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The 1996 4wd/offroader/SUV comparo (Final verdicts part 2/2)


In 1994 at their annual board meeting the BOG UTILITARIAN AUTOMOTIVE COMPANY decided to take advantage of the growing global trend of lifestyle / SUV type vehicles to enter the consumer market. In order to keep design and manufacturing costs to a minimum they decided to base the “new” vehicle on the allready tried and tested A 10 small offroader platform and just spice it up a little.

The sommar edition of the A 10 marked a series of firsts for the company: their first fuel injected engine, the first vehicle with air conditioning, comfortable seats and power windows.

Even if the BOG designers did their best to hide the rugged utilitarian machine it is based on by adding various pieces of plastic trim, new, more modern headlights and tailights, body colored trim in the interior it’s still easy to notice that it is decade old design.


A true full-size SUV, the 1996 MAD Ouray II XL is capable of ferrying you and four others (plus two more if you order the optional third row) from your home to the wilderness and back.

It may be built on traditional underpinnings (ladder frame with a live axle rear), but in the XL trim shown above, it has the creature comforts of an upmarket car on the inside, with leather and woodgrain trim throughout - all genuine, of course - plus a premium stereo with AM/FM radio and CD/cassette player with 6-disc stacker to keep the occupants entertained on the move. And with anti-lock brakes, traction control, automatic climate and cruise control, plus driver and passenger front airbags as standard, you and your family are guaranteed to feel as safe as houses every time.


The 1996 Armor Timberwolf

totally not a Cherokee…

I can’t look at interior fixtures anymore…


Soon at a magazine stand near you… :wink:


Oh yeah, I’ve actually got to send the car in. I’ll get onto that asap


Did my boy dirty with that framing :joy:


The placement of the cars have absolutely nothing to do with their rating (I haven’t even checked out every car yet, though most of them), they were just randomly chosen for the shot.

Now, time is up for submissions and I’ll be back with at least the first part of the article in a while.




4x4=16, if you want to be funny. The 16 tested cars is far from every 4WD vehicle available on the market, yet we think that it is a quite fair representation of what you can get nowadays.

If there is one thing that car people never seems to agree about, it is if front wheel drive is superior to rear wheel drive, and vice versa. Wouldn’t it be ideal then to let all four wheels drive the car forward, especially in a country with our climate?

Sure, but it have had its drawbacks, and there is reasons why the classic Willys Jeep probably is what most people is having in mind when they hear about “4 wheel drive”, and why the system mostly saw military duty for so many years. But things have happened in the last 15 years. Now, you can’t find a WRC car that is 2 wheel drive anymore, and instead of being crude penalty boxes with bare metal interiors and leaky canvas tops, 4WD vehicles available for the civilian market are now comfortable, easy to drive and has a level of equipment that sometimes surpasses what regular family cars can offer.

But of course, choosing the right 4WD vehicle is not any less of a challenge than choosing the right 2WD vehicle. And we can’t say which one that suits your needs or your budget the best. Of course the $13600AMU BOG A10 is not competing with the $36500AMU Mons Granite. And we could of course base our ratings on pure offroad performance and laugh at the Forea HRC-4 already at the first look - but a safe and secure daily driver that can provide handling and traction on bad roads is not necessarily the same thing as the vehicle that will be able to cope with the toughest trail.

We have split the cars up in four groups, to make it easier to have an overview of them. Since they may still be completely different animals, it does not mean that the cars in the group are necessarily competing against each other. Instead, they are purely based on the size of the car. Group 1 - the tiny sized mini SUVs. Group 2, the somewhat larger but still compact class vehicles. Group 3 for the midsized ones and group 4 for the fullsize beasts. At the end of the article, however, there will be an overview of all the tested vehicles, with our rating and an in-depth opinion about the actual cars. Still, it does not mean that a vehicle that scores 32 out of 45 is a better buy for you than a vehicle scoring 29. We rather hope that you can use this as a guide to pick the vehicle that fits your needs the best.


From left to right: The GSI Bergsget, Heros VaraCross, BOG A10, FM StreetSUV and Ardent Ozette.

You have probably heard people complaining that “all cars looks the same nowadays”. It has seldom been more true than among the smallest of our test cars. Except for the BOG, they seems to have been baked in the same mold, a small, boxy, upright body with the wheels far out in the corners. The BOG is trying to be more of an open top, fun summer car.

The only car in this class still using a ladder frame is the BOG, the rest is using an unibody construction, even if the Ardent and FM still has something underneath that could be mistaken for frame rails, but they are welded to the floor. All cars have solid rear axles, all of them are using coil springs, except for the Heros that still is using leaf springs. FM and BOG has coil sprung solid axles up front, the Heros has double wishbones and the Ardent and GSI has a somewhat unusual setup for an offroader with McPherson struts up front. All cars except the Heros is running inline four cylinders, which has a turbocharger in the GSI. The Heros has a V6.

Offroad the FM StreetSUV, despite its name, is a real climber. But with a soft coil sprung suspension giving lots of flex, high ground clearance, locking differentials and the wheels far out in the corners, that should not be a surprise. Neither is it a surprise that it is nimble in city traffic. But surprisingly enough it is also a decent drivers car. The handling is stable and secure, showing some tendencies of understeer but always being predictable. Despite the soft suspension, the body roll is moderate. ABS is standard and the brakes did not show any terrible amounts of fade. There could have been a little bit better bite in them though.

