Reviews - Part One
Some of you, undoubtedly, have been through my Car Shopping Round (CSR22) and/or experienced the Hybrid Beaters League. Both of those had long, detailed reviews that I'd been writing since the opening of the challenge. This time, however, I've decided a gentle return to the older ways is needed for the sake of keeping my sanity.
Believe it or not, I actually do like writing the reviews. The problem is, there's only so many times you can present the exact same information the exact same way before you start to get bored. And boredom leads to writer's block. Writer's block leads to annoyance. Annoyance leads to sarcasm. And sarcasm leads straight to the Dark Side, just to finish the butchered reference before someone complains.
So, for the first batch of reviews, in the order of cars as they'd arrived, we'll have roughly one-paragraph blurbs from my perspective.
January 3, 2017a
It's a particularly cold morning, but I feel it's going to be a good day. I'd spent the better part of two weeks researching cars, cramming data into spreadsheets, the works, all to make sure I ended up with the best car I could afford. My budget was limited, and I knew that paying for the car was going to take quite some time, but I figured I could finance a car for $24,000 or less and be okay with it.
With a couple of donuts and a mug of coffee in hand, I switched on the desktop to go through the list and start making a few cuts. Right off the bat, I decided that I needed to thin the field a little, as there was no way I was going to all of these dealerships. I set a limit on yearly fuel consumption at $1,000 to hopefully trim the field a little and make the inevitable trips with the $20 express a little less painful.
The first car on my list was the Bogliq Maverick Ecostar, a nice midsize sedan with a 3 liter V6 in the signature Bogliq blue. With a longitudinal layout and RWD, it'd promise to be a good bit of fun, and for $24,000, it'd be a decent car. Four cloth seats, a premium name-brand stereo system, all the needed driving assists, and reasonably safe, too, with a typical array of air-bags and safety features. With a 34.3 MPG average, and knowledge that it used regular gasoline, I figured out it'd cost me $1,089 in fuel each year.
Next on my list was Cornaldie Automotive's Elipse, another midsize sedan, this time packing a 2.2 liter inline 4 as the power plant. Weighing in at $23,700, it already seemed like a decent deal, especially with 5 leather seats, and a name-brand stereo system from a mid-tier supplier. Again, a good arrangement of airbags and safety stuff made the car safe, along with also carrying the typical four driving assists. Longitudinal FWD is something I've never experienced, but this car had it. As for fuel efficiency, 33.6 MPG over a year with regular gas leads to $1,111 in fuel bills at the end of the year.
First Order Automotive's Cruze was the first midsize to pull the liftback trick, combining the best of both worlds between hatch and sedan. With a 3.8 liter inline 6 mounted longitudinally, spinning the rear wheels, and a price-tag of only $20,700, it shows they were going for the budget strategy. Four standard cloth seats and a mid-tier radio made up the majority of the interior, although they only equipped it with power steering, traction control, and ABS. No electronic stability assistance here. Now, I'm not saying I won't drive a car without 'em, my previous car had power steering most of the time, and ABS, so I'm comfortable missing some assistance. And to be fair, they had the right idea with the standard safety equipment. As for fuel efficiency, well, it gets 31.7 MPG, which I think is a bit crap, and even running on regular gas, it racks up $1,179 in yearly fuel bills.
The light green Zorg ZV2 is the first compact in my list, and a sedan as well. With a mighty 1.7 liter inline 4, wearing a snail, and a competitive price at $23,850, as well as 5 standard cloth seats with fancy body-color stitching, and a good mid-tier branded radio, it definitely seemed like a bargain. Adding to that bargain is a full arrangement of the most modern safety equipment. Lane keeping assistance, parking aids, rear-view camera with guidelines, collision-avoiding braking system, the whole works. It's also a longitudinal AWD car, which would be a gift in the snow. Plus, 45.3 MPG with regular fuel means that it's only going to eat $823 a year in gas bills. I think this one, I'm definitely setting $20 aside for that damn taxi.
