If someday you want to review the true comfort, think about Cabart-Danneville, we’ll probably have something for you
If you do, let me know. There’s also a homologation version (ie. similar to Lancer vs Evolution / Impreza vs STi)
Thinking about opening a kind of “web archive” here with what is supposed to be some old articles, sure, I might do some “reprints” in magazine format later on again but that’s massive work so it will probably not be done as often. I am going to need cars for that though. So, if you have a car that you are interested in having reviewed/written about, PM me and I’ll tell you if I am interested. Though, I want some realistic backstory about the car if it’s not in your lore thread, so no spamming with 5 minute slopped together cars. Any year will do, but maybe with a focus on 1948 (when the magazine opened) to around 2010-15 or so (articles that are getting old enough to get a reprint).
REPRINT FROM ISSUE #2 1985
“CLASSIC CARS ON A BUDGET”, PART 1
Is a PAZ 200 a viable alternative to a Mercedes 300SL or Bugatti Atlantic? Maybe not, but if your expectations are somewhat lower, you should probably keep reading this.
We’re sure that you have heard lately about classic car auctions where the bids on the nice examples of the legendary cars from days gone by have skyrocketed. That you have to empty your wallet to buy even the more common everyday favourites from the 40s and 50s today. That it’s time to buy the more sought after 60s cars NOW, before they are the next thing to rise.
So, should classic cars be a hobby just for the rich? At Trafikjournalen we don’t think so, classic cars are fun and everybody deserves to be able to afford one. So in an article series we are going to take a look at some of the more affordable alternatives, and first out is the PAZ 200 from the Soviet union.
Yes, we know, you use to laugh at cars from behind the iron curtain, and maybe you’re right. In hindsight, they have often failed to keep up with the competition, and ended up with having the price as their main sales argument. But was this always the case?
Looking at the chestnut brown 1952 PAZ 200 we have in front of us reveals a car that could as well have been a british or german car of the same vintage. Maybe even american too, if compact cars had been a thing over there back then. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to be fair, the PAZ ain’t going to win any beauty contests, but nor will its competitors. But it looks contemporary for 1952, and even if that is irrelevant for a vintage car buyer, it shows that PAZ weren’t that far behind western cars as one might think. You won’t find perfect panel gaps and the rust protection left much to be desired, but honestly speaking, that was pretty much standard for anything in its price class in 1952.
Under the bonnet, there is also something of a surprise. You won’t find chrome or glossy paint on the little powerplant, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Having overhead valves in 1952 was not bad when many engines still were flatheads, what’s more surprising is that it is also a bit oversquare which was odd for the era. One might think that would make the engine a rev happy unit, but that’s really not the case, the feeling is as agricultural as the myth says about Soviet engines, but once again, what to expect from a 33 year old car? Exactly as I remember from my youth (yes, I have owned almost any car brand by now, spare for the most exotic ones, and PAZ is no exception), the exhaust note is a bit annoying at 3000 RPM and for some reason gets easier on your ears when you are reaching 4000. Appearantly, there was nothing wrong with the engine in the PAZ I owned for some months in 1972 then, probably all of them are like this. 4000 RPM is also where this engine is reaching its peak, 61 hp, sort of a low power output for a 2 litre OHV even in the 50s, but probably the compression that is made for the regular fuel of the era that was almost like kerosene is to blame here, combined with a very tame camshaft. And nobody bought a PAZ because they were in a hurry either.
The transmission is a quite standard “three on the tree” for it’s era, with synchromesh on the two higher gears, could have been from almost any car from the era. The gearing is actually not annoyingly short either, which many cars had back then. But of course, we are spoiled with smoother and quieter stuff today.
Brakes in 1952 meant drums, and the PAZ brakes was adequate for the era, the speed and the roads the car was made for. In the hectical traffic of today they mean you have to plan your stops. But unlike many drum brakes, they pull straight and the fading problems are almost nonexistant.
The interior is the next pleasant surprise. Being used to soviet cars that is falling apart from the factory, the interior of the 200 seems impossible to break. In this 33 year old example, the springs in the seats hardly feel worn and you have to look before you find some tearing of the coarse, thick fabric upholstery. It is not the most spartan one either since it features a heater, a cigar lighter, dual sunvisors and a clock. But the beautiful “wood” on the dashboard and steering wheel is of course just woodgrain paint. Seatbelts was largely unheard of in its era, especially behind the curtain, but we notice that the interior is at least not featuring any unnecessarily sharp edges or produding knobs. There was no radio included in the price though, however, 50s russian radio meant AM band anyway, so it’s no big deal, you would have to mount an aftermarket unit anyway. What’s striking too is that it feels surprisingly roomy too, you get the impression that you are driving a bigger car than you are, even the luggage compartment are fair, even though one could imagine someting else with it’s short, stubby tail like a manx cat.
Driving one, however, is a trip back to the 50s. Wallowy suspension, heavy steering and squeaking tyres. It’s actually capable of doing 146 km/h, and due to the third gear being an overdrive, it is not revving like crazy at highway speeds either. But you will prefer to take it easy. High speed stability was not a priority when this car was built.
So what’s the verdict then? Mediocre. It’s about as mediocre 1952 as a car can get. But the fact is that you could say that about most of the competitors from western europe back then too. Getting a “better” car from the era means you have to aim for sports/luxury cars that comes with a quite hefty price tag in comparision. The 200 shows that PAZ once upon a time, despite the rumours, actually was on par with western cars. But with another price tag back then, and another price tag still.
People old enough to remember the 50s will start telling you the infamous PAZ jokes at the sight of this bobtail. Younger people, however, will ask you why your Volvo PV544 has four doors.
Anders Mannberg, owner of this 1952 PAZ, what made you go for this odd choice of a classic car?
- I realized that the market had gone overboard, and that you now have to pay completely unjustified price tags for even bread and butter 50s cars. A PAZ is still bread and butter, but for bread and butter price. It’s hard to beat the amount of car you get for your money.
But do you feel that it is accepted among the classic car crowd?
(Laughing!), well, there still is a lot of snobbery going on, east european cars aren’t worth scrap value, and so on. But I say dare to be different, and I feel that there is a change going on. While older people just sneeze at it, younger people think that it is cool and wonder what it is.
But aren’t Soviet build quality horrible? Are they reliable?
- I would say that the build quality is on par with other cheap cars from the era, some parts is better, some is worse, but all in all about average. Of course it requires constant maintenance and frequent repairs though, but then again, it’s an old car, over 30 years of wear on something that was about average to start with takes its toll. Even though they say “they don’t build them like they used to”, cars in general required much more maintenance back then.
So can you get parts then?
- That’s the big drawback. Not without contacts in Soviet. In Sweden parts support have been nonexistant for over 10 years. Sometimes you can modify parts from western cars to make them fit, it’s quite simple technology after all. Junkyards have absolutely nothing, but Norway and Finland are the sources to use when looking for used parts, Soviet cars were much more common there back in the days so you still can find some parts there.
What’s to look out for then when buying a PAZ 200?
- Buy the most complete car you can find. The unexisting parts support means that you are only fooling yourself if you buy an example with lots of parts missing to save money. And don’t fear some rust, they do like to rot but since they are body on frame, the rust is most often only cosmetic, and in the true 50s fashion, most panels are bolted on anyway.
So, would you recommend a PAZ 200 to a buyer looking for a cheap entry into the vintage car world?
- It depends. You have to be dedicated. If you feel that a PAZ 200 is not what you really want, buy something else, because ownership can be harsh sometimes, again due to the troubles with finding spare parts, and that it more or less needs constant fiddling with something. If a PAZ 200 can’t fulfill your expectations, that is going to drive you crazy sooner or later. But if you aren’t afraid of a little challenge, likes oddball stuff and can stand the salty comments you are going to get, then why not?
What happened to my own PAZ 200 then? After being hit from behind by a dump truck, the insurance company paid me money that wouldn’t have bought a danish and a cup of coffee, they weren’t worth more back then. I sold the somewhat crumpled up pea green behemoth to someone that was going to cut it up to an EPA-tractor. So maybe it is rolling around somewhere in Sweden right now, with a speed of 30 km/h and a triangle in the back. Or maybe it ended up half finished and went to the junkyard. Seeing one again gave me some pleasant memories back, and I sure can recommend you to try one if you are curious.
But out of all the cars I have owned, I don’t think that the PAZ is getting even close to being the one I regret the most that I sold…
Thanks to @Mad_Cat for the car!
That PAZ 200 could well have sold in surprisingly large numbers in the West - until Soviet involvement in the Cuban missile crisis made buyers much more wary of its communist origins and the official import channels slammed shut, in some countries for good.
REPRINT FROM ISSUE #8 1975
REVIEW OF THE BOGLIQ BAZOOKA 5.0 DELUXE
The shape might look futuristic, but the car feels outdated even as new.
With the struggles of the oil crisis not far behind us, the question is, who needs a car that uses a 5 litre V8 to transport a driver and (realistically) one passenger? The answer is easy, nobody needs it, and if you are asking yourself that question, you can browse a couple of pages to read our test of car wax instead, because you probably won’t buy a Bogliq Bazooka anyway. If you are still interested, you should probably keep on reading the review, because chances are that cars like this is a dying breed and that it might be one of the last of its kind.