The Ardent Ozette is not on par with the best climbers offroad even if it should absolutely be good enough to suit most peoples needs. One explanation could be the relatively small tyres with street pattern. If offroading is your hobby, an update should not be out of question.

Also, its behaviour on the road is nice, actually among the better in our test despite its 80s roots. It is fun and nimble to drive, feels “grippy” in the corners for an offroader and is easy to control. The brakes are far from exotic stuff with solid discs up front and drums in the rear, but they stop the light car very well. Though we found some fading with the car loaded to max and the lack of ABS is of course a major drawback.

It is maybe a bit unfair to call the Heros VaraCross a softroader but it really doesn’t shine at the side of the pavement. One explanation might be the viscous LSD - a compromise that is easier for mr. Average to use than a manual locker, and is not as unpredictable on the road as an auto locker. But it is not as good as a real locker off the road.

That would maybe be acceptable if it had a little less flaws on the road. It is nimble and easy to handle - but to a limit. We have kind of a concern about its tendency to swing out tail-first in the corners if you aren’t careful. Short wheelbase, extensive body roll and a high center of gravity does not really do it any favours there either, and there is a risk that a sudden emergency maneuvre with a VaraCross will end up ugly.

The brakes have good bite and ABS is standard, but some light fading was noticeable.

The GSI Bergsget is a good offroader - on paper. In reality, though, the turbo lag got extremely annoying and challenging off the road. On the road, however, we think that all the criticism it has recieved in the US for being “unsafe” is highly unjustified. It actually handles very well for an offroader - maybe too well. You are easily tricked into driving faster than this type of car allows for - which soon can end up in a dangerous situation, since the short wheelbase and high center of gravity is still there.

The brakes was a pleasant surprise. ABS, short stopping distance and no fading at all.

The BOG A10 is not as good as an offroader as the FM. Still, the offroad performance should be enough for most peoples needs. Like the Ardent, it could probably benefit from a tyre upgrade if offroad performance is your major concern. It is however a bit obvious that it is a simple and dated construction when driving on the road - but we would still say that it handles well for what it is. The brakes are a drawback though. Mediocre performance and obvious fading. But they do have ABS.

The FM StreetSUV feels sluggish and underpowered. The slowest vehicle in our test with a top speed of 160 km/h, 0-100 time of 14.6 seconds and doing the quartermile in 19.5 seconds. More of a concern, maybe, is the 12.6 second time between 80 and 120, meaning that a safe overtaking needs some planning.

The Ardent feels marginally faster, but not by much. The top speed is the same at 160 km/h and the quartermile actually a bit slower at 19.75 seconds, but 0-100 in 13.9 seconds and 80-120 in 10.8 is better results than the FM got.

The Heros is one of the fastest vehicles in our test. A top speed of 219 km/h is a bit unnecessary in a vehicle like this, but a 0-100 time of 8.47, a 80-120 time of 5.76 and quartermile in 16.15 seconds are really good results for the vehicle type.

However, it is still in the shadow of the GSI Bergsget, which is not only “fast for an offroader”, it is almost sports car fast with a 230 km/h top speed, 0-100 time of 7.14 seconds, 80-120 time of 4.68 and quartermile time of 15.55 seconds.

The BOG may be in the slower end of the spectrum among our test cars, but the light little car never feels underpowered. Top speed is 190 km/h, 0-100 takes 12.1 seconds and 80-120 takes 8.76 seconds. Quartermile is done in 18.67 seconds.

In this class, it is not easy to build a comfortable car, and that shows in the FM. However, the soft suspension and high profile tyres soaks up bumps well and combined with power steering and autobox it gives adequate comfort at least for the short trips.

The Ardent is only marginally better than the FM with slightly more comfortable seats, a suspension tuned mainly for comfort and also here power steering and autobox.

The Heros is however the proof that you can build a small offroader without sacrificing all the comfort, it is actually quite decent, maybe due to its refined front suspension and soft suspension setup. Also, compared to the Mons or Hillstrom V6 engines, it is smooth as silk.

The GSI feels like the little penalty box you suspect it to be. Small car, damping on the firm side and an overall feeling that GSI didn’t even care to try to build some comfort into this vehicle.

Of course, BOG did care even less, but with an open top, simple offroader who would have thought something else? If one should say something positive, the seats are very supportive despite looking kind of simple.


Another area where small cars does not shine is when it comes to space. The Ardent has one advantage over the others - it’s a 5-seater, as opposed to the other cars that only seats four. It is maybe not a comfortable ride for 5 people - but at least it is legal if you have to do it. Other than that, there is not much to say, neither the passengers or the cargo has very much room in either one of them, and the differences are only marginal


Not even small cars in general could be considered “spartan” today. All of the cars in the group has equipment levels that could be seen as more or less standard today, most often featuring things like remote controlled mirrors, clock, central locking and tachometer. The Heros VaraCross and BOG A10 had better sounding radios than the rest of the bunch though, that featured only a very simple tape player with weak sounding speakers. Power steering is standard even in this class today, and the Ardent, Heros and FM even features the variable ratio type.

A big drawback for the Ardent is the lack of ABS.


