Best of Economy Class - 1977
RCM Fox HiMiler
Stop the presses. We have a shocker, and upset this year for the best of Compact or Economy cars. Long the domain of bargain-basement manufacturer Bogliq, this year we have to give the nod to an upstart of sorts.
Not really a new company, though newly re-branded, RCM gives us the Fox HiMiler. As the name implies, this trim’s focus is fuel economy.
Powered by a rather buzzy, gruff 1600cc overhead cam four-cylinder, the Fox generates enough power to move. We can’t say much more than that from a motivation perspective, but its good enough to keep it puttering along while getting 31 miles per gallon in combined driving.
Interior design is expectedly spartan, with vinyl seating, a most basic instrument cluster and dash board, and floor mats. We found the seating to be adequate for the task of commuting and errand running, which is likely what our readers would buy a Fox for in the first place.
On the road, it feels quite solid for a small car, without a propensity to wander as the tires run over small grooves in the pavement. Parking is easy, and visibility is excellent all around.
To put icing on the cake, the RCM Fox HiMiler is cheaper than the Bogliq or Ardent. Or any other car in the class save for the Bambi Liberator.
Bogliq Exordium 518B5
“…low cost to own and fuel, and quite handy with a well-designed trunk opening and liftover, and well thought out seating configurations. Really, Bogliq only bit themselves by putting in such an unreliable engine, and not putting enough padding in the seats…”
Pros: Low purchase price, low maintenance cost, high fuel economy, high practicality
Cons: Worst in class reliability, worst in class comfort
Rocha Spok 413
“…Rocha has made amazing strides in quality and reliability, worth of the best in the business. Competent road feel and great versatility are also hallmarks of this little car, though the price tag isn’t so desirable…”
Pros: Best in class reliability, good drivability, good practicality
Cons: High purchase cost
Anhultz Puck IV B
“…considered a microcar. This may not be for everyone, but certainly for those who consider long term costs to be critical…”
Pros: Best in class fuel economy, lowest in class maintenance cost
Cons: Poor practicality, poor drivability
Bambi Liberator B-2D MK II
“…bargain basement entry. It’s great for keeping costs down overall. We didn’t particularly like how the car handled, and the seats were nearly as backbreaking as the Bogliq’s…”
Pros: Lowest in class purchase price, low maintenance cost
Cons: Worst in class drivability, poor comfort, mediocre fuel economy
Earl Vista S
“…probably our favorite balance between practicality and comfort. Projections show that it will be among the more reliable in the group, too. That will be needed in the long run to offset costs…”
Pros: Good practicality, great comfort, good reliability
Cons: High maintenance cost, somewhat high purchase cost
Katsuro Joy X
“…very reliable model. We also love the low liftover and flat load floor, as well as the ease of getting in and out. Unfortunately the Joy gives you no joy at the gas pump…”
Pros: Best in class practicality, good reliability, good drivability
Cons: Poor fuel economy, mediocre otherwise
Ardent Piper L
“…a reasonable value for the money. Fuel economy could be better, as could the seats…”
Pros: Low purchase cost, low maintenance cost
Cons: Poor fuel economy, poor comfort, mediocre otherwise
Hampton Fennec 1.6i
“…plush seats with a stately driving presence gives you an experience that punches above this little car’s weight class. So, too, does the cost of owning one…”
Pros: Best in class drivability, best in class comfort, good fuel economy
Cons: High purchase cost, high maintenance cost, poor practicality
Courageux 3 1400 Rallye
“…a forgettable car with a driving experience that we wish we could forget…”
Pros: Good comfort
Cons: Poor drivability, poor practicality, poor reliability
Hakumai Katana XT
“…very reliable model. But to get one requires an exorbitant outlay of money, enough to buy 3 Bambi Liberators. And that’s if you can even find one…”
Pros: High reliability, decent comfort, decent practicality
Cons: Exorbitant cost, highest in class maintenance cost, lowest in class fuel economy
and as a Meta-con, you spammed the hell out of positive sliders on your engine, sending your ET and PU into outer space and your costs with it. Doing that in a competition like this is a sure-fire way to have a poor showing.
Best of Intermediate Class - 1977
Rocha Toledo 416
Brazilian manufacturer Rocha has had a long and storied history in the States. Perhaps that is a kind way of phrasing it. So we will pardon you (and ourselves) if you are shocked to see a Rocha model at the top of our recommendation list.
The Toledo 416 2-door sedan (or coupe, for those of you that insist on calling it such) is, however, very worthy of the title which we bestow upon it this year.