The automobile industry in the United states are in big trouble at the moment. The new subcompact cars are also sub-par compared to what Asia is chunking out, which is hurting sales badly. The large land barges of the past still exists, but no “broughamizing” in the world can hide that the technology is getting ancient and that the gas mileage is completely horrible considering the rising fuel prices. Not to mention the muscle cars. 5 years ago, they were basically raw, brute force on wheels. But the last years, safety regulations made them heavier, emission laws and low-octane unleaded gasoline choked the power, and insurance premiums made them impossible to own for most of its intended buyers.
The real muscle car might be a thing of the past very soon, and we will have to see how long the Bogliq Bazooka can thrive in such an unforgiving world before it gets axed. It is quite a bold move to release a new car like this at the moment. Though, development costs were probably low, because it’s old, tried-and-true technology that is being reused. And nothing wrong with that in itself, why should one touch something that does work? That means rear wheel drive with a coil sprung solid axle in the rear and a strut suspension up front. The body is unitized as usual for a car in this class even in America, and what’s good is that some of the panels are galvanized so it probably will stay fresh longer than many of its competitors.
As mentioned earlier, under the hood we find a 5 litre V8, with a modest output of 169 hp. It’s easy to think that the unleaded gasoline and emissions control is to blame here, but the fact is that the engine in this export model has been unchanged for 12 years now. The cylinder heads still needs leaded gasoline (which is all that’s sold in Sweden so it really doesn’t make a difference here), and it’s a shame that it is optimized for regular fuel then, because premium could probably help up the fuel economy without any loss in power. Unusual for an american car nowadays, it is mated to a manual transmission. In the american brochures, Bogliq are stating that it gives the car a “sporty european flair”. For obvious reasons, they have omitted that in the Swedish brochure, but being a sports car the choice of transmission seems sane. Be careful to not fry the clutch though!
Don’t expect sports car like dynamics from the european school. The Bogliq probably won’t give you any dangerous surprises if you don’t drive it like a maniac (which we don’t recommend in any car), but is kind of bland. At low speeds the torquey engine makes it easy to push out the tail, but it’s easy to control. Raise the speed and the same, heavy engine up front is instead giving you a plowing front end. The cornering abilities are adequate, nothing more. The brakes are also adequate, pulling straight and with no serious fading problems, far from the underpowered brakes on american cars from the past, but they are lacking the bite and feeling one would like in a car like this. Drum brakes in the rear aren’t really the latest in technology, but it seems like they work well enough on this car.
Now, scandinavian winter driving might be a different kind of story in a front heavy RWD car like this, with a torquey engine and open differential. We didn’t have the chance to test it in snowy conditions but we don’t expect much. The amount of wheelspin was annoying already on asphalt, not to mention on gravel.
What we do like is the power steering. It is necessary in a car this front heavy, and it is far from as vague as it is in some cars, instead it offers a good feedback and feeling of the road.
The muscle car may be, if not dead, so at least having breathing problems. This is far from the beasts that were roaming on the streets five years ago, but it would be harsh to call the Bogliq a slow car. 0-100 km/h in 9.06 seconds and a top speed of 223 km/h is by good margins faster than most regular family cars. The quarter mile is done in 16.86 seconds which feels about normal for the class, so don’t be fooled by the fact that 169 hp sounds bland for a V8. The tragic thing is maybe only that many competitors are chunking out the same power from smaller 6 cylinders today.
We praised the light steering earlier on, and despite being a 60 degree, the V8 is silk smooth and running quiet, only giving a slight growl when you tap the pedal, which in a sports car feels like a natural thing. Also, the crushed velour upholstery in our test car was nice to sit on, and we appreciate that they could resist the urge to cheapen out with vinyl like some manufacturers do today. The front seats aren’t as supportive as in the best cars on the market, but they do their work. But that’s about it. One could expect that with the bland driving dynamics, this car would be oriented towards comfort, but the fact is that the suspension gives a harsh ride and the brakes are heavy. The rear seats are completely worthless for anything but really short trips, but on the other hand, that’s more or less standard for a sports car.
Being built on a 264 cm wheelbase, it’s larger than many of its competitors, and it shows on the inside too. In the front seats you can stretch out, but the rear seat is cramped, to say the least. It’s not intended to be a 4 seater according to Bogliq, but a 2+2 and with that said, it’s about what one could expect. What shines, though, is the luggage compartment, it is almost like a little station wagon in there, the rear hatch makes it practical to load and the payload is extremely high for a car without practical ambitions.
The rear hatch and roomy luggage compartment is a practical detail that you won’t find on all sports cars.
A button fest like many american cars. You get things like tinted electric windows, a comfortable velvet upholstery (as we said earlier), remote mirrors, carpeting on the floor and a good flow-through ventilation which can be sat on recirculation when driving in crowded traffic. The chunky little steering wheel is leather wrapped, most of the interior panels are colour matched, the faux wood on the dashboard looks elegant, if not fully convincing, and there is a clock and tachometer. No full instrumentation with things like voltmeter or oil pressure gauge like in some of the competitors though. The 8 track player (which in Europe are losing market to the compact cassette nowadays) has twin speakers and a decent sound, but is easy to use at the same time. In this area, you really can’t blame Bogliq for not trying.
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
The V8 is ancient nowadays with its roots in 1963, but it has a nice pull from the bottom end, if not the most responsive throttle. But such a low power output from that massive iron lump is a true disappointment that is showing its age, and the lack of effiency makes it hard to justify. On the other hand, we know that many people likes the Bogliq V8 for different reasons, and for them, it’s a selling point that the engine is still alive and kicking.
The 4 speed gearbox has a distinct and nice feeling, and the gearing seems fine, albeit a bit comfort oriented for a sports car. But it will always give somewhat of a truck like feeling when mated to such a powerful engine, and learning to use the clutch takes some time getting used to, it’s easy to either slip the clutch or do a jerky start, and the cars tendency to spin the wheels doesn’t make it any easier. An automatic locker could maybe have improved things, but since that comes at the price of more unpredictable handling, we don’t blame the decision to leave it out either.
When it comes to fit and finish, the Bogliq is mediocre and doesn’t shine in any kind of way. What we do like is however the galvanized body panels that should keep the rust away for many years to come. More worrying is that historically speaking, Bogliqs aren’t showing the best reliability records, and nothing shows that this Bazooka should be an exception. With such simple, tried and true technology, making a reliable car should be easy but for some reason, we keep getting reports of Bogliq breakdowns. The fact that quality control have been on a decline in the american automobile industry for years doesn’t make things any less alarming, and only the above-average rust protection is what saves the rating to be a complete flop here.
Considering that you get a large V8 and a great level of standard equipment, the purchase price of the Bogliq makes it kind of a bargain seen from that standpoint. But it comes at the price of bad fuel economy, low resale value, and a possibility of expensive repairs due to the lackluster reliability. On the positive side, the simple construction makes the service costs low, only a little bit overshadowed by the strange decision to use 400 mm (16 inch) tyres that are only available from some french premium brands at a high cost. Fact is though, a car like this can never be justified from an economical standpoint.
American requirements today are stricter than european, and the Bogliq of course does fulfill or exceed all of them. Things like inertia reel seatbelts and a collapsible steering column are considered minimum today, but the Bogliq also goes a step further with things like steel reinforcements in the doors, energy absorbing bumpers (plastic, so they are even pedestrian friendly), high back bucket seats up front and a (very annoying) seatbelt buzzer. It might be a bit surprising to only find lap belts in the rear then, but being a 2+2 it makes sense. But there is actually some things that makes us a bit conservative with the rating.
First, don’t think that this is by any means a yank tank that will crush everything in its way. It’s about the same size as Volvo’s new 240 and actually a bit lighter. Considering how much weight that goes into the engine it might be fair to say that it is easy to believe that the Bogliq bodyshell are a bit flimsier in comparision. Also, we would normally applaud that Bogliq Sweden are including a fire extinguisher at no extra cost. But in this case, it seems to be only to take some attention away from the alarming amounts of investigations going on in the USA about Bogliq fires at the moment. In his book “Why all velocities are dangerous” that came out almost 10 years ago, Rolf Nasser wrote a whole chapter about Bogliq fires and there have been numerous cases going on since then. Maybe the truth is sometimes questionable since nobody has been able to prove that Bogliqs are more prone to catching fire than other brands, but it still might be something to consider thinking about.
FINAL VERDICT: 23/45
Nobody would even consider buying a Bogliq Bazooka if brains were the only part that went into a car purchase. Not only are there better cars available on the market, there is lots of better purchases to do even in its class. But one has to keep in mind that the Bazooka is a pure niche car and also should be treated as one. The buyer of a Bazooka has probably already decided that he wanted one and won’t let test ratings change his mind. And why should he? Yes, it is thirsty, has questionable reliability, crude comfort and offers a bland driving experience. On the other hand, for a sane purchase price, you get many buttons to play with, a nicely burbling V8 that still is offering decent performance and a car that is standing out from the crowd. The futuristic looking bright blue coupé drew a lot of attention during our test drives. People were stopping to ask questions all the time.
