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Trafikjournalen (Review: Sovereign Ocelot)

By the way, I have added some covers to the main, overview post. What do you think?


I like the covers, I think they look period correct afaik, and having hyperlinks to the articles covered within the magazine will make this thread much easier to navigate as well.



The centerfold of this issue takes us back 30 years in time. To the beautiful Akerstrom type C Aero Coupé. The first production car from Akerstrom, that with its streamlined handmade aluminium body, its beautiful split rear window and shiny wire wheels could make the heart beat faster for any automobile enthusiast.

But it was also powerful. 138 hp is a respectable number nowadays, let alone in the 50s. A top speed over 200 km/h was almost science fiction. It could also reach 100 in a little more than 11 seconds. Not the fastest by todays standards, but still…back then…

And the handling then… Still competitive by todays standards, mainly since Akerstrom gave it a more sophisticated coil sprung rear axle than the more common leaf springs mostly used back then. But like other fast cars from days gone by, the brakes were somewhat underpowered for the task.

Today, the C-type Coupé Aero is already a classic, steadily rising in value. And for most people, it will only remain a dream, forever.

Now, take some pins and attach your dream to the wall. They could need some decoration like this. What you will miss then is of course the roam from the 3 litre OHC inline six. We can’t replicate that on a picture, you know.

But man…the shape, the curves, the lines… At least you have got them to look at, which is far from the worst.

Thanks to @HybridTronny for the car!


Now I have a request…
Does anyone have a .car-file for a really old car? We’re talking early 1930s or older, the older the better.
Since I am only needing it for a photoshoot, engineering is completely irrelevant, it only has to look convincing for its age.
(Found it)

So, now I got the cover photo I wanted for issue #3 1985 - thanks @Riley, and for that matter @Arn38fr.




This picture got kind of famous after the 1979 International gran turismo rally. The question is now - did Mara run into the ditch with their advertising, too?

The Mara Irena. A kind of nice compact car for a competitive price, but nothing that automobile enthusiasts are running their legs off to be able to buy. It has been so for the more than 10 years it has been in production, which also means that it is feeling slightly dated at the moment. So, a bread and butter car, and absolutely nothing about it will spawn excitement, right?

That was true a year ago. Then, BOOM!, something very interesting happened. Many people laughed at Mara for their entry in the 1979 International gran turismo rally. The humble Irena sedan all of a sudden had a sporty 2 door fastback body, and due to homologation rules we all were guessing that something interesting was lurking in the shadows. But other than that it looked like nothing special at all. It was even said to have a bored up version of the standard Irena engine and nobody believed in their chances at all.

And then….

The laughter was stuck in the throat of everyone after stage 1. Mara in first position. Among more exotic cars, an economy car from Archana was taking the lead. Looking like nothing special at all. Sure, their success varied very much, but nobody had expected the Archanan budget car to finish in third, which they have advertised very much.

And now it is here, the Mara Irena GTR79. The “road legal” rally car version. Or is it? Well, of course it is road legal but looking at it, we started to have our doubts…

First of all, it should be said that there are no bad feelings about the GTR79 in itself. Reasonably quick, yes, but not really rally winner quick? It is fun to drive, great value for the money. It still runs four wheel drum brakes (!). Stopping distances are still reasonable even if they have the classic drum brake fading problem - but is that really equipment for a rally winner? Otherwise it is a typical Mara as they always have been. Simple, robust, practical. But that’s part of the problem. It is very much a normal Mara, while Mara is advertising it as a road going version of their famous rally car. And to us, it feels kind of doubtful that the standard Irena could be a rally winner.

But who are we to answer? Instead, we did something interesting, as a real investigation and service to you as a reader.

We went out incognito and bought a brand new Mara Irena GTR79. No spiced up press car, but the exact same car that you can buy as a private customer. Then we took it for disassembly by the real group of experts.

To Gotland and the engineers at RAUK.

This was a nervous moment to be a Mara Irena indeed.

Now, it may sound kind of biased to let one car company say things about a competitors car. But keep in mind that RAUK is a low volume sports car manufacturer, and about the opposite to Mara on the market. Keep in mind that they are by no means unwilling to co-operate with the large car companies (for example, you probably remember the RAUK-Olsson 97, a spiced up version of the Olsson 67 that was a hot hatch before the term was invented). Also, RAUK said that they had no ambitions at all to enter the 1979 International gran turismo rally. “Rally is not the kind of motorsport that we are going to compete in”, says Gunnar Hedqvist, engineer at RAUK.

“But you are capable of building a rally car?”

“Yes, absolutely. There is no magic behind that.”

So, the engineers at RAUK tore the Mara down and studied it in detail. And how about their verdict, is it a rally winner or is it just a regular Mara with war paint?

“To start with, this is absolutely not a bad car”, says Hedqvist. “It is pretty sane engineering for what it is, in our opinion it is a sporty compact coupé for the budget conscious buyer”.

“But nothing more?”

“In this version, absolutely nothing more. This car requires hefty modifications to be competitive in rallying.”

“More than you can achieve without altering the base car too much?”

Here, we saw that Hedqvist got uncomfortable. Probably he wanted to say something more salty, but preferred to stay humble.