At first glance on paper, it doesn’t seem like much. A 67 horsepower, fuel-injected horizontal four-cylinder engine. Cloth seats, AM/FM radio, full carpeting, and electric rear defroster. Pretty standard fare for its class.
What specifications on a paper will not tell you, however, is how effortlessly it drives, both on the highway and in the city. Steering response is even and immediate. The suspension soaks up ruts and bumps with ease. Visibility is great in all directions.
And though looking at the spec sheet will tell you it boasts high fuel mileage, most people don’t believe that because of manufacturers’ propensity to fudge their numbers. With the Rocha Toledo, there is no such gaming. It does, honestly, return over 21 miles to the gallon in combined driving.
And for the budget-conscious, the Rocha sits below the median in price, with a low price tag on maintenance.
Truly, Rocha has come far, and this honor is well deserved.
Anhultz Mimas VI D
“…second in driving experience only to the Rocha. It’s far more comfortable, yet still reasonable on gas. Upfront cost is pretty steep, however…”
Pros: Great drivability, good comfort, good fuel economy
Cons: High purchase price
Hampton Valiant III 2.8 Prime
“…came close to knocking off the Anhultz. It tested similarly in many aspects, but fell short in comfort and maintenance costs…”
Pros: Good drivability, good fuel economy
Cons: Mediocre in all other categories
Silverhare Spear Shamal (TIE-4th)
“…A good driving experience combined with, hands down, the most comfortable seats in the class. Many flaws overshadow this, however…”
Pros: Good drivability, best in class comfort
Cons: Subpar in all other categories
Katsuro L-2 Midnight Edition (TIE-4th)
“…seems a bargain with an absolute marvel under the hood. Long-term testing showed that there was a definite honeymoon period involved…”
Pros: Engine of the Year, low purchase price, good comfort
Cons: Poor fuel economy, mediocre otherwise
Bogliq Sachem 133F (TIE-6th)
“…the choice if low costs override your other needs…”
Pros: Low purchase price, low maintenance cost
Cons: Poor comfort, otherwise medicore
Courageux Quinze 1.7 (TIE-6th)*
“…the cheapest of the lot to buy, and pretty cheap down the road. Hopefully you can keep yours on the road, as it can be a handful…”
Pros: Lowest in class purchase price, low maintenance cost, good fuel economy
Cons: Poor drivability, poor comfort
Deer and Hunt Goonie Base
“…no doubt a fine car to define the new luxury market. Whether upscale buyers will bite in this economy remains to be seen…”
Pros: Great comfort, good drivability
Cons: Poor in all other categories
RCM Atlantic Turbo
“…quirky, peppy turbo engine that we really want to love. Unforunately it’s hard to find things we do enjoy about this, which felt tragic…”
Pros: Good fuel economy
Cons: Poor comfort, poor drivability
Ardent Chancellor S
“…the uninventiveness of Ardent’s designers would have Jack Chancellor spinning in his grave…”
Pros: Relatively low purchase price, decent comfort
Cons: Everything else
Hakumai Stallion LX
“…a complete miss on all fronts, and an affront when you read the sticker. We’d much rather buy two Bogliqs and pocket the extra cash…”
(Plus see all the Meta comments in the other class, because they apply here as you used the same engine)
Best of Utility Class - 1977
(First, as a side note, I have to apologize. I should have seen and booted this entry when it was submitted and not let it sit on my desk for a while. This is a meme body, and I should have made the owner resubmit something that would have been applicable to the consumer market. That’s my fault for not doing so, and I can see why it fits in their lore. This will be the ONLY time I allow a meme body entry, even if it fits a company’s lore)
STAG Hauler Box
(This will also be the only time I skip the winner’s write-up because, realistically, I can’t find a way to write this and spin it to what would be appropriate to the publication and its target. Sorry.)