The Baltazar Quasar was next on the list, in base trim. Another nice compact sedan, this one carries a 2-liter inline four into battle, with a fairly modest $22,050 price tag. 5 premium leather seats, a mid-tier radio, and all the usual driving assists make for a reasonable experience, as well as having the usual standard assembly of safety stuff. Being a transverse FWD layout, it's nothing I haven't seen before, which means I can still work on my own car for the little things. 35.7 MPG isn't too bad, either. In the end, with regular fuel, it burns up $1,046 worth of it over a whole year.
Confusing the Scarab Nova SportBack for a mere car is not something to do lightly. As a compact sport wagon, it has plenty of room inside, and while it's more hatch than wagon, it still is a wagon. A 1.6 liter inline-4 with a turbo provides this beast with plenty of get-up-and-go, with a 9100 RPM redline. The seats are leather, and there's 5 of them, along with, oh... A budget-brand radio. At $22,650, that's not really good. It does, however, have all four of the major driving aids, and standard safety. Longitudinal AWD finishes off the driveline, and it gets 38.1 MPG. As it runs regular fuel, this means that a year's worth of driving comes up around $979. Well, there's another $20 for the taxi.
The OMG Raizer returns us to the midsize sedan with a 2.5 liter inline-4 under the hood. For a mere $22,500, I'd get 4 standard cloth seats, a mid-range radio, power steering, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. In a Longitudinal RWD, I'd have appreciated having traction control, it'd make learning it a bit easier, but... I can deal with this. Again, reasonably standard safety, so I don't feel like it's a death trap. 38.1 MPG is again what this car can do, and rolls in a $981 yearly fuel bill. Sounds like a good one to test drive later, so that makes another $20 to spend on a taxi tomorrow.
The EADC Verona EcoBlue is another unique entry into the field. A midsize coupe with a 1.4 liter inline four, wearing a turbocharger for added fun and efficiency. $23,400 gets 45.8 MPG, 4 standard cloth seats, a mid-range radio, a ton of advanced safety features, and every driving assist imaginable. Longitudinal RWD and launch control means I'll probably end up with an expensive tire budget, but if it's fun to drive, I don't care too much. Running on regular gasoline, it racks up an $815 fuel bill over a year. Sign this one up for the $20 taxi express.
The next car on the list is the Komodo Loprime, a nice midsize playing the liftback strategy. With a 2.4 liter turbo-inline-4, and a $24,000 price to pay, it has some big shoes to fill. Thankfully, it has a four-seat premium leather interior, a mid-range radio, all the driving assists except launch control, but being FWD, it doesn't need it, and all the advanced safety gadgets I could ever want in a car. With 40.1 MPG on the table, leading to a $931 yearly fuel bill, this one also gets a trip to the dealership. Another $20 for the taxi.
The Smooth Fin is a compact sedan, sporting a 2.3 liter V6 mounted sideways and turning just the front wheels. At $21,900, it manages to remain competitive, and with a 5 seat high-quality cloth interior, a better-than-average mid-range radio, and a few extra airbags than the usual standard, it shows where the money went. The usual 'big four' driving assists are available, and it gets 36 MPG. This means that it'll eat $1,038 in fuel in a year. Hungry little shark.
The Betta Petronia is a compact sedan as well, bringing a 1.3 liter inline 4 to the party, with a turbocharger as a guest. At $19,350, it's the least expensive car in the whole list, but it shows. Sure, it has 5 seats, and they're standard cloth, but the radio is a budget-branded unit. However, it's not all doom and gloom, as the Petronia throws down 39.9 MPG, has the full suite of driver's assists (minus launch control, of course), and has the expected standard safety features. It's a transverse FWD system and racks up $1,038 in fuel over the course of a year, thanks to burning Premium gas.