“Well. Let’s just say that we would not build on this base. The engine could probably be upgraded from the base block, but would need heavy internal modifications. The rest of the car…well. If RAUK were to build on this base, we could have kept the basic body shell but built a completely new car underneath.”

“Are you saying that Mara in one way or another has cheated with their rally entry?”

“Absolutely not. Just because we can’t see how to do it at RAUK, does not mean that other manufacturers can’t achieve it. Also, we haven’t seen the rally entry up close, which not many people have done due to Mara being very restrictive in many ways. We would definitely not sink as low as accusing them for cheating.”

“But is it by any means possible to see this as a street legal version of the rally car?”

“Only by a far stretch maybe. As we said, in this form, this car is extremely far from being a rally winner, and you can’t make it one in a garage with a spanner and a hammer. Maybe they have found ways through the homologation regulations, but let’s just say that we would not advertise it as such if it was RAUK that sold the vehicle”.

It can be driven hard, but is it really a street legal rally car?

So long the input from RAUK, but we contacted the Mara importer in Sweden to get their view of what we have found out during our investigation.

"First, thank you for the opportunity to comment on your article.

You may not be aware, but the Irena’s coupe version has already been available in the home country for a couple of years, so it is well-established on that market. However, we only have introduced it here earlier this year due to the success in the GT79 rally.

For the Irena coupe, there has been a widely available lower-end trim (the SX 2.0) and an upper-end trim (the GTC 2.5) with more limited availability. The rally entry’s homologation has been based on the GTC, and then even further refined in a collective effort within the range of allowed modifications.

The GTR79 special edition we have introduced here is based on the regular SX 2.0 but modified to match the rally special in appearance and spirit - and as you may have seen, our recent campaign for the GTR79 emphasised ‘Drive the Spirit of Surprise’. What other manufacturer makes the spirit of a GT79 rally contestant (let alone a stage winner) available for a comparable price point?"

In one way, we can give Mara right. It looks the part, is fun to drive and sells for a price that is hard to beat. For the money, you will probably not get anything else that even looks like one of the other contestants.

The problem is, though, that we still feel like Mara is trying to boost their image by trying to say that they won with a car that was not much different than the GTR79 version currently for sale. For example, they now admit that the GTR79 is not even based on the same trim level as the rally winner, but on the GTC 2.5 - that hardly anyone has seen in this market. Something they have been very quiet about.

Is this then an argument against the Mara Irena? Absolutely not. But we feel that you need a honest view of everything as a customer. That will help you to do the right decisions, wheter it involves buying an Irena GTR79 or not.

But one lesson that we have learned before and that we can learn again - in war and advertising, everything is allowed.

(Thanks to @AndiD for helping me with the article, supplying the car and giving me the idea!)




Many customers will probably find the new Ornon stylish and handsome, and there is lots of weight in the Lacam name in itself. But how well will it stand up against the competition?

Lacam. Just taste the name in your mouth. It oozes refinement and high class, it has an aura of luxury around itself, right? Even if they lately have aimed also at the entry level luxury market with their little Furka, they haven’t forgotten the upper segment. Now it is time for a new Ornon for the fourth time in history. But is Lacam still up to what they stand for, or are you only buying a brand name nowadays? We will try to find out by testing the top of the line model, the 230 G A.

There is of course no problems to swing out the tail in this 228 hp rear wheel drive vehicle. But during normal conditions it is generally predictable, and there is no dangerous oversteering tendencies when pressed hard, during, for example, an emergency maneuvre. For a luxury sedan, it still has a relatively small footprint, so city driving is not as much as a hassle as it is in many of its competitors. Power steering is of course standard (in this class everything else would be a shame), it is of the variable ratio type and offers a very good balance between ease of steering and feedback from the road. The skidpad rating is 0.89 G - a more than acceptable value even though some competitors may be even a step further forward.

Thanks to vented discs all around, there is no fading problems, and braking from 100 is done in a short 38.7 metre distance. ABS is standard equipment.

Something that may be a bit surprising is the open differential in a performance car like this. It is easy to end up with spinning wheels if not being careful - especially in slippery conditions.


0-100 is done in a fast 7.1 second time. The top speed is 250 km/h - and it is limited there, something we probably will be seeing more of in the future, like it or not. That may be something that harms the Ornon’s status as a performance car, compared to non-limited competitors. But one can really question - where is the need to drive more than 250 km/h? 80-120 is done in an equally fast 4.2 seconds and it manages to do a 15.55 second quartermile time. One of the faster sedans on the market, no question about it.

VERDICT: *****

You have probably heard multiple times that a car “feels like your favourite couch at home” or “rides like on a cloud” - but sometimes it is justified. The suspension of the Ornon is good at soaking up bumps, and the dampers have adaptive rates, so you always get the ideal compromise between sportiness and ride quality. The V6 (yes, V6, more about that later) whispers quietly and is hardly even heard through the thick sound insulation. The four individually reclining seats offer state of the art seating comfort,matched by almost nobody. Until we get cars that can drive themselves, a Lacam Ornon will probably be one of the most comfortable ways to get from point A to B.

VERDICT: *****

It is roomy inside, no question about that, but the 4 seater configuration somewhat hampers practicality. 522 litres of luggage space could be classed as adequate for a sedan of this size.