Courageux 3 Utility
“…quirky European “van” that offers decent dry cargo space in a small, inexpensive package…”
Pros: Lowest in class purchase price, great drivability, good reliability, low maintenance cost
Cons: Worst in class load capacity, poor offroad, poor utility
Bogliq Haulstar 325U All Terrain
“…offroad-worth contender on a tight budget. Unfortunately, Bogliq motors aren’t what they used to be…”
Pros: Low purchase price, high offroad, low maintenance cost
Cons: Poor reliability, poor drivability
Earl Thriftmaster LWB 4WD
“…line of vans ready to handle any sort of work or play. They make excellent work vans, campers, and small transit vehicles…”
Pros: Best in class utility, good load capacity
Cons: High maintenance cost, otherwise mediocre
Ardent Shoshone S
“…best of the new “mini-truck” breed. All indications point to Shoshones as having great longevity…”
Pros: Low purchase price, best in class reliability, low maintenance cost
Cons: Poor load capacity
Anhultz Callisto C LWB 4WD
“…an absolute must for woodsmen, hunters, and those in colder climates such as Maine or Minnesota…”
Pros: Best in class offroad, good utility, good load capacity
Cons: Otherwise mediocre
“…a slightly less expensive competitor to the Shoshone, that just doesn’t tick off as many of our boxes…”
Pros: Low purchase price, good drivability
Cons: Poor utility, poor load capacity
Rocha Toledo 416 Cargo
“…excellent road manners from this small truck. We also appreciate Rocha’s improved reliability. Unfortunately, they still fall short of other similar competitors like the Katsuro or Ardent…”
Pros: Good reliability, best in class drivability
Cons: Poor in all other categories
Hampton Nevis II
“…plagued by reliability problems. What would otherwise be considered a fine vehicle has been soured…”
Pros: Good drivability, good load capacity, good offroad
Cons: Atrocious reliability, very high maintenance cost
RCM Highliner 4x4
“…for the money, we were expecting more value. Poor reliability and high maintenance cost did not help in these matters…”
Pros: Good offroad, decent utility
Cons: Poor reliability, highest in class maintenance costs, highest in class purchase price
Best Engine - 1977 - TIE
Ardent (Suzume) Amagi 2A2300S and Katsuro L6-2.6 Mk.2
+5 Point Relative Rating bonus for Katsuro
This year we have a pair of contenders vying for the top spot in the arena, and we honestly couldn’t be happier to put both through grueling side-by-side tests. Both the Ardent and Katsuro engines selected this year hail from Japan, providing motivation to the Katsuro L-2 Midnight Edition and the Ardent Shoshone. For those not familiar, the Shoshone is a rebadged Suzume Kaibokan, sold under the Ardent name as part of an investment agreement made 3 years ago.
Both manufacturers approach their respective problems with similar-sized straight-6 engines, with the Ardent 2.3 liter displacing a little less than the Katsuro 2.6 liter. Here, however, they diverge in philosophy. Where Katsuro uses pushrod technology and a carburetor, the Ardent is a modern fuel-injected, single overhead cam design. These differences lead to a different driving experience.
The Ardent motor is very smooth and responds to throttle input with precision. The Katsuro is torquier and, thanks to a well-engineered exhaust system, significantly quieter. Both motors are extremely reliable. Long-term ownership savings is split; the Ardent is more fuel efficient, but the Katsuro engine is cheaper to maintain.
Our testing staff could not come up with a clear winner after much debate. Honestly there probably isn’t one. Either motor is incredible, and worthy of considering models with them under the hood.
GENERAL ENGINE ADVISORY
ALL BOGLIQ ENGINES
For the first time ever, we are issuing a general advisory against the purchase of engines from an entire manufacturer. We’re not quite sure what’s going on at Bogliq’s engineering department, but the results this year haven’t been pretty.
All three motors that we tested this year from Bogliq suffered from serious issues, and long-term testing indicates overall reliability to be very poor for these engines. In addition, their 3.3 liter V6 has an obnoxious, loud droning exhaust note at cruise, and their 1.8 liter 4 cylinder is among the most gutless on the market.
The worst of the batch, however, is their 2.5 liter 4-cylinder. This particular motor is very coarse and lacks any form of responsiveness whatsoever, in addition to the piled-on reliability issues.
Now, that said, we know a ton of you will go out and buy Bogliqs because they’re cheap. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Visual Design Honorable Mentions
Silverhare Spear Shamal
RCM Fox HiMiler
1977 Reliability Rankings
Hakumai - 67.85 (Limited sample data)
Rocha - 67.07
Ardent - 64.63
Katsuro - 64.00
Courageux - 63.73
RCM (Dominion) - 63.50
Earl - 62.73
Hampton - 62.50
Anhultz - 62.13
Deer and Hunt - 61.43
Bogliq - 61.33
1977 Relative Ratings
Rocha - 100.00
Deer and Hunt - 99.09
Anhultz - 98.09
Bogliq - 97.73
Katsuro - 93.52 (Including engine RR bonus)
Earl/Silverhare/Hirondelle - 93.46
Courageux - 90.38
Hampton - 86.56
Ardent - 86.16
Dominion - 79.16
Hakumai - 44.24
Charge - 40.00 (Static due to missing 2 consecutive rounds)
Watson - (Eliminated due to missing 3 consecutive rounds)
Silver-York - (Eliminated due to missing 3 consecutive rounds)
Platinum - (Eliminated due to missing 3 consecutive rounds)