Contrasting the two small sedans, the Zast Efficio Castro is a midsize coupe, packing a 2 liter inline 6, turned sideways in the engine compartment and driving the front wheels. Four cloth seats, a high-end premium radio, and standard safety features make themselves notable, as does the lack of electronic stability control. Still, that's not a deal-breaker, and so with a 41.9 MPG average, the $24,000 price tag is justified. Estimated fuel cost for a year comes out to about $891, and it runs on regular gasoline. Well, there goes another $20 to pay the cab driver.
Well, while I couldn't find who made it, the 2017 Argus is a compact sedan with a fairly stout 2.8 liter inline six under the hood. Mounted longitudinally, this engine powers all four wheels, and yet the car somehow gets 41.7 MPG average. At $23,700, it sure seems worth it. With four premium leather seats (though I do note the lack of leather on the wheel and shift lever), a mid-range radio, all the driving assists other than launch control, and fairly standard safety for the time, it definitely seems worth it. And even though it sips on premium gas, the Argus manages to maintain an estimated $972 spent on fuel over a year. Another $20 for the taxi.
Dragotec's Renaissance is another of the Midsize Liftbacks that have made quite the appearance in my list. A transverse mounted 1.9 liter turbo-inline 6 powers the front wheels in this car. The cost, at $24,000, initially seems rather high, but a 55.3 MPG average is mighty damn impressive. Four premium leather seats (with proper leather interior this time), a high-end premium radio, and standard safety equipment, it's no slouch when it comes to comfort. The 'big four' return again in driving assists, and while it is front-wheel-drive, they're still appreciated. Perhaps most impressively, that 55 MPG is done with regular gasoline, and results in a yearly fuel bill of $676. Yeah, you guessed it, it's going in the taxi list. And here I'd hoped I'd get to save some of these $20 bills for food.
I've often quipped on auto-forums that more likely than not I'd be driving a Maesima Prova sedan. Well, it should be little surprise, then, that there's indeed a Maesima Prova in the list, specifically the Xz 1.4 ActivBoost. As a nice little compact sedan, it has a transverse-mounted 1.4 liter turbo-inline 4, gets 45 MPG, and costs $21,300. Five cloth seats, a mid-range radio, and standard safety all help me feel comfortable that things will be all right with the Prova. And with power steering, ABS, traction control, and electronic stability control, I have very little to fear with my own driving. Even premium gasoline can't hurt this car, as it pulls in an impressive $903 estimated yearly fuel bill. There's another $20 for the taxi.
The last car in my list is the JHW Xceed 5. Midsize liftback with a bit of a twist, this one. Sure, it has a 1.7 turbo-inline four, and it's mounted longitudinally for RWD, but... There's no stick in this one. Well, there is, but it serves only to choose between Reverse, Neutral, and Forward. You see, this $24,000 car is equipped with a Double-Clutch Sequential gearbox. Now, I'm a big fan of driving with a stick-shift, but I can see what JHW were thinking when they sent this advertisement to me. They figure they can get the stick-shift die-hard to accept the DCT. The whole, “It's still a manual gearbox, we've just made it a million times faster,” sort of thing. Well, with 5 cloth seats, a mid-range radio, and standard safety equipment, it's sure to be decent. And while almost all the driving aids show up, again, we have a rear-wheel-drive with a lack of traction control. But, it does manage 41 MPG, and clears a yearly fuel bill of $911 with ease, so I'll take a taxi for $20 and try the gearbox in this thing.
Well, that marks the blurbs that everyone gets.
You can also somewhat see who's been cut already. First cuts were laid down for having more than $1,000 in yearly estimated fuel bills. Yeah, sorry about that, but I needed some way to reduce the workload on this. After all, these reviews take a lot of my time, and writer's block is a real pain when I push myself to write novels about each car. So I'm taking a more laid-back approach on these.
Rest assured, if you've got a taxi mention, you're going to get at least a dealership visit. Some cuts will happen at the dealerships before test drives happen, though, so keep aware of that.