Sometimes, packaging has not been given such high priority in this class, and well, we can understand why since it is not really a question about the most practical vehicle for the large family, building a plush and luxurious vehicle is more important, but the Lacam is a good compromise after all.

As usual in this class, it has all the gizmos you may ask for. It is upholstered in really fine leather and there is inserts of real walnut veneer in carefully chosen places. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather too, there is four electrically controlled bucket seats, of course electric mirrors and windows as well as central locking, a dual zone automatic climate control, centre armrests with built in cupholders, cruise control, alloy wheels, ABS…

If you mention it, there is a huge chance that the Ornon has it and everything we are missing is, as stated earlier, a limited slip differential.

VERDICT: *****

For the first time ever, Lacam has gone from an inline six to a V6, and we are not sure that we totally like it. Even if it’s very quiet, it still lacks the smoothness of an inline six. But it is a fully modern unit, 24 valve DOHC made entirely out of aluminium. It puts out 228 hp from its 3.5 litres which is absolutely enough to move this light (for its class) car out of the way. Overall a good powerplant, but without anything that made us go “wow” (we are quite spoiled nowadays in this class, I guess).

Behind it you will find a 4 speed autobox, computer controlled, with lockup and a kind of “sporty” close ratio spacing. Gearing seems to be well chosen and operation left nothing to be desired.


There is no question that the Lacam is built like a bank vault, almost over-engineered. It is absolutely rattle free, everything seems to be straight and perfect and it really gives that aura of exclusivity. Also, it will take a long time before its body structure will give up because of rust. The protection against weather and wind is simply excellent.

But lots of technology also means lots that can go wrong, and earlier Lacams have not really been trouble free. Unfortunately, we don’t expect the new Ornon to be, either.


The Ornon is raising the bar in the class in many ways - including the sticker price, unfortunately.

This might be the most costly alternative, but $52400 AMU for a car can by no means be justified from a rational standpoint, and even if we predict it to be sought after on the used car market, the amounts of money that will be lost the first years is going to be huge. At $1340.70 AMU, service costs are astronomical, and at 12.8 litres per 100 km it is not really a fuel sipper by modern standards. Like almost any competitor, the Lacam Ornon gets a very low rating on this point.


The Ornon is a modern construction with well engineered crumple zones and a reinforced passenger compartment. It also offers most that you can ask for when it comes to safety equipment, like airbags, side impact beams, pretensioning seatbelts, headrests and such, as well as active safety equipment like ABS. It may not be the largest land barge on the road but it has scored well in crash testing. This could absolutely be called one of the safest cars on the market without stretching the truth too much.

VERDICT: *****

We may not have been impressed by its little brother, the Furka, when we tested it some years ago. Maybe some sour comments that it has recieved for “not being a real Lacam” bears some truth, because the Ornon shows that Lacam really is on top. The competition in this class is getting harder for every day, but the Ornon is certainly one of the best cars on the market at the moment, which of course comes at a price premium.

But one has to keep in mind that the competition is everything but weak. An interesting alternative is, for example, the Auxio AQ500 that will arrive in Europe very soon. It may not feel as refined or have the same aura of upper class as the Ornon, and is from a new and “unknown” brand, but truth is that it does most things at least almost as good as the Ornon - to a price of “only” $41100. That is hard to argue against.

But the buyer that can afford an Ornon will be rewarded in the end - no question about it.

Thanks to @Arn38fr for the car!




Schnell has a rich tradition of building sports sedans. The legacy continues with the D8.

“Platform thinking” is a hot topic in the automotive industry at the moment. Having a whole range of model built on the same underpinnings saves both time and money for development. So, it may sound weird, but today a SUV and a sports sedan can be built on more or less the same parts underneath. Exactly that could be said about the Schnell D8, which is built on the platform first seen used by the D4 SUV.

Not only platforms are shared, sometimes even different brands shares parts with each other, like engines. The D8 has a Hakumai build V8, 5 litres and 372 hp which of course gives good performance, but the car is heavy so maybe not as extreme as it sounds. But a 0-100 time of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 282 km/h should satisfy most buyers. Quartermile is said to be done in 13.86 seconds. Annoying, however, is the rev limiter that cuts off at 6600 RPM where the engine still has more to give.

The weight also takes its toll on braking, despite huge vented discs there is fading problems and 100-0 is done in 40.3 metres. Absolutely not bad but some competitors are better. The same could be said about the handling. It is neutral and pleasant to drive, and feels safe and secure, but even if it’s a decent figure, some competitors offer better rating at the skidpad than 0.94 G. Tyres could play a part in it, the Tyrelli P5100s mounted on the D8 is more a comfort oriented tyre for upmarket family sedans than for really fast, sporty cars.

Combine that with a thirst on fuel that can’t be ignored and a somewhat lacking safety equipment, and it becomes clear that despite its sinister looks, the Schnell D8 is not one of the top contenders in its class.

But, instead, it has a chance of becoming the real price fighter at only $36500 AMU. For a car in this class that is almost impressive, and you still get a fast, sporty car for that amount, that “almost” makes it even if it never reaches the top.

So, we are somewhat positive about the chances for Schnell to win the customers here. Because no matter how good a car is, you never get it sold to a buyer that can’t afford it. The D8 brings the sports sedans down to the people, and that will absolutely catch a customer or two.