And since the V8 muscle car is probably a dying breed, this might be one of your last chances to get one. Maybe the last chance. Because the future of the Bazooka in Sweden is unclear. Next year we will get stricter emissions laws. It is doubtful if Bogliqs old 1963 V8 will cope with them. In the USA, Bogliq offers a new range of engines with catalytic converters. It’s a very effective system but unfortunately it can’t be used with our leaded gasoline. Bogliq Sweden have already said that there will be no 1976 Bazookas imported, instead they will order a huge stock of 1975 models at the end of the year to hopefully fulfill all the 1976 needs. It’s too early to say if there will be a solution for 1977 so if you want a Bazooka despite all its shortcomings, we would recommend getting one now.
But most of us will probably question what the reason behind that should be?
Thanks to @HighOctaneLove for the car!
REPRINT FROM ISSUE # 11 1978
REVIEW OF THE JESA BIANCHI NUOVA 300 TC2000
UN TULIPANO GIALLO?
It sure looks fast, but this test also reveals that there is more to it than just war paint.
The road has not exactly been paved with success for the dutch manufacturer JESA. Especially not in Sweden were sales have been struggling for years, you find the brand as some kind of oddball, ending up somewhere deep down in the sales stats. Almost 20 years ago, italian investigators saved the company and one of the first cars that was completely italian in its engineering was the JESA Bianchi Nuova 300 that came out almost four years ago. However, since this car had a facelift some months ago, and since there is an interesting sports model in the lineup, the TC2000, we thought that it could be a great idea to take a closer look at it once again. Especially since the early examples weren’t without its flaws.
In a world where front wheel drive is gaining its dominance in small cars, JESA is sticking to a very tried and true concept with rear wheel drive, a solid rear axle and a McPherson strut suspension up front. It might sound simple, but it works. Mainly thanks to the 4-link rear suspension with coil springs that is doing a much better job at holding the rear axle in place than the simple leaf springs still found on some cars in its class. Fact is, that the handling is so good that it is hard to provoke this car to an uncontrollable skid. It feels a bit tail happy for a beginner, but it is easy to keep track once you have learned the cars behaviour. At slow speed maneuvres, however, the steering is a bit heavy for the small car, probably the small sports steering wheel combined with the wide and sticky rubber and a somewhat (but not annoyingly) front heavy bias is part of that, but once on the road, the feedback and feeling in the steering wheel is amazing.
The next impressive thing is the brakes. The TC2000 features four wheel disc brakes, the front ones vented, and on the light car they provide a bite that is hard to match. Fact is that they aren’t annoyingly heavy either, features no dangerous levels of premature lockup and seems to be completely insensitive to fading. Probably among the best in its class.
We are somewhat reserved when it comes to winter driving though. The car shows some tendencies to spin its wheels already in dry weather, and a light and powerful RWD car with no kind of locking differential might not always have the best traction in those conditions.
However, on the dry pavement and gravel roads we had the possibilities to test the car, it was simply amazing.
113 hp may not sound extreme, but weighing below a tonne, it makes a sprinter out of the little TC2000. 0-100 is done in 8.47 seconds and the quartermile in 16.39, and in a car this small, that feels fast. By using a large 2 litre engine instead of stressing a smaller engine to the same power, it has a nice torque band so overtaking other vehicles is done both safe and quick, and you don’t have to shift the 5 speed manual very often if you don’t want to. The top speed of 178 km/h might not be slow but is not extremely fast either. The theoretical top speed is higher so probably the square shape of the body is taking its toll there aerodynamically. On the other hand, it’s well above where you’re risking to lose your drivers license, so we would not really call it a drawback.
A small car set up for spirited driving ain’t really the best recipe for a comfortable chariot, but we’re surprised at how well the TC2000 is doing its job there. The suspension aren’t overly bouncy and firm, we would call it as good as a compromise gets if you don’t want to trade the amazing driving dynamics the TC2000 actually has. The sound insulation might be a bit sparse but the engine noise is never really annoying. That’s a good thing though, because the relatively low gearing makes the car happy to rev at highway speeds.
The seats doesn’t look like much for the world, but they are doing their job very well, for a cheap car they offer good support. The fabric/vinyl combination on the seats will give better comfort in hot or cold weather than the all vinyl seats found in many other small cars. JESA has also resisted the temptation to make this small car a 5-seater. The two back seat passengers rides in amazingly good comfort since the seat is a bit contoured. That also means that the middle is a totally uncomfortable hump where no sane person wants to sit. But honestly speaking, the middle seat rarely works for anything but short trips in a car like this.
But of course, this is not the kind of car that is biased against comfort and you have to do tradeoffs. Yet, for what it is, we are a bit impressed.
It’s a small car, with space consuming rear wheel drive, that usually means cramped on the inside too, and honestly speaking, yes it is. Now, this is not what you buy as a family car, but there is roomier competitors available in its class. The body is a traditional sedan type, with a quite small bootlid and a high sill which makes loading a bit impractical, and the luggage compartment is not impressive, but adequate. As we stated earlier, a fifth passenger is out of question. Now, we know that this is probably not anything that is interesting the typical TC2000 buyers, but the base model is not any roomier, so it might be good to know if you are considering any Nuova 300.
First of all, I was not the one that was responsible for that test, but I still want to apologize for when we first tested a series 1 in late 1974 that made the Swedish JESA importer withdraw all the advertising from Trafikjournalen for a couple of years. Calling the dashboard a “lethal disaster” that was “completely dangerous” was not our finest moment. Truth is though, the series 1 Nuova 300 had among the worst driver ergonomics on the market, with the dashboard looking like someone took a drill and a file and made holes for switches and gauges scattered everywhere, with tons of identical switches with no illumination at night and sometimes the need to operate two or three switches just to turn on one simple function. Probably the decision to place the choke knob between the speedometer and the tachometer was the worst of them all, who wants to fiddle with the non-illuminated choke knob somewhere behind the steering wheel a cold and dark winter morning, probably wearing gloves too, trying to do the best to prevent the engine from stalling?
Even though JESA said there was nothing wrong with the dashboard, it is completely revamped in the series 2, the instruments is grouped in front of the driver, there is now multifunctional switches with a completely logical arrangement. It could belong to almost any car, maybe it lacks a bit of personality, but if that means the kind of “personality” the series 1 dash offered, we will gladly do without that part.
The standard equipment is about normal. There is stuff like reclining front seats, carpeting on the floor, clock, tachometer, heated rear window, choke and handbrake warning lamps, lockable glove box and a stereo tape player included in the price. The seats has some nice and soft vinyl on the sides, with inserts in a both comfortable, good looking and durable houndstooth patterned cloth. The “sporty” steering wheel, however, is mostly for looks, the hard plastic rim doesn’t offer any better grip than the same hard plastic rim in the base model, it’s mostly only good at making the steering heavier with its smaller size. Also, a full set of instrumentation with for example voltmeter and oil pressure gauge is only available at extra cost, despite the sporty ambitions.
But all in all, the new dashboard raises the rating a fair bit, from being the only car ever to get a negative score, to an average one.
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN:
The first impression of the engine can be kind of a disappointment, it does not feel very sporty. The power output is a bit conservative from a two litre twincam engine, and it’s redline at 6500 RPM might not sound like italian engineered temperament. But after a while, you will grow to like the smooth idle and the wide power band. Also, you get a feeling that this engine is built by people that know what they are doing. It feels refined and well thought out. A 5 speed gearbox is a nice touch and the spacing feels sane, the car is geared for good acceleration however, at the price of economy and interior noise. There is not necessarily something wrong with that in this type of car however. All in all, the driveline is quite a good match for a car like this.
The first look at the mustard yellow body did reveal lots of flaws. The paint was too thin in some areas while you could spot where it was almost running in some others. There is no rustproofing from the factory so we suggest you to do it quickly. Trim were crooked or already starting to fall off, that is not acceptable on a new car. It’s almost like if the outside and the inside was from two different cars, because while the outside seems to be slopped together, the interior quality is surprisingly good, kind of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde car in that aspect. All materials on the inside are of high quality and there was no rattling from loose parts.
Rattly or not, the model has been on the market for some years now, and despite the simple technology, the reliability records does not look promising.
With the appearant flaws, we feel like we can’t raise the low quality rating we gave it already when we tested the series 1.
The purchase price is not dangerously high, and even if JESA have shown a varying second hand value through the years, we feel that the TC2000 will be somewhat sought after as an used car. But fuel and service costs are a completely different matter, for such a small car it’s really gulping fuel and the service is notoriously more expensive than for the base models. Prepare for a shock when you need new tyres, they are of a very low (65!) profile with a sticky special rubber compound. One positive thing though is that the TC2000 is using round headlights that is not only much cheaper to replace than the square units of the base models, they give a better light output too.
Many people said that they liked the looks of the round headlamps on the TC2000 better. That’s a matter of taste, but fact is that they are cheaper and gives better light output.
A small car means short crumple zones and low weight. It’s only a fact that you will be more vulnerable in an accident, and the flimsy feeling of the bodyshell doesn’t do much to calm one down. However, it complies with all the crash tests required by law. The level of safety equipment is about what one could expect today. You get headrests up front, halogen headlamps, inertia reel seatbelts for all passengers, an energy absorbing steering column and the interior is free from hard edges or sharp surfaces. There is nothing that suggests that JESA has gone any further than the legal requirements though.
