great comfort, great drivability, good environmental resistance
Cons: Worst in class reliability, poor practicality, poor offroad
Ardent Hood LS (7-passenger)
“…most versatile offering of the group. That can’t save it from serious deficiencies in reliability and handling…”
Pros: Best in class practicality, good environmental resistance
Cons: Poor drivability, poor reliability
Deer and Hunt Hawg
“…another classic-style offroader that is falling behind the times…”
Pros: Low purchase price, decent drivability
Cons: Worst in class comfort, worst in class practicality, poor environmental resistance
Hakumai Raider XT
“…another test in how long can you live with your decisions. If you’re lucky, it will rust out on you and make the call for you…”
Pros: Best in class reliability
Cons: Worst in class environmental resistance, worst in class drivability, high purchase price, poor offroad
Best Engine - 1996
+5 point RR bonus
It’s no secret that Katsuro has a long history of developing quality power trains. This year is no different. Their 2.5 liter straight-six is tops on our list.
Powering their midsize entries, this motor puts out 179 horses and 165 ft-lbs of torque. Katsuro has paid special attention this year to NVH, and there were a couple times that our staff accidentally tried turning on the engine at a stop because they didn’t realize it was already on.
It is, as is usual for a Katsuro motor, also among the top of the heap for projected reliability. Our only gripe with it is that it requires more expensive premium fuel, which as of late has an extra steep price.
But as long as you can afford to put gas in, it’s an uncompromising engine in an increasingly complicated automotive world.
GENERAL ENGINE ADVISORY
We find this year that the “massive” 1.5 liter three-cylinder engine from Bogliq is, amongts its bretheren, deficient.
It’s somewhat forgivable that Bogliq is putting out a 66 horsepower engine these days. After all, it’s only found in their most basic economy cars.
What is unforgivable is an engine that is so coarse and full of vibrations that it might actually be rattling itself to death.
Thus we have to advise our readers against purchasing a vehicle equipped with such an engine, with the strongest warning we have given in at least twenty years.
Visual Design Honorable Mentions
Mont Royal MV EL
Deer and Hunt Bambi GreenAir (for a bit of a Honda Insight vibe)
Earl Jupiter Space LE
2002 Reliability Rankings
Earl - 72.43
Hakumai - 70.27
Katsuro - 69.77
RCM - 68.67
Hampton - 68.47
Deer and Hunt - 67.93
Ardent - 67.33
Rocha - 67.17
Bogliq - 65.8
Courageux - 64.93
2002 Relative Ratings
Earl - 100.00
Katsuro - 86.73
Bogliq - 85.88
Ardent - 82.67
RCM - 82.11
Hampton - 80.72
Courageux - 78.38
Rocha - 75.78
Deer and Hunt - 64.29
Hakumai - 57.21