Thanks to @interior for the car!




The Kaizen Terravis is a highly interesting alternative among offroad vehicles. Unfortunately, its qualities are well known, so finding that “bargain” is more or less impossible.

Two is more than four. Now, that might seem obvious, but it also means that for some of us, two drive wheels simply won’t cut it. Luckily, 4wd vehicles have evolved lately from the rather primitive workhorses they were for a long time. There is many interesting alternatives even on the used car market, and among them is the Kaizen Terravis, no question about it.

The example we found at an used car dealer, and that we decided to take a closer look at, is a four year old Terravis 15o 2-door, with the 4.5 litre inline six. It should be said that it could almost as well have been a new car, since it was more or less flawless and well taken care of. Usually, offroaders have seen some abuse in their life, but a Terravis can cope with that too. To start with, a sturdy ladder chassis with simple but robust solid axles front and rear, is a formula that is hard to beat for durability. And you will probably have to look a long time for rust at that ladder frame, since Kaizen galvanized it. Thanks a lot for that!

Of course, cosmetical surface rust CAN be found on examples that have seen some hard abuse, but not as much as for some competitors, the paintjob and steel seems to hold above average quality. The rust you may find is “honest” and easy to spot, there is no direct hidden rust traps in the construction.

Engine wise, the inline six just runs forever. Of course, it hardly revs at all and from the 4.5 litres, the power output is 151 hp, so it is hardly stressed at all. The fuel injection system is nothing to worry about, it is at least as reliable as a carburetor. If the oil has been changed more often than once every total eclipse, you should be fine. The rest of the driveline (gearbox, transfer case, rear axle) is of a robust and simple construction, but it seems that it is not really as unbreakable. If it has been used hard, watch out for some wear there, listen if you hear any strange noises, try to downshift and see if the synchros work as they should. It should be said that generally there is no problems, it is just not totally of the same excellent quality as the engine.

Overall, without being a torture chamber, the Terravis is still relatively free from modern day gizmos, and if something is not there, it will not break. There is power steering, as for any car, watch out for leaks and keep in mind that the steering should feel light and the operation should be smooth. Also, for a vehicle that may have forded muddy creeks etc. a check of the braking system is a sane thing to do. Disc brakes all around is a bit unusual in this class, rusty rear discs, seized calipers or a bad handbrake can be an expensive thing to fix - with that said, the Terravis is by no means worse than any other car with that construction.

As much as it may be an offroader, the Kaizen Terravis is relatively well-mannered on the road too.

The owners are generally very satisfied with the car, and it’s easy to understand why, and that’s not only about the durability. Even if the comfort isn’t up to luxury car standards, it is closer to a good passenger car than to a farm tractor. And of course, a vehicle like this with a high center of gravity should be driven with care, but the Terravis feels safe and secure on the road for what it is. As an offroader, it has been proven that the Terravis is among the better vehicles on the market countless times.

The dark cloud on the horizon? Ownership costs. The simple construction means that service and (the few times they are needed) repairs aren’t overly bloody. But the second hand value is high, since most owners hold onto their Kaizens for long, while it is a sought after car on the used car market. That makes it almost out of the question to find a bargain. Also, fuel economy is of course less pleasant with a consumtion of 16.8 litres per 100 km, this for the inline six in our test example, and not the larger V8. To get a tax reduction, most Kaizens are registered as commercial vehicles, that is also true for our test example. That means no back seats, a drawback if it happens that you need to carry more than one passenger.

So generally, it could be said that an used Kaizen Terravis is a good buy. There is hardly no traps to fall into and it is by all means a sane choice in its class. But we also understand that the second hand prices and the high fuel consumtion may scare some buyers away.

Thanks to @66mazda and @Aruna for the car!




The Xenon is so unexciting that it almost disappears into the background in the concrete jungle. But does it have to offer anything special to the more rational buyer?

The devil on my shoulder said: “I wouldn’t be caught dead in an indian MPV!”

The angel on my shoulder said: “What a practical car to such a competitive price! Why aren’t more people buying cars like this?”

Yeah. Few car types speaks so much to the rational buyers, and so little to the heart as the MPV. So, make it a budget MPV from a low status brand - even more rational, even less exciting to the automobile enthusiast. But honestly speaking, few of the car buyers belong to the enthusiast crowd, and the Gujarat Xenon is not aimed at them anyway. On the other hand, we think that even a cheap MPV needs to offer more than just a low sticker price and lots of practicality - and that’s why we put the Gujarat Xenon to the test.

The car is built on an old fashioned body on frame platform that Gujarat started to use for their SUVs in the 80s - and it does nothing to hide that. Compared to more modern competitors, it feels like it is 10 years behind. But well, people were driving cars 10 years ago too, so maybe we have just been spoiled lately?

It is rear wheel drive, but a bit unusual for a truck-like ladder platform like this, is the 4 wheel independent suspension. Still, we are not 100% convinced about its handling, it is a bit tail happy at low speeds, switching into understeering if driven hard. At least, it is not too unpredictable at higher speeds, and if you learn to handle it you will find out that it doesn’t take curves like a disaster after all - 0.84 G at the skidpad meets our expectations.