FINAL VERDICT: 26/45
For a buyer looking for a drivers machine, we probably can call the 2000TC a great purchase. The slight quirkiness of the Nuova 300 feels a bit out of place in the base models, but the 2000TC is clearly an enthusiast vehicle and aimed at a market where quirkiness is a selling point rather than scaring buyers away. Also, the flaws are easier to oversee in a car that has one major purpouse, to satisfy its driver, and does it so well.
Also, for the amateur classes in rally, we guess that this is going to be a smash hit. It really has winning potential.
But the Nuova 300 in general has its flaws as a daily driver and they do remain in the TC2000, that adds some more flaws to it in itself, so it’s really not the most sensible alternative as a daily driver. On the other hand, if you are a gearhead and only can afford one car, it’s absolutely a viable alternative.
Now, if it only could help boosting sales too, nobody would be happier than the Swedish JESA importer.
Thanks to @Mythrin for the car!
The performance rating is supposed to be 4, not 2.
(I am not allowed to edit any more posts in a couple of hours if you wonder why I’m writing it here.)
REPRINT FROM ISSUE # 19 1994
FIRST LOOK: SEIKATSU CAT4 200Q
MOUNTAIN LION OR DOMESTIC KITTEN?
At the first glance, one might think that Seikatsu’s new CAT4 is an offroader suited for rough terrain and hard work. Nothing could be more wrong though. Maybe the friendly rounded shape, moving away from the boxy offroad vehicles we’re used to see will make you suspicious. But it is under the bodyshell the big difference lies. Here, you won’t find some truck like ladder frame, instead it is built on a passenger car unibody platform, actually from the Esper. That also means a transversely mounted engine, and refined suspension with double wishbones both front and rear. And forget regular 4WD. The rage now is the so called “AWD”, no locking hubs, low ranges etc. to take care of. No need to engage or disengage it on dry or slippery roads - just drive it like a normal 2WD car. AWD is primarily for safer and more relaxed driving on bad roads, and somewhat better capacity to handle slippery conditions - not with offroading primarily in mind.
And there is nothing wrong with this. Market research shows that most offroaders are never used for the most rough conditions anyway. Some people just want better abilities to cope with rough roads and bad weather - but would prefer if they could get power to all four wheels and a little more ground clearance without having to sacrifice the nimbleness, comfort or economy from the passenger car, so this type of vehicle is something I am sure that many swedes are interesting in taking a closer look at.
At the first glance, the fit and finish seems good, the panel gaps are even and there is a sparkling shine from the purple metallic paintjob on our test car. The model they provided for us was the 200Q, with a 180 hp turbocharged engine and we are not sure that it is the sane choice in this case. This type of vehicle doesn’t need sports car performance, the turbo lag doesn’t make it any favour, not to mention the price premium. We guess that the 128 hp naturally aspirated engine that is also available will be the choice for most customers - and honestly speaking, it is good enough.
The interior is very nice when it comes to materials and finish, and features everything that we have learned to expect from more upmarket cars today, like electric windows and mirrors, a great sound system with CD player, air conditioning and much more. That, combined with a good tuning of the suspension system and decent sound insulation, contributes to the excellent comfort. This is really a car I would take for a long trip without any doubts. It is really very far from the often bouncy, crude and loud 4x4 vehicles on the market.
However, it is not without its compromises after all. Even if it is not as bad as a “real” offroader, it is obvious that the handling has gotten a bit compromised by the high ground clearance. It is predictable and easy to drive, but the cornering abilities are a bit on the tame side. The electric power steering is fingertip light but takes away some of the feeling of driving. Also, the brake performance is a bit weak (but ABS is standard, thanks for that!). To use an old saying, this might be the car you “rather ride in than drive”. But if the active safety is a bit lacking, the passive safety more than makes up for that. It has everything you can expect from a car today, like door beams, air bags, pretentioning seat belts, headrests on all places and much more. Seikatsu promises that it will pass the upcoming stricter crash test standards coming in 1998 with flying colours, and we don’t doubt it. However, don’t be tricked into believing that this is a tank that will crush everything in its way, it’s built on the platform from a regular family car, and except for the height, the measurements and weight are not far from that.
So, a vehicle for you? Yes, if you has to cope with rough conditions without the need to take the car off the road, if you prefer a comfortable and practical car over a sporty one, and has the money needed. In the financial crisis we are experiencing now, we guess that the tested model, the 180 hp turbo, will be quite expensive for most buyers when it reaches the Swedish market, considering the price of $32800 Seikatsu were talking about. Probably the sane decision will be to forget the 180 hp and go for the cheaper 128 hp model, it will save you some money and work well enough for this type of car. But we will wait with the final verdict on that when we get a possibility to do a more in depth review when the vehicle arrives on the Swedish market, probably at the beginning of 1995.
Thanks to @Tzuyu_main for the car!
Oh hey, thanks so much for the in-depth review! It’s good to have a second perspective on a car I made.
Just notice though that I am trying to catch the spirit of what automotive journalists probably would have written back then, not necessarily my own thoughts. I’m saying this already now for the future too, if someone feels that they have gotten an unfair review, it’s not necessarily me trying to trash your car…
REPRINT FROM ISSUE # 19 1994
FIRST LOOK: IP COLIBRI 1600DX
YOUR NEXT RENTAL CAR?
Almost 25 years ago, IP presented their first generation of the little Colibri, back then a small city car, with a cheerful and charming design that won the heart of many buyers that saw it as looking “fun” or “cute”. Often painted in the bright and vibrant colours of the 70s, they were spreading happiness in the crowded city traffic that were their natural habitat. But even the technology was remarkable, it was the first IP model that followed the formula popularized by the british Mini, with the engine mounted sideways and the front wheels pulling the car.
Fast forward to 1994. I open my eyes and what I see is a compact 4 door sedan in off white. A generic rental car. If it weren’t for the trademark “angry mouth” (a modern interpretation of the tombstone grille seen on the 1948 IP Lily) and the somewhat weird looking taillights (doubtful if any buyers will see them as a benefit), it could be a car from almost any asian brand. And it might be compact but it is certainly not a small city car, it is almost one meter longer than the original Colibri. Now, judging the looks aren’t what we should be doing as an automobile magazine since the buyers taste is what’s playing a big role there, but honestly speaking, it’s hard to deny that the Colibri lost much of its charm in the transition from generation 1 to generation 5.
At a closer look, there is nothing to complain about when it comes to the fit and finish neither on the in- or outside, it is on the level you could expect from a reasonably priced compact car, nothing more and nothing less. And since the technology is tried and true, it will probably run withouth giving its owner too much of a headache. With much of the bodyshell galvanized, it will probably not face the rust issues that killed off most of the examples of the 70s and early 80s Colibri models. And the IP 4G engine is known to be a reliable powerplant, in this example it’s a 98 hp 1.6 litre unit, mated to an optional 4 speed automatic that is far from the most modern on the market, but made driving relaxed and comfortable. Probably it will take its toll on the fuel economy though, with no lockup or advanced electronic management.
Overall, relaxed and comfortable sums up most of the driving experience. It’s far from the penalty boxes compact cars could be in the past, it even offers some gizmos like electric mirrors, central locking and power steering, there is even air conditioning and electric windows among the options, to name a few. The interior is an ocean of grey cloth and plastic, not very exciting but will probably hold up for the whole expected lifespan of the car. Even the handling could best be described as relaxed, it is safe, secure and honest, but offers absolutely no joy or excitement when it comes to driving, the car is an appliance and should be used as such.
There is much evolution when it comes to safety in smaller cars at the moment, and the previous Colibri with its roots in the late 80s had a hard time keeping up with the competition there. IP now promises that it will be among the leaders in its class and while waiting for some independent test results before we can give a final verdict, things like door beams, a sturdy body shell for its size, a standard drivers side air bag (passenger optional, something to keep in mind if you need to place rear facing child seats up front), pretensioning seatbelts and headrests on all outboard places at least looks promising. ABS is now standard and the brakes offer a surprisingly good bite.
The 1.6 model is your only choice if you want a 4 door sedan and/or automatic transmission. The base 1.4 model will probably be a real price fighter and if you are satisfied with a manual 3 door hatchback, it might be an interesting option to consider as it might give you great value. The sportier 2.0 model is a completely different story and almost needs a test on its own as the hot hatch it is, but it probably will only be a player in the margins.
We really can’t find many reasons to complain on the new IP Colibri and it probably will be a favourite with fleet managers and rental car companies all over the world. And, IP is correct in their claims that if you haven’t had a test drive in a small car for a while, chances are that you will be surprised, and find out that a car like this might be enough for you and that there is no need to think bigger.
What IP does not tell you, though, is that it is true for most of its competitors too.
(Yeah, reviewing my own car feels strange but I try to be fair, it can at least show where it is positioned compared to its competitors on the market at the time)
REPRINT FROM ISSUE #8 1975
USED CAR REVIEW: 1969 KYUNG-YEONG SSANVAN
SPOTLIGHT ON SSANVAN
The little korean Ssanvan has lately been an interesting used car purchase for many buyers. But is it really worth the money?
Something many readers have asked for is a test of the korean Ssanvan as an used car. And we can understand why, for a car in its class it is far from the cheapest you can buy. If we compare it to another popular asian car for example, you could buy a much bigger IP Lily for the same amounts of money when the little Ssanvan was introduced in 1969. But the first visit at a Kyung-Yeong dealership soon gave us troubles. It turned out that even getting an used Ssanvan was problematic. The salesman almost laughed at us, but he could offer cars from almost any other brand that had been traded in for Ssanvans. Some searching finally got us a 1969 1.4 automatic in burgundy to test though. The sporty “GT” is a different story that we might get back to at another time.
