THE DRIVER’S EXPERIENCE
The IP Freeway Star
We usually use vans to haul cargo, or live in them or do certain things in them. However, recently something called the minivan has started to show up and IP’s second generation Freeway Star claims to be one of the better options.
Many automakers today are experimenting with this new fangled thing called a minivan, our beloved Union Motors, seems to think that shortening their full size Merchant cargo van is a viable option, or Kaiser with their Personenwagen. However, from the far eastern island nation of Ariya comes IP, (Short for International Production).We’ve done reviews of some of their other cars like the Lily or the Icarus, but never their vans. It must be said that their IP Highwaystar was not a huge seller here to begin with and the Freewaystar, despite coming out in the late 70s, is just now coming to the US market in its updated second generation. While cargo and passenger versions of the Freewaystar exist, only the passenger version is coming to the US and this likely means that we’ve got another competitor in this market.
So, is the Freeway Star a viable contender in the minivan market or is it too out of scope to be valid? This is the question that we want to answer.
As disappointing as it is, the Freeway Star obviously won’t handle like a sports car. There is some understeer of course and there will always be body roll since vans tend to be quite top heavy. The small size however makes it easy to use in the city which could make it a great taxi or people transporter, and has power steering which again, makes it easier to use and control.
Verdict: 6 / 10
The Freeway Star is obviously not designed to handle like a sports car, and it’s impossible to try and make it one. However, the Freewaystar tends to outclass other vehicles in this class thanks to its smaller length.
While the IP 4Z engine might be a good engine, it doesn’t really do any favors for the Freewaystar’s performance. With 107hp, 0 - 60 is done in 12.7 seconds which is somewhat adequate for being a van. A drag racer it is not, completing a quarter mile run in 18.5 seconds. The top speed of just over 100 miles per hour and for a van is by no means amazing but it works.
Verdict: 4 / 10
As we said before, the Freeway Star is by no means a sporty vehicle, but it manages to get up to highway speeds.
Forward Control Vans are not really the safest vehicles for the driver as their design doesn’t really allow for large crumple zones. That being said however, The Freeway Star has a fuel cut off switch and uses the modern safety glass that shatters into small pieces, and has many of the switches and other protruding things recessed into their housings while lap sash seatbelts are standard. We find that this is all perfectly normal for the top of the line model.
Verdict: 5 / 10
Yes, a forward control van isn’t the safest type of van, but then again, it is more likely to roll over than most other cars since vans tend to be more top heavy. Still, the safety ratings are quite good for a forward control van, and perhaps some day in the future they will get technology such as airbags or anti lock brakes
Even if it is the top trim of the Freeway Star, it doesn’t ride as nicely as we would have liked, but on the other hand, it isn’t really a high end luxury sedan either. It does have some creature comforts like a radio and a cassette player and we feel that the interior quality is top notch, especially for this segment.
Verdict: 5 / 10
The Freeway Star does have all the modern comforts, like a cassette player, radio, and a heater. The seats have quite a bit of plushness to them, and for the money, the Freewaystar GLX feels a lot better than its more basic sisters and offerings from other manufacturers on the market today. It is very clear the Freeway Star has a nicely appointed interior environment and will likely please any owner who is looking for something different.
The Freeway Star GLX can fit 6 people on board if fitted with the lounge interior package. Now you might tell yourself that most other vans have space for one more person, and yes, it is true but the Freewaystar is better because it is less heavy, it’s easier to remove the seats when detailing it, and allows for the seats to be reclined individually. The downside is that while 6 people can fit on board, there is less room for luggage or groceries. Still, other vehicles that are competitors to the Freewaystar, also have this downside.
Verdict: 6 / 10
The Freeway Star might be a van and it can carry 6 people, but it is let down by its low cargo volume. But this by no means makes it inferior or useless.
While the Freewaystar might be able to take a lot of punishment, it is only marginally better than Union Motors’ entry to the market. However, while there are many things that could break or go wrong, it’s incredibly simple to fix or replace it. The parts for the IP 4Z are plentiful, and so are the parts for the Freewaystar itself. The GLX can still utilize the parts from the more basic models as it’s practically the same as them.
Verdict: 7 / 10
The Freewaystar is like a cockroach, you can try to kill it, but it will keep going because of the sheer availability of spare parts, and how simple it is to fix.
When it comes to the powertrain, the IP is somewhat better as it is offered with both 4WD and RWD. The transmission is a 5 speed manual that, unlike most cars, is column shifted and the gearing does not have any craziness. The one downside however, is that the Freeway Star uses an open differential which may cause wheelspin under heavy acceleration, but the upside is that if you are feeling a bit bored, the IP performs a very good single wheel burnout. (We highly recommend that you don’t do this on public roads).
Verdict: 8 / 10
While our example was RWD, the 4WD variant of the Freeway Star could come in handy in the snowier areas of the US but here in San Antonio, 4WD is hardly needed.
Thanks to having only 2.4L of displacement and 4 cylinders the IP Freewaystar has surprisingly good fuel economy, managing to average 20 MPG. There isn’t much else we can say other than the fact it’s very good on fuel. Plus an MSRP of $18000, and average annual service costs of $637, the Freewaystar seems to be very worth purchasing if we are talking vans.
Verdict: 9 / 10
FINAL VERDICT: 50 / 80
In the end, the IP Freeway Star is a very good all round vehicle if you are looking for something that has the same practicality as any of the domestic offerings but has better reliability and fuel economy than them. However, like all cars, the Freeway Star has its downsides. Small engine, less interior space, and less cargo space. But, in this day and age, the Freeway Star might get out performed by the larger 6 cylinder engines found in domestic vans and their automatic transmissions but that being said, IP deserves at least some respect for creating a vehicle that tries to compete with the more conventional American brands. Who knows, the four wheel drive version might actually be somewhat better than the conventional and domestic brands
Only time will tell if it will be a success or not, and we can only wish IP good luck in competing with our domestic brands and we hope that someday the Freeway Star becomes a cult classic.
Credit to @Knugcab for the Freeway Star. (PS. This is my first ever review that I have ever done, so it might not be top notch but I think it’s good for a first attempt)