The 4-cylinder in the FM StreetSUV has the somewhat unusual setup with a single cam and 4 valves per cylinder - other than that it could be seen as a fully modern unit with VVT and multi point injection. It runs reasonably smooth for a 4-cylinder and the power output is a bit thin at 87 hp - but the low end torque is fair, which is a good thing for offroading purpouses. The autobox is of the computer controlled type, with 4 ratios and a quite wide spacing, and it worked well during our test conditions.

The Ardent engine feels surprisingly much alike the FM engine, but despite simpler technology with 3 valves per cylinder, no VVT and a smaller volume, it manages to get the same power output, and works about as well. But the low end torque is a bit worse and its emissions are on the dirty side for being a modern car.

Similar to the FM, the Ardent also has a 4-speed computer controlled autobox, but with tighter ratios. We could not complain about its function.

The 155 hp 3-litre V6 in the Heros feels very suited for the car. A modern unit that is running smooth for being a V6. The automatic transmission is one of the most refined on the market, a computer controlled 5-speed. The viscous differential is a tradeoff when it comes to offroad performance, but improves road manners and ease of use for the average driver.

The GSI Bergsget has an engine that looks good on paper. A fairly modern 12 valve 2.4 litre four that with its 181 horsepowers gives the car good performance and yet being sparse on fuel. But the turbo lag kinda ruins it in this application. It would maybe have been acceptable in a sports car but quickly gets annoying in an offroader.

One thing GSI should have credit for is how low the emissions are, though. The cleanest running engine of them all in this bunch.

The 5 speed manual gearbox works as intended and the gearing seems to be sane.

Unfortunately, there is not much positive to say about the drivetrain in the BOG A10. It is a throwback 15 years in time. A quite bland 110 hp 2V SOHC 2 litre 4-cylinder. While everyone else has switched to multi point injection, BOG (as well as Hillstrom) is still stuck with their single point injection systems, hampering throttle response, effiency and emissions. The BOG and Hillstrom engines are by far the dirtiest polluters in the bunch. And why they put a tubular header on this uninspiring unit is beyond our recognizion.

And the gearbox is almost tragic. A 4 speed manual is more or less a joke nowadays. We thought that we left all of them in the 80s, but it appears like some of them managed to sneak into the 90s too (more about that later).

The FM StreetSUV has galvanizing of the structural parts and panels of treated steel - it will not fall apart from rust in many years. Predicted reliability is above average and for a car in its price class it feels reasonably well bolted together.

We could not find any sloppy fit and finish in the Ardent and mechanically they have proven to be reliable. The structural parts of the unibody has shown good corrosion resistance during the ages, but the outer steel panels - not so much.

The Heros is protected well against rust and feels well bolted together but predicted reliability is below average. Advanced technology will probably take its toll.

The GSI has decent rust protection and feels reasonably well bolted together. Predicted reliability is about average.

The BOG has proven to be reliable and despite being a simple steel box, there is an aura of build quality around it. However, the resistance against rust is more or less a disaster. If you still decide to buy one - get it rust protected immediately.

The FM is among the lowest priced cars in our comparision at $16900 AMU. Also, its fuel economy (8.4 l/100 km) and service costs ($587.9 AMU) are among the best. From an economical standpoint, the FM will be a sane buy in our opinion.

Another sane buy is the Ardent. Even lower priced at $15100 AMU and with the lowest service costs in the test at $553.5 AMU. A little bit less sparse on gas than the FM at 9.4 l/100 km but that’s far from a bad number in this case.

Why anyone would pay $26200 AMU for a Heros VaraCross is, to be harsh, something we don’t understand, at all. 10.4 l/100 km is not really excellent for a car this size, but service costs are sane at $695.5 AMU.

At $17800 AMU, the GSI Bergsget is still relatively cheap and it is really the fuel economy champ in this test. 6.6 l per 100 km is simply amazing. $697.4 AMU in service costs is not too bloody either.

The BOG A10 has the lowest sticker price of the bunch. $13600 AMU for a new car - how about that? 11.5 litres per 100 km is however on the thirsty side for a car like this. Service costs are about average at $652 AMU.


A car this size will never be as safe as a larger car, but we would say that the FM, GSI and Heros are at about the same level, all of them modern constructions with a fair level of safety equipment, like a drivers side airbag, seatbelt pretensioners and side impact beams in the doors.

The Ardent is getting old, and despite getting safety updates lately, american crash testing have shown mediocre performance. It is never as easy to implement better safety in an aged construction as it is to implement it on the drawing board.

The BOG is another old fashioned design, built on a ladder frame which doesn’t make for as good crumple zones as an unibody construction, and it has not seen any safety update since the 80s. No airbags, no seatbelt pretensioners and the only side impact protection being a door that is about as thick as card board. Being an open top really doesn’t help either, though it at least has a roll bar.

Next page: The second duel - Group 2

@oppositelock @VicVictory @Vri404 @Jaimz @OME


Pretty expected for the Ardent Ozette, as it was closing in on a decade old at that point, and still waiting for its 2nd gen redesign.


TBH, I think that the Ozette still gives great value for its money in 1996, but of course with the third lowest sticker price that was not the hardest achievement either.


Ha ha ha, the BOG was summed up perfectly, very enjoyable read :smile:


Dear @Knugcab

Franklin Marshall would like to thank you for the honest review of our StreetSUV.

Some of the points raised can be answered in the higher end of the range but this is the entry level model.

In hindsight a better model would, probably, have been more appropriate but maybe wouldn’t have had such a great review.