But what makes the Ssanvan so attractive then if it is just a small car that seems to be overpriced at the first glance? Well, even if the fuel crisis is more or less over at the moment, it made many people rethink their beliefs. Suddenly, many people started to question why they had to burn a lot of gasoline to chug around a lot of steel just to transport themselves. On the other hand, small cars have often been crude and unrefined, not offering much in the terms of space and comfort, and the driving experience often have been questionable. And there is were the Ssanvan comes in somewhere in between. We aren’t exactly saying that it is comparable to a larger car, but that could not be expected either, but being something of the small car of the future, it made more than one driver of something larger, or for that matter, older and less refined small cars, change to a Ssanvan.
The transversely mounted engine and front wheel drive is a real space saver for example, meaning that there is actually a little bit more room inside than in, for example, a large IP Vagant. What you have to sacrifice though, is a bit of luggage space. Also, the small trunklid is something that shows that the car is coming of age, a hatchback like many of the recent superminis offer would have made it a bit more practical. The 1.4 litre engine is still completely up to date, featuring an overhead camshaft and actually also fuel injection, which for the most part is only science fiction in this class. That means no fiddling with a choke, no troubles at cold- or warm starting, a low fuel consumption and for the most part, greater reliability. The big drawback is that if something breaks (which it rarely does) there is nothing you can do as a regular DIY mechanic, it needs to be repaired by a proffessional, and parts can be expensive. Other than that, the engines are extremely well built and should not cause troubles in most cases. The torsion beam rear axle is a intelligent construction that manages to combine most of the positive sides of an individual suspension with a live axle. You really could not call the driving characteristics sporty, thanks to a front heavy bias and comfort oriented suspension, but it is safe and predictable and works excellent for everyday driving. Gas shocks and power steering is something you really won’t expect to find in this class either, but the Ssanvan has them as standard equipment, improving driving characteristics a lot.
Even though the Ssanvan features advanced technology, it is quite straightforward and should not cause unnecessary or expensive repairs compared to other cars in the class. Though the service costs aren’t exactly the cheapest, we believe that ownership could be economical in the long run, since it is very sparse on fuel and holds its value well. And even though the rust protection seems to be sparse, we have gotten indications that Ssanvans are a bit more resistant to corrosion than many of its competitors. We really don’t see any big traps you can walk into when it comes to ownership of an used Ssanvan.
What you have to sacrifice in a small car is always some safety. Less mass and shorter crumple zones means that the smaller car will always come out worse in a crash against a larger, heavier one. In that case, we dare to say that the Ssanvan is about average for its size. There is no proof that a Ssanvan would be a more dangerous place to be in if an accident occurs than other small cars, and it fulfills the legal requirements, but hardly anything above that. Mounting points for rear seatbelts means that they are an easy retrofit in 1969 models though (since the law didn’t require them until 1970).
The only major drawback, as we see it, is that the Ssanvan is very overpriced now in the used car market, and it is really hard to do any bargains, if you’re looking for one you have to accept what you might find at the moment, it is purely the sellers market. So, there is many other cars to consider for the same price, you might get an almost new compact from another brand for the price of a late 60s/early 70s Ssanvan, or if you aren’t purely in the market for a compact car, there is bargains to be done in the class above the Ssanvan for the same money, or less.
Hot tip: The rumours says that the Ssanvan will be facelifted in a not so distant future. That will probably cause a drop in the prices for older models. The sane thing would be to wait until that before buying an used example.
(Thanks to @Aruna for lending me the car!)
REPRINT FROM ISSUE #2 1984
TEST DRIVE: JESA BIANCHI GECKO I.E. TURBO
FORGET THIS ONE!
It is already too late to get this Gecko. Fortunately it is never too late to admire the gorgeous bodywork.
For many people, a JESA Bianchi Gecko is a dream car, and I really can’t blame them for that. The lines are sleek and beautiful, timeless and classic. The driving experience is something you don’t find in ordinary cars and the performance is good enough to make you lose your drivers license in Sweden within the blink of an eye. So, what car could possibly make a Gecko look like a mobility scooter in comparision?
The answer is easy, another Gecko. And this time it is not any Gecko, it’s the i.e. Turbo, the Dutch-Italian manufacturer’s latest weapon in the group B series. 200 of them will be made, and the Swedish importer will get three of them. Chances are that you will not be able to buy one, unless you are one of the three lucky customers that have already bought their example. But this is something of an ultimate dream car, and dreaming is free for everyone.
So, what are the differences compared to a regular Gecko then, if you ever can call the Gecko “regular”? Well, on the outside JESA has avoided the worst tacky cladding, adding only a rear spoiler and on our example, rear window louvers and subtle gold painted BBS wheels, and the results aren’t unpleasant to the eyes at all. Mechanically the differences are of course even bigger. The engine is now stroked to 2140 cc and a Bosch supplied fuel injection system have replaced the somewhat stubborn Weber carbs of the past. 242 hp in the street legal version is enough to make the sub-1000 kg Gecko a little pocket rocket. In 4.4 seconds you have reached 100 km/h and reaching speeds of over 240 km/h is not impossible. There is a little turbo lag but considering how this is a high performance engine nothing remarkable, and the well-suited gearing means you can keep the engine in the right powerband most of the time.
On the roads this will be what most drivers will see of the Gecko. The question is still what it will show its competitors in the rallying circuit.
Of course, it is a fantastic car to drive on the pavement with its sticky rubber. The factory claims that it has a cornering ability of 1.13G and even if that number almost sounds unbelievable, we trust them. The brakes are able to stop the car from a speed of 100 km/h in only 33.8 metres and are almost unsensitive to fading. But out on the gravel it shows its true nature as the rallying beast it is. With 58% of the weight at the rear wheels, a strong turbocharged engine and a locking differential an unskilled driver has to watch out for not being passed by his own rearend - and a skilled driver can use its characteristics to his own favour and drive this thing FAST on a rally course.
The question is if it’s fast enough? Some people claim that 2WD is a thing of the past in rallying now with 4WD taking over as the winning formula. Chances are that this fantastic evolution of the Gecko already is doomed, which would be unfortunate for JESA that really needs a halo car.
But rally winner or not, nobody can take away from this car that it is pure joy and excitement on wheels. Is it a car for you then? Probably not, if you’re not one of the three lucky customers that got the chance to buy one before it was too late.
If it’s a car for your dreams? Of course it is.
(Thanks to @Mythrin for lending me the car!)
REPRINT FROM ISSUE #19 1994
FIRST LOOK: FAROX ENDEVIA
ALL TERRAIN ARMCHAIR
This is exactly what the american market wants at the moment, a large, luxurious offroader. But probably it will be more of a lukewarm success with Swedish customers.
If a car for over $40 000 can be called “great value for the money”, question is if not the Farox Endevia is a hot candidate for that title. How could you describe something that is able to climb mountains, looks like a luxury limo on the inside and has performance that could rival hot hatches from 10 years ago in a better way?
On the outside, the offroader looks huge, but fact is that it has a marginally larger footprint than a Volvo 740. At over 2 tonnes, however, the price per kilogram is still reasonable. And with a 4.9 litre V8 you get lots of engine for your money too.
The test drive was probably as undramatic as it gets. The ride quality is comparable to relaxing in your favourite armchair at home. Yet the handling could almost rival some passenger cars, even if the high ground clearance makes the offroader a bit wallowy in the turns. Mainly this is a result of the advanced suspension, no classic solid axles here, a 4 wheel double wishbone suspension is almost extreme technology, compared to what you usually find in this class. Our only concern was that the rear brakes had a tendency to lock up before the front, but with standard ABS it perhaps should be less of a worry.
Speaking about ABS, it is of course loaded with other safety equipment too. Pretensioning seatbelts, dual airbags, door beams, headrests on all six seats, just to name a few. Traction control will help you avoid the accident in the first place, and should it still occur, you probably will be safe in the big, heavy steel box - but it will be worse news for the driver of a small car that crashes with the Farox.
But of course there is some objections. One of them is if we really need cars like this at all? Even though it is capable to conquer rough terrain, very few of the buyers will even try it anywhere else than on the tarmac. It’s not really an exciting driving experience there, even if it is surprisingly passenger car-like, and as stated earlier, the fact that it is built like an offroader, with a sturdy ladder frame, heavy transfer cases etc. means that you have to haul around a lot of weight that for most buyers will sit unused most of the time.
And that weight doesn’t do any good for the fuel economy, since this thing is gulping fuel at a rate that very few people are going to accept with the Swedish fuel prices. And even if the purchase price could have been worse, owning a Endevia will be questionable when it comes to economy. The second hand value on cars like this usually drops very fast and very much. Replacing 18 inch all terrain tyres will not be a cheap affair, service costs are high, as are the costs for insurance and tax.
In earlier tests, it has shown that Faroxes sometimes have been a hit and miss. But when it comes to the Endevia, I am pretty sure that we are talking about a hit. There is not many weak points, and even if the car type itself is a bit questionable, Farox is only building what the market wants. And when it comes to the american home market, this is what they want at the moment. Many manufacturers are rushing out luxury SUVs now to get their share of this important market that is flourishing at the moment.