One attempt to bring the platform more up to date is the introduction of electric power steering - light, but without that really sharp road feel that you will get in the best hydraulic systems. The size of the car makes city driving kind of tricky sometimes, though.

A simple but effective traction control system keeps the wheelspin under control - but it does not offer ESC, which after all is to recommend on a family oriented vehicle nowadays.

The brakes are not completely up to modern day standards. Stopping distances of 47.5 metres from 100 are only mediocre nowadays, and despite the vented discs up front (albeit drums in the rear) there was some brake fade. But it does offer ABS, thank god. Even on a low budget alternative, everything else would be a shame nowadays.


At least our test example, with the automatic transmission, felt a bit sluggish at times. Now, this is not what the performance oriented buyer are looking for anyway, and a 13.1 second time to 100 is far from unacceptable, as well as its 207 km/h top speed is more than enough for this type of car. 80-120 is done in 8.88 seconds and the quartermile in 19.15. Mediocre numbers, but probably good enough for what it is supposed to be.


Even if it is obvious that Gujarat is not trying to compete in the luxury class. it doesn’t fall too much behind its competitors comfort wise. The engine is not overly loud, it has decent sound insulation, the seating comfort is acceptable (but front and rear seats are better than the middle row). Steering and brakes are light and we found nothing overly remarkable about the suspension tuning. Long story short, the Xenon fulfills the requirements you can have on a modern day MPV.


As a MPV, this is of course where the Xenon does shine. The 7 seater configuration is practical, there is room enough for all the passengers, and while many MPVs forces you to choose between carrying lots of passengers or lots of cargo, in the Xenon you can actually do both. With all the seats in place it still can carry 940 litres of luggage - not bad! The explanation is of course the tall and boxy shape of the body. It will never win a beauty contest, but that is compensated by its utilitarian qualities. Conventional doors in the rear instead of sliding doors is both good and bad. They take up more space in crowded areas - but are easier to open and close for children and elders, for example.

It is a box, and as a box it will swallow almost everything.

VERDICT: *****

For a cheap car, it actually offers some gizmos. The interior is an ocean of leather and mahogany…oh well, now we are just kidding. It is cloth and plastic, but of a reasonable quality considering its price. There is a stereo system with CD that is fully up to date even if we have heard better sounding units, there is electric power steering, traction control and even alloy wheels. A simple air conditioning system and electric mirrors are also standard, as well as front electric windows. We would say that we aren’t missing anything that we expected in this area, it has the most important stuff.


The 2 litre inline 4 is a fully modern all alloy unit, with DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder and VVL/VVT. It is by no means fun, even if 145 hp out of 2 naturally aspirated litres is a figure they shouldn’t be ashamed of. We also liked the flat torque curve that meant that the car never felt gutless even if it is not the fastest one around. What we didn’t like, however, is the abrupt cutoff the rev limiter does. You can feel that the engine still would have more to give at that moment. The reason is said to be that some of the early examples experienced piston failures, and that Gujarat quickly corrected that by adjusting the rev limiter, which seems like a band aid solution. NVH levels are fully acceptable, even if not brilliant.

The automatic transmission has 5 speeds, but is of a quite ancient type with no computer control at all. More modern autos are better at almost anything. Also, the gear spacing is very wide. That, compared with the overly protective rev limiter means that the drivetrain somewhat lacks harmony and that the feeling is somewhat “jerky”, at least before you have reached some speed, and especially in stop and go traffic.


First, it is said that Gujarat never got rid of the piston failures completely, which is somewhat worrying. Other than that, we think that you can trust the car. It is quite simple technology, and generally Gujarats have been much better than the reputation they have. Just look at all the beat up examples anywhere in India for example, that keeps running forever.

It has about the same feeling of build quality as the average car nowadays, there is no overly weak points. Everything seems to fit together and hold up - and that is about it. We can’t complain about it for the price.

It is also very well protected against rust, believe it or not. The galvanized ladder frame will probably hold up longer than the rest of the car, but we don’t expect the body panels to rust prematurely either.

With that said, we think that the piston failures is a major drawback that should be sorted out immediately.


For a box on wheels, 8.3 litres per 100 km is fully acceptable. $22 000 AMU for a new MPV is absolutely a good price, and since it will probably be sought after on the used car market, the second hand value is better than usual when it comes to cars from budget brands like Gujarat. Service costs are also kept on a sane level - $628.8 for a modern car is a relatively good figure.


Even Gujarat has to cope with some minimum standards to sell their cars in the European Union. That’s one of the reasons that the Master disappeared from Europe some years ago, despite still being produced. With that said, nothing does impress us about the Xenon. It has the equipment we have taken for granted in 10 years now, a drivers side air bag, side impact beams in the doors, headrests and 3 point seatbelts on all positions - but it more or less ends there. Also, the age of the ladder frame platform is somewhat worrying - being engineered when safety was far from the priority it is today.

On the other hand sheer size and weight gives the Xenon somewhat of an advantage. It is possible that the large and heavy body on frame MPV will plow through some of the smallest cars on the market. Another question is if that will leave the passengers of the Xenon any less shaken and stirred after the impact? Maybe, maybe not.


Our opinion is that the Gujarat Xenon is worth its price. It is by no means a fantastic car or anything that will make the heart of an automobile enthusiast beat faster - it is cheap and roomy and does what it should, and that’s about it. Probably many buyers will realize that and spend some more money on their purchase to get anything better - and there is nothing wrong with that.