We thank you for taking up your time reviewing our baby SUV.

CEO Franklin Marshall



From left to right: The Hillstrom Limerock, Meixian-Hinode Tenglu, Armor Timberwolf and Forea HRC-4.

If there was not much variety among the cars in the smallest class, the opposite could be said about the somewhat larger, but still compact, cars in this class. The Hillstrom Limerock is a traditional offroader with a 2-door body, while the Armor Timberwolf is more or less the same concept but with four doors. The Meixian-Hinode Tenglu is a MPV on stilts and the Forea HRC-4 is a concept we think we will see more of in the future, a lifted AWD station wagon, that’s not very offroad oriented but aimed at customers that wants traction and security in bad weather conditions without needing terrain capacity and not wanting to do the sacrifices you have to do with more hardcore offroaders.

The Meixian-Hinode is built on a ladder frame while the other cars are monocoque, and even here, the Hillstrom and Armor has a more rugged and utilitarian way of building their monocoques, with sort of a “frame” welded to the floorpan. Up front, they are using coil sprung rear axles with the exception of the Forea that uses a strut suspension. In the rear, Hillstrom and Meixian-Hinode relies on leaf springs for locating their solid axles while Armor uses a more refined coil spring system even there. The Forea has a sort of advanced double wishbone suspension in the rear. Forea and Meixian-Hinode is powered by inline four cylinders, Hillstrom and Armor by V6 engines, so one could say that even construction wise, the variety is large.

The Hillstrom Limerock is the best climber in the bunch. The auto lockers might put some people in doubt, but they are actually working well even though manual lockers are generally preferred offroad. Huge tyres with an aggressive offroad pattern, lots of ground clearance, short wheelbase and small overhangs, combined with a suspension that gives good flex despite the rear leaf springs is a recipe that works.

On the road it feels like the classic uninspiring american car you have the preconception that it is. It has been around since 1984 and is surpassed by more modern constructions by far. The front end is plowing and the suspension is wallowy. After a while you get used to having a relaxed driving style that is more suited to this vehicle than any efforts to drive actively.

The brakes are mediocre, stopping distances are only fair and they show heavy fading despite the vented discs up front. But they do have ABS.

The Armor Timberwolf is almost as good off the road as the Hillstrom. It feels more civilized and modern on the road than the Hillstrom too, but the handling is in fact worse when it comes to pure cornering and the brakes are notoriously bad with long stopping distances and great amounts of fading, even if standard ABS is a good thing.

The Meixian-Hinode Tenglu is way more suited for bad roads than it is to drive where there is no roads at all. The small wheels and tyres aren’t suited for offroad use, which on the other hand probably isn’t the intended main purpouse for this little box.

On the road it is far from the most civilized thing to drive, the body roll is very much present even though the handling is not as bad as it first feels. The brakes is somewhat of a concern too, no ABS and mediocre stopping distances already with an empty car. When loaded they are really underpowered and overheats already after a few stops.

Of course you can’t compare the Forea HRC-4 with the other tested cars. This is simply not intended for offroad use with its passenger car roots, street tyres and open differentials - but it does not pretend to be either. On the road it also behaves more like a regular passenger car - but it should be said that some of the offroaders in this test shows almost the same levels of refinement. The handling is good, on the secure side, it won’t give you any surprises but is certainly not “sporty” in any way.

The brakes could only be described with one word - excellent. Short stopping distances, virtually no fading at all and of course also ABS.

The Hillstrom could not be described as “fast” but the strong V6 still gives it kind of decent performance. A 179 km/h top speed is not too impressive, but 10.1 seconds to 100, 7.56 seconds 80-120 and the quartermile in 17.47 seconds aren’t too bad, especially considering the ancient slushbox.

The Armor tops out at 214 km/h but its acceleration times is slower than for the Hillstrom. The engine is less powerful and has to move more mass too. 0-100 takes 10.5 seconds, 80-120 takes 7.68 seconds and the quartermile is done in 17.83.

The Meixian-Hinode is nothing for people that’s in a hurry but performance still felt adequate. It tops out at 166 km/h, 0-100 takes 11.98 seconds, 80-120 takes 9.48 and the quartermile is done in 18.31.

The Forea is actually only marginally faster than the Meixian-Hinode. Of course, the 198 km/h top speed is higher but that is most often uninteresting with a speed limit of 110. 0-100 takes 11.3 seconds, 80-120 takes 9.12 and the quartermile is done in 18.07 seconds.

The Hillstrom tries to look plush but in reality it’s too obvious that it stems from a time when 4wd vehicles were purely intended for work and not for joy. The seats gives no support and the cheap leather is worse to sit on than a good cloth upholstery. The V6 is harsh and coarse, at highway speeds the drone from the engine and the noisy all terrain tyres becomes a pain.

The Armor is only slightly better than the Hillstrom, with better seats up front and less noise. The back seat passengers will get a very uncomfortable ride though since the seat mostly resembles a wooden bench than anything else.

If you did guess that the Meixian-Hinode Tenglu is lacking in the comfort department, you was guessing right. It is the noisy little steel box that it looks like. Though it is hard to point out any specific flaws in this case, it just is what it is, an uncomfortable, simplistic box just for passenger transport but nothing more.

The only car offering passenger car comfort here is the actual passenger car - the Forea. Absolutely not a luxury limo, it still offers a decent ride and noise levels, fully comparable to other cars in its class. Seating comfort maybe even better than average.