But at the Farox importer in Sweden, we doubt that the Endevia is a model that is met with praise. Chances are that it will only be a player in the margins, especially in the middle of a financial crisis like we are now. Don’t expect them to sell more than a handful every year.
(Thanks to @On3CherryShake for the car)
REPRINT FROM ISSUE #7 1984
COMPARISION TEST: HOLBORN ALBION GTI vs. IP COLIBRI TURBO
Are small turbocharged hatchbacks the performance cars of the future, or are they a passing fad? We tested the Albion GTI (silver) and the Colibri Turbo (yellow) to find out!
If we were asked to mention just one big advancement in automobile technology in the last 10 years, turbocharging is a hot candidate. Ten years ago, it was something that was used mainly on big diesels to improve the grunt, or maybe on some (few) exotic sports cars. Today it seems like every manufacturer is slapping a turbo on whatever they can find, sometimes with good results and other times maybe more bark than bite, more of a marketing ploy than an actual improvement on the car.
One thing you can’t deny that makes turbos a good idea, however, is to improve the performance of small engines. Small engines that does fit in small and light bodies, meaning that, at least in theory, you can combine high levels of performance with low purchase price, owning costs and fuel consumption. Two examples are the IP Colibri Turbo and the Holborn Albion GTI. Even though they look quite different on the outside, they are among the closest competitors on the market. Both are front wheel drive hatchbacks around 4 metres in length, for just above $17000, similar in performance and using turbocharging on their relatively small engines (1.5 litres in the IP versus 1.75 litres in the Holborn). But how do they stand up against each other? That was the question we asked us, and decided on doing a comparision test.
Here is the proof why testing cars is much more than just looking at numbers on a paper. In theory, the IP should beat the Holborn, it corners better (1 G compared to 0.93), it brakes better (100-0 in 35.8 m instead of 38.7 m), and then the verdict is clear, right?
Fact is that it is not that easy. The cornering ability and braking capacity of the IP is amazing, no question about it, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the Holborn is still really great when it comes to pure number crunching. And probably the more refined suspension (double wishbone all around, while the IP is still using the tried and true Mc Pherson/solid coil setup that was first used on the mark 1 Colibri in 1970) is adding a more sophisticated feel to the driving. It’s easier to drive while still feeling more nimble. The IP is more of a brutal beast, that requires more of the driver with its firm suspension and greater amounts of wheelspin and torque steer. Also, the turbo lag is much worse.
When pushed hard the cars behave remarkably alike though. A feeling of oversteering that gradually switches to understeer when the speed raises. A great compromise that gives safe and predictable handling without sacrificing the driving experience.
It’s impossible to decide which one is the winner, since it’s a matter of personal taste here. We would like to say the Holborn, but the fact is that the IP outbrakes and outcorners it by great margins - if only looking on paper. And both of the cars are great, really.
VERDICT: Holborn **** - IP ****
When buying a hot hatch, this is probably where most of the buyers will be looking. And once again, when looking on paper, it’s easy to claim the Holborn as the winner. An 1.75 litre 137 hp engine using a somewhat odd SOHC 4V layout, versus 1.5 litres, 114 hp and 2V. On the other hand, the 1.75 litre has to haul around more mass, even if we’re only talking about 70 kilograms (one light passenger in the IP would even the weight out). And the IP is marginally faster when it comes to accelerating to 100 km/h from standing still, 8.5 seconds vs. 8.8. But the lower gearing and boxy shape of the IP is probably taking its toll in the other end. The Holborn breaks the magical 200 km/h barrier with a great margin, theoretically it will not stop accelerating until it reaches 221 km/h, while the IP has a 30 km/h lower top speed. On the other hand, unless you’re planning to drive on the Autobahn in Germany, that is not the most important stat. On the quartermile the IP is marginally faster (16.39 vs 16.62 seconds), but when it comes to the maybe most interesting stat in everyday traffic, 80-120 km/h, the IP is 0.6 seconds slower (5.52 vs 6.12).
All in all, we would call the Holborn the winner. But both of the cars offer decent performance, and are worthy of the hot hatch moniker.
VERDICT: Holborn **** - IP ****
It is an utopia to think that cars of this size will offer big car comfort, and the firm suspension setting and low profile tyres are kind of ruining the little that was left. The Holborn has an advantage over the IP with its lower unsprung weight and softer suspension setting. But the 65 profile rubber on the IP marginally compensates for that when coming to soaking up the bumps. The Holborn engine has a pleasant burble on idle that changes into a more annoying wheezing as you climb up into the rev range while the IP engine is more muffled. On the other hand the Holborn has a more pleasant gearing on the highway that evens it out. The sports seats of the IP offers somewhat better side support than the more plain standard seats in the Holborn, and for rear seat passengers the contoured seat offers better comfort than the bench in the Holborn (but at the expense of the possibility to take a third passenger). On the other hand the padding is more firm in the IP than in the Holborn, good or bad is a matter of taste. The leather steering wheel in the IP might prevent sweaty palms during hard driving compared to the foam grip in the Holborn, and the steering is slightly lighter due to the lighter front end (none of the cars has power steering).
We would call the IP the winner, but with very slight margins, and if comfort is on your priority list, none of the cars will be suitable for you.
VERDICT: Holborn ** - IP **
Despite being built on a shorter wheelbase, the Holborn is a slightly larger car, but on the inside the difference is even bigger. The passenger space is incredibly big for such a small car, and the luggage room is almost even more impressive. The IP feels cramped in comparision, and the luggage room with the rear seats folded up is nothing to brag about. Meanwhile, the Holborn can take five passengers, the IP only four. We would go as far to say that the Holborn is suitable as a family car (even though the two door body might be impractical) while the IP is mainly a car for two, that has to take the occasional passenger at mainly short trips.
VERDICT: Holborn **** - IP **
The Holborn has what you could expect from a compact hatchback, nothing more and nothing less. Things that are considered standard today like carpeting on the floor, comfortable cloth upholstery, digital clock, rear wiper/washer and defroster, to name a few. The stereo has an 8 track player but a somewhat tinny sound. IP went a step further and added some gizmos to make the car feel more “sporty” like fake aluminium panels on the dashboard, a full instrumentation, leather sports steering wheel and contoured bucket seats. Also the sound system in the IP sounds much better and has a more modern tape player. IP clearly wins this round even if you, honestly speaking could do without most of that equipment.
VERDICT: Holborn ** - IP ***
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
We prefer the Holborn engine over the IP, it is impressive how they almost have eliminated the turbo lag, while IP still has the infamous “horse kick” that plagues too many turbo cars. The 5 speed gearboxes in both of the cars feels so similar when it comes to operation that you would think they were twins, but the close ratio box in the IP is more suitable for a sporty car than the wide ratio box in the Holborn. A limited slip would have been welcome in the IP though while you don’t really miss it in the Holborn. And the gearing on the highway is a bit on the short side in the IP compared to the Holborn. The close ratio gearbox can’t really compensate for the lack of harmony and refinement in the IP, the Holborn is simply the most well thought-out car here.
VERDICT: Holborn **** - IP ***
The IP Colibri is a completely new model for the year so it is hard to tell anything about the reliability yet. Older models have shown about average reliability, and the same could be said about the Holborn. But things like the paintwork shows that some more care has been put into the manufacturing of the Holborn, the IP was showing some orange peel in comparision, and the “TURBO” cladding on the door certainly looked cheap. Also, the Holborn has a slight advantage when it comes to rust protection. Older Colibris have been rustbuckets and the third generation will probably not be an exception, using plain old steel with no galvanizing, which the Holborn does on the outer panels but at least the underlying structure is galvanized. The Holborn is the winner here, maybe it will not hold up any better, but the feeling of quality is more genuine and it will cope with the swedish climate better than the IP.
VERDICT: Holborn *** - IP **
One major drawback that is overshadowing almost everything in the Holborn is its less than impressive fuel economy. Even if it can cope with cheap regular fuel, it’s gulping it at an alarming rate for such a small car, 11.3 litres per 100 km is simply too much. 8.7 litres in the IP is a more sane value for the class, let go that it needs more expensive premium fuel, that still doesn’t even it out to the Holborns favour. Also, the IP is $500 cheaper, while offering more equipment, albeit a smaller, less powerful engine and less refined technology. Considering that, it is almost unbelievable that the IP has slightly higher service costs, and we believe that the second hand value of the Holborn will be better. But that doesn’t weigh up for the fuel consumption that is something that needs to be fixed urgently in our opinion.
VERDICT: Holborn ** - IP ***
The Holborn has larger, better crumple zones and are slightly heavier, which gives it an advantage. It also has more extensive padding of hard surfaces, the seat belt buckles are anchored to the seats instead of the floor meaning that the belt will always have the right geometry, and it has side impact bars in the doors which is missing in the IP. Even if a small car will never be as safe as a large one, the Holborn is probably about as safe as it can get in this class nowadays. The IP is probably not worse than average, but an average safety record in this class is not much to brag about in comparision.
VERDICT: Holborn *** - IP **
A symbolic photo, the Holborn passing the IP. It is actually not always true performance wise, but overall, in most aspects the Albion GTI has an advantage over the Colibri Turbo.