Because even if the Xenon is not notoriously bad at anything, it is more or less like driving a brand new 10 year old car. Except for a few qualities, like its practicality, it is rather mediocre. And we except this to be a vehicle that will more or less be deleted from our collective consciousness when they end up in the junkyards.

Thanks to @BannedByAndroid for the car!




This beautiful 1970 Kaizen was recently imported from the USA. And it is easier to understand why than one first may think.

Importing cars from the US is by no means a new thing - it was something that was booming in this country already in the 70s. Muscle cars was cheap after the fuel crisis and all of a sudden it was possible for a Swede to get the cars he only could dream about some years earlier. And then came the classic 50s land barges, the cool custom vans, pickup trucks as well as german luxury sedans that ironically was both easier to find and did cost less than in Europe…

But a japanese? That is a bit Unorthodox.

Sten Ekblad recently imported this 1970 Kaizen FCP19s. How was he thinking?

-Easy. Try to find one in Sweden - good luck. And the Kaizen is a sports coupé that was more than competitive with the best american and european offerings from this era. A kind of forgotten model that deserves better than that.

The first impressions says that he might be right. The body is downright beautiful, and being a car from 1970, this was before bumper regulations ruined the looks of more or less any USDM car. The somewhat strangely named “Grr red” paintjob glares in the sun and complements the athletic but still slim lines of the body. Looking inside, the interior feels both modern and sporty for a 70s car, and the high quality materials means that the unrestored interior still hardly looks worn after almost 50 years. But let’s wake up the 3 litre inline six and see what this ride is good for.

It roars like a tiger under the hood. You could sit there and just rev it for a whole day with a smile on your face, I think. The (for the era) modern fuel injection system means that the throttle response is unusually peppy, and the sound is strictly amazing for a gearhead. And…off we go!

This thing is fast. Not only “70s fast” but still fast, it accelerates like a rocket and it was said that it could reach a still respectable 233 km/h top speed - something we never tried out for obvious reasons. The close-ratio 5 speed gearbox only complements the picture as a drivers car, and the sticky rubber on alloy wheels hugs the road like glued. Maybe the handling isn’t as sharp as a modern day sports car, but honestly speaking, not as far away as one may think. It is a bit front heavy, though, so the understeering at high speed is noticeable.

190 hp in a relatively light car was not bad at all for its era. The relatively low weight also means that the 4 wheel disc brakes stops the Kaizen on a dime. Countless times. Brake fade is something the Kaizen probably never have heard of. The contoured bucket seats in a time where vinyl upholstered bench seats still were a thing for many manufacturers holds you like a vise in the corners. This is a pure driving machine, but maybe it was released in the wrong era. It was overshadowed by the muscle car craze in the US, and maybe Europe wasn’t quite ready for a high-end japanese sports coupé at the time.

Shame, because it means that the Kaizens are today few and far between. And if you want to get a good deal on one, forget it, you are at least 25 years too late.

The Kaizen may be a rocket, but it will also empty your pocket.

Because even if the fanbase is relatively small compared to some more famous classic cars, it is also faithful. An owner will rarely part with his car, and as we stated earlier, finding one in Sweden is close to impossible.

So, maybe importing a japanese car from the US is not as crazy as it sounds, after all?

Thanks to @66mazda for the car!




A traditional american battleship, here an Earl Ponderosa, dwarfs the Armor Cricket. But there is no question about which one that belongs to the future, and which one that belongs to the past.

It has not been good times for the american manufacturers lately. First, insurance premiums more or less killed the muscle car over a night. Then came the ban on leaded fuel, requiring modifications to the often ancient engine technology so the power of the huge 8 cylinder engines all of a sudden was overshadowed by european 4- or 6 cylinders with less than half of the volume. Safety standards made the cars gain weight, fuel economy suffered, and all of a sudden the fuel crisis came, leaving the manufacturers more or less bleeding, and at the same time paving the road for european and asian manufacturers.

It is more or less a fact that the days for the traditional american land yacht are numbered. One attempt to come closer to the philosophy of european manufacturers is the new Armor cricket. In fact, the design could as well belong to an italian supermini while the engineering is said to be heavily influed by the french. And, of course we are curious to see what they have accomplished.

Following the european formula with front wheel drive, small dimensions and 4 wheel independent suspension, the Cricket is of course close to an european car in the way it behaves too. Forget the wallowy suspension you are used to - the Cricket is actually rather stiff. Though modern components like gas filled shocks and progressive springs makes the compromise between ride quality and handling a bit better. Like most front wheel drive cars, it is predictable and secure but has a fair amount of understeering. A 0.8 G skidpad rating is fully acceptable numbers. A very low tyre profile is probably adding to the secure handling but at the same time it compromises comfort.

City driving is of course a dream with this little car. And contrary to many of its competitors it has power steering, making it easy to drive and park in crowded areas. Calling it “easy to drive” is absolutely justified.

Braking is generally good, some fading was found when loaded to the max but not otherwise and a 43.2 metre stopping distance from 100 is a fully acceptable number. There is no doubt that Armor has put some energy behind the engineering of this car.