The Hillstrom can legally carry five passengers but it is cramped even for four. The passenger space is horribly cramped, there is actually superminis on the market beating it. But 2000 litres of luggage space may compensate for that, depending on what you’re using your car for.

The Armor is larger inside than the Hillstrom but in the extremely cramped back seat it is hard to believe. It is spacious up front so why they couldn’t make better use of the space for the rear seat passengers is a good question. Also, the 982 litres of luggage space is far from impressive.

The Meixian-Hinode may look spacious, and to some extent it is, but the looks will easily fool you that it will swallow anything. It is the roomiest car for passengers in this group, and at least for shorter distances you can carry eight people. But it is still a fairly compact car and there’s no black magic that can change that fact. Also, with all the seats in place, there is only room for 626 litres of luggage.

Since the Forea isn’t built with a tall and boxy body like the others, it has the least amount of combined cargo and passenger area. But with a cabin that is larger than the Armor and Hillstrom, and more space for luggage than the Meixian-Hinode, we feel that it is standing up to the competition very well.

The Hillstrom and Armor offers equipment that the other cars is lacking, like climate control, cruise control, leather upholstery (half leather in the Armor) and keyless entry. The difference is probably that in some years all the gizmos will still work in the Armor while we are more doubtful when it comes to the Hillstrom.

The Meixian-Hinode has a very cheap and simple tape player that sounds as cheap as it is, while the Forea and Armor have better quality tape players. The Hillstrom has a CD player with 6 speakers and equalizer that probably can play the doors off the car if you’re not careful with the volume control.

The Meixian-Hinode does not even have ABS which the Hillstrom has. The Armor and Forea is offering both ABS and traction control as an extra safety.

Power steering is standard in all the cars but the Meixian-Hinode and Forea even has the variable ratio type. Forea also has alloy wheels as standard, as well as the Armor.

The Hillstrom V6 came out in 1969, got single point injection in 1989 and then nothing happened. In fact, it is even older since it is basically the 1955 Hillstrom V8 with two cylinders cut off, which makes for a rough running engine. This is the 3.9 litre 170 hp variation, there has been some of them during the years. Simple single point injection also means a sluggish throttle response, VERY dirty emissions (barely legal in fact) and bad fuel economy.

Even more ancient is the 3-speed autobox with its roots in 1963. Hillstrom is simply not competitive in this department anymore, and has not been for many years. We can only hope that the day will come when Hillstrom finally comes out with a new driveline, either in-house developed or bought from another manufacturer, because this is simply not acceptable in a car in 1996 anymore.

The 3.7 litre Armor V6 has a slightly lower power output than the Hillstrom unit (163 hp) but is so much more modern and refined, with direct acting OHC, VVT and multi point injection. It has proven to be very reliable as well. The emissions could be cleaner but it is still better than the Hillstrom.

The computer controlled 4 speed automatic is fully modern and beats the ancient Hillstrom slushbox by far.

The 2.2 litre 110 hp inline four in the Meixian-Hinode is not the most modern on the market, a simple 8 valve single cam engine like many others. What’s worse though is that there is appearantly not only one, but TWO cars still available with 4 speed transmissions in 1996. That’s right, the standard transmission in the Tenglu (As well as in the BOG A10) is a 4-speed manual which is almost hard to believe nowadays.

It is easier to be happy about the driveline in the Forea then. A modern 1.9 litre DOHC 16 valve inline 4, with VVT and a 120 hp power output. Does its job well without complaining. Very low emissions is another positive point. The manual 5 speed gearbox is fully up to date and well suited to this car. The lack of any LSD is however a drawback in a 4 wheel drive car since it instantly can become 2 wheel drive when you need it the most.

If there is anything we know about the Hillstrom Limerocks, it is how notoriously fast they are rusting. Mechanically, they are just slightly below average in reliability but the build quality is really low, with lots of squeaks and rattles already as new.

The Armors are usually more well protected against rust, is a bit more reliable than average and feels very well built.

The Meixian-Hinode is another car that can have rust issues, but they are reasonably well built, and maybe even more important, reliable as cockroaches. I third-world countries they have a reputation that you simply can’t kill them.

Unfortunately, for a modern car we are disappointed with the rust protection of the Forea. On the other hand, earlier models have proved to be both reliable and well built and the HRC-4 will probably follow that tradition.

It is easy to be fooled by the $20200AMU purchase price of the Hillstrom, since we agree that it is not bloody at all, but it will lose in value quickly. Service costs at $794AMU is way too high considering the simple technology the car is built on, and worst of all is the fuel economy. 17.8 litres for every 100 km!

$3000AMU more gives you an Armor, which also will depreciate fast and have high service costs at $813.8AMU. Good thing though, it will “only” gulp 11.2 litres per 100 km.

The Meixian-Hinode is the second cheapest car in our whole comparision at $14100AMU. At $571.5AMU it also has the second lowest service costs. 10.7 litres per 100 km is not a bad figure for what it is.

The Forea HRC-4 is not notoriously cheap at $23000AMU. $689AMU service costs are a sane figure, and at 6.7 litres per 100 km, it is only beaten by the GSI.

The Hillstrom has a sturdy unibody and quite a lot of mass and probably the protection is all in that. Hillstrom quit their production of regular passenger cars since they could not meet the new passive safety regulations for 1990 in USA (i.e. airbags). That means that only utility vehicles are still in production, with no airbags, side impact protection or other improvements from last years.