FINAL VERDICT: Holborn 28/45 - IP 25/45
The IP looks like, and is, a boy racers dream. It is easy to fall for things like the spoilers and big “TURBO” badging, sports seats and steering wheel, tire shredding performance from standing still, road hugging handling and impressive braking capability.
But for grown up people, there is a clearly more grown up car. The roomier, safer, more well built Holborn. That is much more harmonic to drive and still offers decent performance that actually outshines the IP in some aspects. Clearly the better car, and even though it is lacking some of the equipment from the IP, it is well worth the extra money. And even if taste is something that is individual, we think that the futuristic, sleek exterior will be more satisfying in the long run, than the boxy IP with all its unnecessary warpaint.
If it wasn’t for the almost unacceptable fuel consumption, it would leave the IP far behind. Now, that is a big drawback that is hard to overlook when comparing the cars. So, we are a bit careful when it comes to recommend the Holborn over the IP.
On the other hand, if you can overlook the fact that the Holborn is small on the outside, it offers big car room and sporty performance, and considering that, it all of a sudden doesn’t feel as bad, especially not since it can cope with regular fuel.
Still, that does not feel like much of an excuse when it could, and should, be lower.
Thanks to @agj38 for the Albion!
REPRINT FROM ISSUE #22 2001
REVIEW OF THE MAHANTI BACHATA
DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP
A brand new offroader for $11200 sounds like a dream. Just keep it off the road since having a crash at highway speeds will be more like a nightmare.
With offroaders being the latest craze, the second hand market is getting a bit out of hand too. You simply have a hard time to find anything decent for a fair amount of money, it is the sellers market at the moment which is disturbing for many people. And in the middle of this, a capable 4x4 arrives in Sweden for an amount of money that normally doesn’t buy anything good on the used car market. Is that to good to be true? Let’s take Indias latest hope, the Mahanti Bachata, for a spin to find out!
Don’t expect to get a modern car that drives like a dream for $11200. Underneath, the technology is more or less on 60s level. If you don’t take it easy in the corners it will plow heavily on it’s front end - but unlike many 4x4 cars the body roll aren’t terrible at least. Power steering is, to our surprise, standard, which is always a feature that is welcome on an offroader, an even bigger surprise is the ABS brakes, but what normally is a great feature is overshadowed by the inadequate braking performance and the fading tendencies when loaded. Also, don’t try to relax for a single minute while trying to drive straight on a bad asphalt road. Crossplies, yes you read right (!), went out of fashion 30 years ago, but this vehicle is rolling on them in 2001, which is almost unbeliavable.
But when it comes to a vehicle like this, one has to look at the offroad capability too, and the Bachata is a mountain goat. Short wheelbase, short overhangs, high ground clearance and a real part time low range 4WD with manual lockers makes it almost unstoppable. The only thing that worries us is the lack of a proper skidplate, it is easy to damage parts underneath the vehicle on sharp rocks if not being careful.
A flop on the road, but power steering, ABS and a very good offroad performance saves it from getting a horrible grade here.
A 52 kW 1.8 litre four with its roots in the 50s aren’t really the weapon of choice for building a performance vehicle. Now, that is really not the highest priority on an offroader, and it has the necessary low end grunt for doing the hard work. A top speed of 161 km/h is more than adequate in this class, but 17.7 seconds to 100 might come as an unwelcome surprise if you are used to regular family cars of today, and 15.9 seconds 80-120 means that any overtaking is out of the question most of the time.
Rolling on solid axles all around, the ride is of course a bit bouncy, but the leaf springs of the past is at least gone up front, which means better flex and better ride comfort. In the rear the leaf springs are still there, probably because a pickup version is sold in its home market, as a compromise to get better load capacity. The engine itself is not overly loud, but the short gearing makes it a bit rev happy at highway speeds. The simple bench seats does not offer any side support and could have had a bit better padding. Being a quite small car, having bucket seats up front would probably have been a better option, at least for the european market.
Also, a flimsy body and shoddy build quality means that there was a fair amount of annoying squeaks and rattles everywhere. The brand new car felt a bit like a junker that was starting to fall apart.
Having a footprint no larger than a regular compact, the interior space are in that territory too. It is adequate, but nothing more. Don’t believe that this is a 6-seater despite the dual bench seats, 4 is the maximum amount of people to ride in any kind of comfort. But that goes for all its competitors too. One nice surprise, though, is that you get a decent amount of cargo space. That isn’t always the case when it comes to small offroaders.
Despite some strange choices, like equipping a 00s vehicle with crossplies, you get more than you could expect for the low purchase price. We’ve already mentioned power steering and ABS, as well as a manual locker. You will also get a radio (even if the tape player is on its way out), cloth trim, rear demister and wiper, remote mirrors, clock and some other of the most basic creature comforts. Our tested example also had pearlescent paint with some matching graphics, a no-cost option. Of course, if you want to equip it with offroad accessories, there is a whole range available from the factory as well as the aftermarket. But considering the low purchase price, we think that what’s included is more than enough.
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
The engine simply doesn’t cut it, being 50 years old, and should have been retired years ago, even if it is of course updated with electronic fuel injection and catalytic converter to cope with modern regulations. It has good low end grunt but becomes gutless quite early in the rev range, is running rough below 2000 RPM, is not very economical and has relatively dirty emissions.
The gearbox is a more pleasant history though. A modern 5 speed with well thought out gearing, feeling easy and smooth to shift. Manual locking differentials might sound a bit old-fashioned, but they are reliable and does their work well off road. Part time 4WD is not as old fashioned as it sounds either compared to modern AWD systems, since they simply can’t compete offroad with their more complex differentials and transfer cases to make the everyday driving easier and safer. Just don’t expect to be able to use the 4WD other than when the conditions really need it though.
A real 4wd system with locking differentials, combined with high ground clearance, aggressive thread pattern and short overhangs makes the car almost unstoppable offroad.
There might be questions about the reliability of a cheap indian car, but we think that the Mahanti will hold up reasonably well. Mahanti has been building cars for ages, and the vehicle is built on tried and true technology. But even if the car keeps running, don’t expect everything to last as long. There is absolutely no signs of rust protection, it’s just relying on the paintwork to protect the plain and bare steel, and the paintwork itself is of questionable quality too. The body feels flimsy and tinny which leads to rattles and squeaks that might not affect the vehicles operational status, but that will be annoying in the long run.
The purchase price is low at $11200, no question about it. Low weight for the vehicle type means low taxes, insurance will probably not be bloody, service costs are sane. The second hand value is probably questionable, but being a type of vehicle that there always will be people looking for, it will not drop to insanely low levels, and there was not much money to lose there from the start either, considering the low purchase price.
What’s not so good is the fuel economy, 12.1 l/100 km is a bit on the thirsty side with the gas prices of today, and could really be seen as the sign why Mahanti needs a new engine very soon.
The dark chapter comes last. If the safety was up to todays, or at least yesterdays standards, we could almost have seen the Bachata as bargain of the year. But the only safety equipment is the 3-point seatbelts on the outboard positions and 2 point lap belts on the centre seats required by law. There is a pair of flimsy headrests, only up front and only on the outboard positions, and it is doubtful if they will do any good in a rear-ender or if they just will break away. The interior is full of hard and unpadded surfaces, and the “cladding” on some of them are just a kind of rock hard plastic that will probably shatter on impact. Of course, the steering column is jointed, the spear of death from the 50s is outlawed nowadays, but the hard steering wheel seems to be of a very unforgiving type, should you hit it in an accident. Of course, there is not a sight of a single airbag in the whole car, and no side impact beams, just the tinny doors between you and whatever that might hit you.
But safety is more than what you see on paper, right? Well, many people feel safe in SUVs, and many times it is justified, but keep in mind that this is about as large as a normal compact car, and not much heavier. A regular family wagon from the last 5-10 years or so, will probably rip straight through it in an accident.
Rumours says that there has been a crash test done modelled after modern Euro-NCAP standards on a Mahanti Bachata, and that the dummy was stuck so badly in the mangled passenger compartment afterwards that they could not even get it out without cutting the car apart. Now, it is only rumours that we haven’t had any time to confirm, but until someone proves that we have been VERY wrong, we can only give the lowest safety score available to the Mahanti.
FINAL VERDICT: 17/45
The Mahanti is not really up to date, and we did not expect it either. But for such a low sticker price, you can cope with much. Considering what you get, it could have been a bargain if it weren’t for the unacceptable safety rating. It’s simply unthinkable to recommend this car to anyone as long as Mahanti won’t upgrade the safety to at least basic levels.
But if you want a pure work vehicle, that is going to see paved roads very seldom, and that is rarely driven faster than tractor speed, then maybe. Off the road it has capacity, and the risk of a high speed crash is more or less non-existing.
Just don’t be tempted to buy this for the school run because the sticker price is low and because there is some snug feeling that you and your family will be safe in an offroader. That might as well end up as your deadliest mistake ever.
Thanks to @Dorifto_Dorito for lending me the car!
REPRINT FROM ISSUE #1 1988
REVIEW OF SEIKATSU GRANDMASTER
A V-SIX FOR SEVEN
In case you are in the market for a van, there is no good reason not to take a closer look at the Seikatsu Grandmaster. But don’t rule it out even if you weren’t thinking about buying a van either. Chances are that you might reconsider that after a test drive.