Despite the relatively large volume, the engine puts out a modest 75 hp. It means that it is by no means a rocket, especially considering the automatic transmission eating up some of the power - but it is still adequate. At least 0-100 that is done in 14.6 seconds - but with a 10.4 time 80-120 maybe passing other cars will need some planning. It barely breaks the 20 second limit at the quartermile at 19.99 seconds - and a top speed of 178 km/h is of course more than adequate.


It seems like americans can’t let go of the idea of a comfortable cruiser. That means that the Cricket is equipped with power steering and an automatic transmission. But at the same time - the car is small and primitive, and even if the advanced rear suspension enhances the comfort somewhat, the ride is maybe a little bit stiff and harsh.

Seating comfort is on the level you could expect from a car in this class, far from as bad as in some of the low budget american cars. The sound insulation is adequate and the engine well muffled. When it finally reaches third gear it is not too revvy either. Though, sometimes you will only reach second at highway speeds which may make the drone a bit more annoying.


It is hard to perform wizardry even if the transverse engine saves some space. The Cricket has seat belts for five, but four is on the limit of being possible, and for longer trips, more than two is probably out of the question. The lack of rear doors hamper practicality a bit but the hatchback makes for easier loading. The loadspace is small, though, and as a family car the Cricket has its limitations.


Small - in many areas unfortunately.

For a supermini, the level of equipment in the Cricket is not bad at all. It has a not too shabby cloth/vinyl interior, carpeting on the floor, cigar lighter, clock, lockable glovebox and other things that we have almost learned to take for granted today. It also has a radio, only with mono sound and no tape player, but at least with pushbutton selector. Also, power steering is included in the price, rare for a car in this class, as well as radial tyres of the fuel saving low rolling resistance type.


75 hp out of a 2.2 litre engine would have been perfectly acceptable 15 years ago, but now time has passed. We would like to believe that an european engine would at least have 100 hp out of that volume, especially since Armor uses an overly complicated valvetrain design with 3 valves per cylinder. The explanation is of course that the engine is hampered by american emissions regulations. It is not overly economical either and overall it feels a bit bland. Not gutless in the small car, but kind of uninspiring. A disappointment since a SOHC 3 valve 2.2 litre four sounds really good on paper.

The automatic transmission consumes even more power, but at least it is a 3 speed and not an ancient 2 speed, thank god! It works well, but we think that european buyers would have preferred a manual in most cases when buying a car of this type. It adds a bit to the uninspiring flair the engine already gives.


American cars aren’t really renowned for their high level of build quality. The Cricket does not really do anything to convince us otherwise, but on the other hand, european cars in this class are rarely any handcrafted masterpieces either. On the other hand, this is a completely new concept for Armor, so we are not 100% convinced that they have sorted out all problems before it has been proved to us. A surprise, though, is the galvanized body structure, meaning that it has better than average protection against rust!


$13500 for a really small car is not exactly cheap, for example, a much larger Ceder 419 can be had for just $300 AMU more. Also, if you are used to american land barges, then maybe 10.7 litres per 100 km is an acceptable figure but we think that it is a little bit high for a modern construction of this size. Servicing at $660 is acceptable but not really dirt cheap. So, an economy car that is not very economical, that is maybe the major drawback of the Cricket.


The Cricket is small. To fulfill the stringent american regulations there is lots of things done to improve its safety. There bodyshell is very well thought out for the class and has things like side impact beams in the doors, well engineered crumple zones and crash resistant bumpers. Then there is of course equipment like headrests, inertia reel seatbelts on all outboard positions, a safe placement of the gas tank and a seatbelt buzzer. A car as tiny as the Cricket will always lose in a head on collision with a large car, but it is probably as safe as a car in this class will get nowadays.


First, it must be said that the Armor Cricket is an important step forward. It is probably the nearest thing to a modern, small european car that the americans have ever cranked out. And it shows that even the american manufacturers can adapt to the ever changing times if they just want to.

But for the european market, we are a little bit sceptical. It does not really have much that speaks in its favour when there are so many good competitors on the market. Also, the somewhat high purchase and ownership costs are almost ruling out a car in this class by themselves, since the buyer is almost always very economy minded.

Another question - is this good enough and coming soon enough to win back customers in the USA that have already gone for foreign cars? We are not really sure about that.

Thanks to @GassTiresandOil for the car, also credit to @patridam for the Earl Ponderosa.



Do we encourage driving like this? No. But nobody will buy a Sunburst just for going to the church on sundays, so…

The Hirochi Sunburst S is nothing else than the civilian version of what Hirochi will be driving in WRC for 2001. It may look a bit like a boyracers dream or just plain tacky (depending on your taste) - but under the bodyshell, it is pure bussiness. The engine is new for 2001. A 16 valve all alloy unit, with a displacement of 2 litres from its four cylinders, of course with turbocharging and pumping out 228 hp in standard form. Sending that power to all four wheels (though with no form of LSD) it manages sub 7 second times from 0 to 100. It is able to stop even faster, in 36.6 metres, but with a bit of fading when driven hard. The handling is great as well, fairly neutral and managing 1 G on the skidpad.

But all of this is to be expected in this class. The question is only if Hirochi has their WRC winner in the Sunburst. Only the future will tell. Before we know the result of that, I guess that some knees will be shivering at Hirochi, being such a prestigous and important thing to win. And if the Sunburst does that, it will give the model an image boost, as well as the brand itself.