The Armor Timberwolf is probably as safe as a tank, though. Lots of weight, good results in US crash testing, seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters, dual airbags and side airbags, among other of the latest safety equipment.

The Meixian-Hinode is the complete opposite. Despite getting some safety updates lately, they are infamous for the bad safety record. Probably the worst car in our whole comparision.

Better then in the Forea. Despite not being a huge monster, it is a modern construction and has a drivers side airbag, seatbelt pretensioners, rear headrests, side impact bars and the other safety equipment that has been implemented in most cars lately. We can’t find any huge flaws safety-wise in the HRC-4.

Next page: The third duel - Group 3
@Knugcab @GassTiresandOil @S_U_C_C_U_L_E_N_T @vouge


Honestly speaking, I think that you sent in the right model. The value you get for your money in the base model StreetSUV is amazing, a higher spec model would not overcome the obvious small car flaws like lack of space while costing more.


From left to right: The Knightwick Adventure, Cutler Adiona, RCM Yukonite, Markley Bozeman and Husar Gora

The five competitors in this class may look a bit similar, if not as similar as in the smallest class, but technically there is some variety. There is ladder frames underneath the Knightwick, Cutler and RCM while the Merkley and Husar is using the same kind of beefed up unibody as many other cars in this test. All of them are using coil sprung rear axles, but on the Husar they are mostly working as load support springs since it is running a hydropneumatic system. RCM is using double wishbones up front while Husar is using struts, the rest is running coil sprung solid axles up front. The RCM buyer has to do with an inline 4 while Knightwick is offering its buyers a V8. The rest is running six cylinder engines, but actually of completely different types. A V6 in the Cutler, a flat 6 in the Husar and an Inline 6 in the Markley.

The Knightwick is a good, but not great performer offroad. It sure could use some more ground clearance and more aggressive tyres to be a true offroader, and in this class size and weight are starting to become a problem in Swedish terrain. But on the other hand, we doubt that the usual customer needs anything more than this.

For its size it’s actually nimble and easy to drive, and the handling is decent, if not great. But the brakes are weak for the heavy car and shows some fade. But ABS is standard - anything else would be a shame in this class.

The Cutler offers some more ground clearance and almost truck-like tyre dimensions, and it is a great performer offroad. It’s not really as easy to drive as the Knightwick, but it has slightly better handling and brakes. Stopping distances are fair but the fading almost nonexistant. The brake balance felt a bit strange but ABS should help to even that ut.

It is obvious that the RCM is made more with rural roads in mind than the trail. Offroad performance is very mediocre, one explanation being the suspension tuning with a very stiff anti sway bar up front that is hampering the flex.

On the road the RCM feels a bit uninspiring to drive and maybe a bit “clumsy”. The handling is fair for the vehicle type, the brakes lacks some bite but we have seen worse stopping distances, the fading and the lack of ABS is somewhat concerning though.

The Markley is very much like a RCM that is slightly better at everything. Still it doesn’t shine neither on or off the road. But it is a little bit better offroad, handles a little bit better, stops a little bit better and has ABS. Only by margins though.

The Husar is among the strangest vehicles we have seen by far. True, it is a real climber off the road, even if most offroad enthusiasts probably would rather have seen a more sturdy system than the somewhat fragile (but practical) hydropneumatic system. Actually, among the best in our comparision.

But on the road it is completely horrible. The brakes are so bad that we almost would like to call them lethal, with stopping distances so long that neither the non-existant fading or the standard mounted ABS saves them from being a complete disaster. Also, the cornering abilities are a true disappointment. The power steering felt vague and inexact too.

The performance of the Knightwick is almost identical to the Hillstrom, with the exception that the 80-120 sprint is somewhat faster at 6.96 seconds. Other than that, adequate performance with a 180 km/h top speed, 10.1 second 0-100 sprint and 17.47 second quartermile time.

The Cutler has a higher top speed of 195 km/h but feels slower overall. 10.4 seconds to 100, 7.68 seconds 80-120 and a quartermile time of 17.58 seconds.

The RCM is not much different in the performance area, 180 km/h top speed, 10.5 seconds to 100, 7.92 seconds 80-120 and 17.58 second quartermile time.

The Markley seems to have a gearing more aimed at economy and comfort than the others. Top speed is the highest in the group at 202 km/h but acceleration times are lagging behind. 11.9 seconds to 100, 8.64 seconds 80-120 and 18.67 second quartermile time.

The Husar Gora is the slowest in the bunch overall. The top speed of 183 km/h is around average and definitively high enough for a vehicle with its subpar handling and brakes, but with a 12.8 second time 0-100, 10.3 second time 80-120 and 18.78 second quartermile time, it is not only the slowest in the bunch but also among the slowest cars overall.

The Knightwick can’t compare with the huge and expensive MAD Ouray II, but with that exception it is one of the most comfortable cars in our test. This is not achieved by any magical features, it is just a well thought out concept with high quality seating and suspension.

The Cutler is not far behind the Knightwick. A bit simpler, a little less refined, but that’s only marginal. Overall, the Cutler is one of the better car both in this group and in this test. Another well thought out concept with no major flaws.

Going from the Knightwick or Cutler and into the RCM Yukonite is a disappointment. The drivetrain is harsher, the seating and sound insulation cheaper, and the suspension tuning is a bit on the stiff side.