Many people request reviews of passenger vans, and it is easy to understand why. If you need to carry more than five people, it is more or less the only sane alternative. One of the more interesting newcomers on the market is the Seikatsu GrandMaster, which in turn is the people carrier version of their StarCarry van. It can be equipped to the levels that it almost turns into a rolling living room, but since the typical van buyer often might be the family man with some financial challenges, we thought that it was more interesting to review a somewhat more basic version.
It is a van, and it shows. Don’t expect passenger car like driving experience, it is wallowy in the turns, and push it too hard and it will understeer on squealing tyres. On the other hand, that is the characteristics that could, and should, be expected from this type of vehicle. It’s giving an early warning that you are pushing it too hard, instead of tricking you into that you can drive this huge box on wheels like if it was a sports car. The driving position above the front axle feels as weird as always when coming from a regular passenger car, but you get used to it as quickly as usual too. The power steering is of the variable type, a very welcome equipment since it makes the heavy van easy to maneuver in tight spots, without getting too sensitive at highway speeds.
Despite not being very passenger car like and without any sporty ambitions, it is a very easy vehicle to drive. One thing that probably will be appreciated by many people here in the snowy north when it comes to a RWD van is the limited slip differential, as well as the ABS brakes. Braking capacity is, if not impressive, at least adequate for the heavy vehicle, but fully loaded we noticed some fading.
Contrary to many underpowered vans with too small engines, Seikatsu have equipped the GrandMaster with a 3 litre V6 with a 103 kW power output. A 180 km/h top speed and 11.2 seconds to 100 is actually very good for its class. 18.8 seconds on the quartermile is passenger car territory and the powerful six also gives a great 80-120 acceleration of 7.56 seconds, which means that overtaking slower vehicles are both possible and safe.
Nobody excepts a van to be a sports car, and the GrandMaster certainly isn’t one either, but at least it is a proof that you don’t have to sacrifice the performance of a passenger car just to transport more people.
The first two rows of seating are comfy separate chairs and the last row a 3-seat couch that also offers decent seating comfort. The sound insulation is great despite the engine being more or less inside the passenger compartment, though the six is running quiet and smooth so it’s never annoyingly noisy. The suspension is tuned towards comfort and the result is nothing to complain about, even though it is a noticeable compromise with the heavy, leaf sprung solid rear axle, showing the cargo van roots.
If a GrandMaster is not enough for you, maybe you should consider a double decker bus? With a wheelbase shorter than many compact hatchbacks and a very modest length of 452 cm, it takes 7 people that still might feel that they have enormous amounts of room. Add a completely amazing cargo space of almost five cubic metres to that and it becomes obvious that the box like shape is working like a dream. There is not much more to say, a vehicle like this should of course score high but the GrandMaster even exceeds our expectations.
This huge barn door can - and will - swallow everything.
As stated earlier, you can equip a GrandMaster so it becomes a rolling living room. The tested version is not. But for a not too hefty sticker price it has what you can need and expect. 7 comfortable cloth seats with seatbelts and headrests, limited slip differential, ABS, power steering, an adequate sound system and the same amount of creature comforts as you find in a regular passenger car today. Some vans are more or less penalty boxes on wheels, but the GrandMaster certainly is not. We could not find anything that felt like it was missing during our test drive.
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
The V6 is strong, smooth and quiet. For a 3 litre, the power output might be modest and conservative, but at the same time it has a reasonably nice torque curve. The gear ratios seems to be well chosen in the very modern 4 speed computer controlled autobox, except that it feels like kind of a huge jump between firsstrong textt and second gear sometimes. The limited slip differential works well in slushy, icy conditions. All in all it feels like a very well thought out driveline for this type of vehicle.
The predicted reliability is above average, the vehicle is of a sturdy and simple construction that shouldn’t cause any major problems. The interior is free from squeaks and rattles and the materials will probably last in the long run. Instead of being body on frame, the vehicle is built up on a sturdy monocoque that makes it a more stiff unit, but at the same time more sensitive to corrosion. Galvanized steel should cure much of the troubles, but the outer panels are still only regular steel, which will probably start to show signs of rust in some years if not taken care of properly. But that is about the only black cloud on the horizon too, a GrandMaster will be your friend for many years to come, if you want to.
The purchase price is reasonable, the simple construction makes the service costs sane, insurance costs will probably not be bloody but the heavy weight means that the tax can be a bit on the expensive side. Fuel consumption is far from a disaster for being a heavy vehicle with a 3 litre V6, bad aerodynamics and automatic transmission, but above average from what we expect from regular passenger cars today. The resale value will probably be amazing, there is always people looking for vehicles like this on the second hand market. So, despite some drawbacks, a GrandMaster will not be a financial disaster.
Lately, forward control vans have been heavily criticized for offering little to no protection in a crash. Most often that is true, but some vehicles are showing signs of intelligent engineering that might compensate a bit for the lack of a crumple zone in front of you. The unibody means that energy absorbing structures could be built in to channel the energy away from the drivers compartment. It also offers safety features that is rarely seen in this class, like pretensioning seatbelts up front, side impact protection bars (that at the same time is giving the drivers compartment more longitudinal stiffness), an energy absorbing steering assembly to prevent the steering wheel to end up jammed against the front seat, headrests on all places as well as 3-point seatbelts on all outboard positions. The roominess is of course another safety factor, there is a great distance to any hard surfaces to strike, as well as the weight, it’s heavier than most smaller cars on the road meaning that it will come out as a winner in a crash against something lighter and smaller, of course on the expense of the other vehicle and its passengers unfortunately.
But despite the flat nosed design, it is probably not wrong to say that this is a safe vehicle that can be used for family transportation without feeling any guilt for that.
FINAL VERDICT: 33/45
It is hard to find any weak spots in the Seikatsu GrandMaster. Sure, it is based on a cargo van with the compromises that it will automatically mean, but that’s only expected. For a fairly low price it offers an almost unbelievable amount of space, decent comfort, performance, economy and safety. At the moment, it might as well be the best buy in its class.
And even if you were not looking for cars in this class, we recommend you to not rule out a test drive in the GrandMaster since it can make you change your mind.
(Thanks to @Tzuyu_main for the car)
SPREADSHEET AND RECORDS
I hope this is working, if not, please tell me.
I tried to make a little spreadsheet with score and technical data for all the published cars, that of course will be updated as I test more cars.
BEST AND WORST
If you don’t feel the urge to browse through the whole document, here is a list with the record holders this far…
DISPLACEMENT - 1984 IP Colibri Turbo 1488cc/1975 Bogliq Bazooka 4995 cc
POWER - 1952 PAZ 200 45.4 kW/1994 Farox Endevia 216.3 kW
TORQUE - 1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 104.4 Nm/1994 Farox Endevia 395.1 Nm
0-100 km/h - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 4.4 s/1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 19.3 s
80-120 km/h - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 2.72 s/1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 19.8 s
0-402 m - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 12.66 s/1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 22.35 s
TOP SPEED - 1952 PAZ 200 146 km/h/1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 242 km/h
CORNERING - 2001 Mahanti Bachata 0.62 G/1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 1.13 G
BRAKING 100-0 m - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 33.8 m/2001 Mahanti Bachata 54.4 m
WHEELBASE - 1988 Seikatsu GrandMaster 232 cm/1994 Farox Endevia 284 cm
LENGTH - 1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 369 cm/1994 Farox Endevia 488 cm
WIDTH - 1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 145 cm/1994 Farox Endevia 189 cm
WEIGHT - 1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 788 kg/1994 Farox Endevia 2068 kg
WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION F/R - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 42-58%/1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 64/36%
P/W RATIO - 2001 Mahanti Bachata 0.035 kW/kg/1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 0.15 kW/kg
SERVICE COSTS - 1952 PAZ 200 $516.60/1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo $2299.70
FUEL ECONOMY - 1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan 7.1 l/100 km/1975 Bogliq Bazooka 16.8 l/100 km
STICKER PRICE - 1952 PAZ 200 $8710/1994 Farox Endevia $43400
CARGO ROOM - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 86.4 l/1988 Seikatsu GrandMaster 4950 l
PASSENGER ROOM - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 1370 l/1988 Seikatsu GrandMaster 5920 l
DRIVEABILITY - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 26.0/1995 Seikatsu CAT4 200Q 63.3
SPORTINESS - 1952 PAZ 200, 1969 Kyung-Yeong Ssanvan, 1988 Seikatsu GrandMaster, 2001 Mahanti Bachata 0/1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 50.9
COMFORT - 1952 PAZ 200 4.8/1994 Farox Endevia 48.1
STATUS - 1952 PAZ 200 12.5/1994 Farox Endevia 44.5
SAFETY - 2001 Mahanti Bachata 18.1/1995 Seikatsu CAT4 200Q 54.4
PRACTICALITY - 1984 JESA Bianchi Gecko i.e. Turbo 21.8/1988 Seikatsu GrandMaster 76.6
UTILITY - 1952 PAZ 200 9.0/1994 Seikatsu CAT4 200Q 35.5
OFFROAD - 1984 IP Colibri Turbo 0/2001 Mahanti Bachata 54.2
RELIABILITY - 1975 Bogliq Bazooka 56/1995 IP Colibri 1600DX 67