Marginally better than the RCM is the Markley. Still having an overly stiff suspension tuning seen from a ride comfort standpoint, the inline six is smoother and less noisy than the RCM four.

The Husar Gora has a good concept for building a comfortable car with its hydropneumatic suspension and long wheelbase. However, it has drawbacks like non-supportive seats and an overly aggressive thread pattern that whines into the passenger compartment when driving on tarmac. The comfortable choice for short trips on bad roads - not as good for highway cruising.

The only seven seater (at least for shorter trips) in the bunch is the Knightwick Adventure. It’s also the car that feels the most spacious inside in the bunch, but at 1440 litres the luggage compartment is the smallest, even if it can’t be called “small”.

The Cutler is slightly smaller inside than the Knightwick and only seats five, but it has an advantage in its 2160 litre loadspace.

The RCM has the largest loadspace of all the cars in this group with its 2310 litres. The passenger compartment is not impressive, but adequate.

The Markley is the smallest car inside in the bunch but it still beats all the compact class cars by far. 1960 litres of loadspace is about average.

The Husar Gora is almost as roomy as the Cutler, and has a loadspace of 1950 litres.


The Cutler and Knightwick feels more luxurious than the rest of the bunch, with things like CD player with premium sound, alloy wheels, leather and climate control. Speaking about stereos, the Husar only has a cheap and simple tape player while it sounds and feels better in the RCM and Markley. No ABS in the RCM - not good. The Knightwick on the other hand has both ABS and traction control. All the cars have power steering but Husar and Markley is still running the old, non-variable type.


Pushrods in 1996 may sound ancient but Knightwick manages to show that technology isn’t the answer to everything. The 3.9 litre all-aluminium 192 hp V8 is an enjoyable powerplant that runs reasonably smooth and clean. The computer controlled 4 speed auto seems to be well chosen for this car.

The V6 in the Cutler is not as smooth - but good for a V6. It puts out 175 hp from a displacement of 3.6 litres, and is running pushrods like the Knightwick. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. Unfortunately with dirtier emissions than most of our test vehicles.

A 5 speed manual in this class maybe feels a bit spartan, but like the engine, it gets the job done.

With only 4 cylinders, the RCM is at a slight disadvantage, the 2.5 litre 16V DOHC unit is not among the smoothest, but it works and puts out 142 hp. Also the RCM has a 5-speed manual and the wide spacing adds to the truck-like feeling.

Much more pleasant is the smooth inline six in the Markley. With 12 valves and a single cam it is slightly more dated in construction, but still enjoyable and puts out 152 hp from 3 litres. The 4 speed automatic is of an older type with no electronic control.

The Husar has a smooth and wonderful 3 litre flat six with one camshaft per cylinder bank and 12 valves, maybe a bit thin for the heavy vehicle at 142 hp, but still lovely. The 5 speed computer controlled autobox is the latest in technology, it worked well and the gearing seems to have been wisely chosen.

The Knightwick feels absolutely bomb proof and sure, it is a well built car. But rust protection and reliability has not proven to be any better than for the average car unfortunately.

The feeling of quality in the Cutler is not really as appearant as in the Knightwick, but it is still there, and our experience says that both rust protection and reliability is among the best on the market.

The RCM is another well built, and probably very reliable car, but we recommend an additional rust protection if you plan on keeping it for many years.

Yet again, the Markley is like the slightly better cousin to the RCM here. Around the same reliability and build quality - but rust protection is at a much higher level.

The Husar Gora is nothing but a disaster. Sure, the Husar usually doesn’t have more serious mechanical troubles than the average car, but the rust protection is weak and the build quality is among the worst we have seen. Our test car already felt like if it was falling apart. The skidpan was rattling and probably was of no use either considering the thin sheetmetal it was made of. The seats felt like if they were sagging already and there was lots of squeaks and rattles inside. The paintjob looked like if it was made with a rattlecan and we found leaks due to loose couplings in the hydropneumatic system. We can’t imagine how bad this car will feel in some years.

At 32900, the Knightwick is expensive to buy and you will still lose lots of money despite high second hand value. Service costs are high at $841.50 AMU and 15 litres per 100 km means that there will be lots of time spent at the pump.

In comparision, the $23000AMU Cutler seems like a bargain. It will keep its value well and even if the costs of ownership still will be high, it is cheaper to both service and run than the Knightwick at 13.5 litres per 100 km and $803.30AMU service costs.

$18300AMU for a car the size of the RCM is really nothing to complain about. 11.3 litres per 100 km is good for this class and at 618.90 servicing is cheap.

To get a Markley instead, you have to pay $22200. Worth it? It is up to you to decide. With a fuel consumption of 13.2 litres per 100 km and service costs of 776.30 it will be more expensive to run too.

The Husar Gora is cheap at $21500AMU but there is a reason behind this and we can image that the resale value will be non-existant. 12.9 litres per 100 km is nothing to brag about and service costs of 749.40 is about average.

There is all kinds of the latest safety equipment in the Knightwick but the design is still getting a bit long in the tooth and american crash testing has shown average results, however, against most cars you will still have a weight advantage.

The Cutler is slightly more sparse on the safety equipment than the Knightwick and is probably also a bit lacking when it comes to occupant safety in comparision.

Despite being a new design with some of the latest safety equipment like a drivers airbag etc., the RCM has shown some disappointing results in independent crash testing. The body on frame construction has to absorb a lot of energy from the heavy car in the solid barrier test. But once again, compared to most other cars on the road there is an advantage in weight and size.

Better results have been achieved by the Markley, that probably is one of the safest cars on the road at the moment. Sturdy construction with good crumple zones and a decent level of safety equipment does its job.

In an accident, you will probably be safer in a Husar Gora than you will be in most other vehicles. But the best thing is if you can actually avoid the accident. Something that you have a higher chance to succeed with in many other cars in comparision.

@mart1n2005 @Stryder237 @ImKaeR @thecarlover @Maverick74


Did my dumb ass forget to send the .car file to you?




I’m glad my car did well, I spent a lot of time on it. I also think I chose a good trim level. Wasn’t sure on the transmission, don’t really know if auto or manual would be preferred in 90s Finland, I picked manual for the reliability and fuel economy savings.

WIll a final post wrap this up?


In this class in the 90s, people (in Sweden, not Finland btw :wink: ) would not have been the ones caring too much about fuel economy anyway and would probably have prefered the comfort of an automatic. Not that manuals were too unusual though so I would not call neither one a bad choice.

There will be a final posts with a more in depth rating of every car, if that was what you meant?



Mons Granite to the left - MAD Ouray II to the right.

Finally, we have the two giants in the comparision, the Mons Granite and the MAD Ouray. Both with sturdy ladder frames in the bottom, both with coil sprung solid axles in the rear. The Mons is running one up front also while the MAD is using a double wishbone front end. The MAD has a V8 while the Mons has an unusually large V6.

Cars in this class always have a drawback both in the Swedish terrain and in the cities - their size. But as long as the terrain is open, the Mons Granite goes on like a bulldozer, it is simply unstoppable. As already stated, in the crowded cities it is simply too large to work, and driving one can be a pain. But on the open road it is a surprise. The handling is not too far behind some passenger cars and despite being such a heavy car, there is no brake fade, even if stopping distances are long. ABS is standard equipment.

The MAD is still one of the better offroaders in the test even if it falls behind the Mons. As stated, this is as long as there is room for the huge beast. The drawbacks in the cities are of course the same, even if the MAD feels a bit more nimble and relaxing to drive, truth is though that the handling and brakes are very weak points. But once again, ABS and no brake fade saves it from a total failure in the braking department.

Both of the cars are positive surprises. The top speed of the Mons Granite is maybe not very high at 180 km/h but 0-100 is done in a quite quick 8.47 second time, 80-120 in 5.28 seconds and the quartermile in 16.5 seconds - numbers only beaten by the GSI Bergsget. The MAD has nothing to be ashamed of either with a 213 km/h top speed, 10 second 0-100 time, 6.72 second 80-120 time and 17.58 second quartermile time.

The Mons is one of the most comfortable cars in our test. The ride is smooth with its hydropneumatic damping and the interior is nice. However, the grumbling and harsh giant V6 is the dark cloud on the horizon here, you never have to wonder if you forgot to turn the engine on, to put it this way.

The MAD is not only the winner of the two cars in this department, but in our whole test, by a great margin. The interior is kind of a living room, despite running only regular gas dampers the ride is smooth and the engine is much more quiet and relaxed than in the Mons.

In this class room shoul not be a problem. And it is kind of a tie here - slightly more cargo space in the MAD but slightly more room for the passengers in the Mons. The differences are only marginal though.

Both cars are of course very well equipped. But the MAD has some gizmos included that is lacking in the Mons, as alloy wheels, CD player and traction control.

One could expect a V8 in a car like the Mons, but instead it has an unusually large V6 (4.5 litres/291 hp) and we are not sure that we like the concept, since the engine is far from smooth. It features all the latest technology though, being a 24 valve twin cam with VVT. Tubular headers are another unusual feature. One thing should be said though, this is maybe not the environmentalists choice of transportation, but the emissions from the tailpipe is actually very clean.

Another unusual choice is a six speed manual with a gear spacing that seems to come out of a sports car. We think that an automatic would have been a much more logical choice in a car like this.

The 6 litre V8 in the MAD is a bit ancient with its pushrod technology, which shows in the power output, only 260 hp despite being larger than the Mons engine. But as the V8 it is, it’s more smooth and refined. The 4 speed computer controlled automatic seems to be wisely chosen for this car.

In this class you should expect build quality. And it has to be said that a rusty Mons is a rare sight. The rust protection is simply out of this world. The build quality is nearly bomb proof too. Yet, reliability is only around average, advanced technology is probably taking its toll in this class.

The MAD is slightly inferior in everything except for the reliability that is only marginally better. Still it has to be said that it is still a car with extremely high quality.

The Mons is a complete disaster to your wallet. Both purchase price ($36500AMU), service costs ($1010.50AMU) and fuel economy (18.2 litres per 100 km) has the records for being the most expensive in this test.

One can’t say that the MAD is economical either, but at $30500AMU it is cheaper to buy, it is a bit more sparse on fuel at 17.8 l/100 km and cheaper to service at $989.20AMU.

This is two tanks that will crush everything that comes in their way, good for their own passengers, bad for everyone else. The MAD does have some safety equipment lacking in the Mons too, like a passengers side airbag.

Next page: Final verdicts

@abg7 @cake_ape