The dream many manufacturers have, but only a few of them will reach.

Thanks to @nicholasrams774 for the car"


Thanks for the review. I really never intended for the Cricket to be exported. I’m sure the manuals would sell far better overseas. It’s interesting to see what different values other countries put on their vehicles. I thought my car might have been too European to be considered an American car, but to others it’s obvious from the start lol.


Yeah, I was really trying to catch the spirit of what automotive journalists was writing back then - so that’s a little bit of explanation why I was maybe a bit overly harsh and critical too.




Downsizing? Not at Hanseung. The Saturn has a large V6 and weighs almost 1.9 tonnes.

Maybe the glory days of the large luxury sedan are over. A rising popularity of SUVs, along with the tendency to downsize engines, are partly to blame there. But there is some of them left. The Saturn from korean Hanseung for example.

Front wheel drive have never been seen as an advantage in this class, it also features a relatively conventional strut suspension up front instead of the more advanced types found on some competitors. At least Hanseung have managed to keep torque steer and wheelspin at rather tolerable levels. The car is absolutely not a bad handler at 0.96 Gs, and as usual for front wheel drive cars, it is predictable understeer, secure but not very exciting. Should it still go very wrong, it has electronic stability control - would be a shame nowadays if that wasn’t included.

Driving this almost 5 metre long and 2 metre wide car in city traffic is of course far from optimal. At least the electric PAS setup works well, and offers more road feel than they did some years ago.

Brakes have short stopping distance with 37.3 metres from 100, and the fading is almost nonexistant.


As with many other modern cars, the speed is limited at 250 km/h - more than enough, though. 0-100 is done in a not too shabby time of 7.7 seconds and the quartermile is done in 15.66 seconds. 80-120 takes 4.92 seconds. Far from the fastest car in its class, but still performance that should be more than adequate for most of us.


The engine whispers on low RPMs at highway speeds and is quite muffled by itself, also, there is pretty good insulation from other noises too. Seating comfort is absolutely good enough - not excellent, some other cars in the class are better. Long wheelbase and a suspension set up for comfort means that the ride quality is good. Though, a car in this class needs to be comfortable. The Hanseung is - but not the best. Some competitors are even better, but maybe not with such a far margin.



A sedan is maybe not the first thing you think of as “practical” and sure, as a such it has its limitations. But the luggage space is large at 620 litres, and the interior has impressive amounts of room. Here, you have all the space in the world to stretch out your legs. Even the width is large. If you find the Saturn cramped, you should maybe look at a tourist bus instead.

So, despite the usual drawbacks with a sedan, we give it a good score here.


It is not exactly loaded with gizmos, but you get the most important things, like climate control, leather upholstery (that feels a bit cheap, but still), electrically adjustable seats with memory, a high end infotainment system with bluetooth connectivity, a limited slip differential, alloy wheels and much more. There is more loaded vehicles in this class but the Saturn still offers most that you will expect. The equipment you need is there while they have saved on some bells and whistles.



By todays standards, 260 hp out of a 3.5 litre V6 may sound a bit conservative. But it runs smooth, reasonably quiet and has a good low end grunt. Still, it likes to rev and shouldn’t the limiter cut off at 7000 RPM, it would probably still have some more to give.

Behind it is a 7 speed auto, of the conventional type, but of course with modern electronic management, and it seems to work well together with the engine.

By no means a fantastic drivetrain, but harmonic and well suited to the car.



Some cars in this class feels like rolling bank vaults. Not the Hanseung. Sure, it feels decently bolted together, but that’s about it. There is a more “hollow”, “plastic” feeling than some of its competitors have. That does not necessarily mean bad reliability- predicted reliability for the Hanseung is about average, though, and not much more. But extensive use of aluminium means that it keeps the rust away quite well.


For what you get, the sticker price is not too bad ($47700). But sure, still lots of money and second hand value is questionable. 8.2 litres per 100 km is not bad for a huge V6 in a huge car, but when it comes to servicing it’s still kind of expensive at $1143.20 AMU. A fairly economical choice for its class, but that’s about it too.


Probably as safe as a nuclear shelter.

If there is one single modern day passive safety device you can think of - the Saturn has it. It even has active safety systems like AEB etc.

And inside the large amounts of metal you are well protected, and the fact that extensive amounts of AHS steel is used in the body structure of course makes it even better.

It gets a 5 star Euro-NCAP rating with flying colours, and we think that there would be hard to find a much safer car on the market today.

VERDICT: *****


It is a bit hard to judge the Saturn. It is probably not best at anything in its class. Still, a very good allrounder with no major weak points. But anonymous design, front wheel drive, lack of that feeling of top notch build quality you can get in some other cars, lack of the latest comfort equipment, lack of anything that makes it stand out in this crowd…

We understand that the Saturn may not speak to the heart and soul of luxury sedan buyers, even if the brain says yes. That may be the reason for the somewhat slow sales figures that it has.

But the buyer that still opts for a Saturn will be rewarded in many ways, also with a car for a price that is sane for what it is.

Thanks to @BannedByAndroid for the car!




We ask ourselves - where do Wells intend to find the buyers for the i6? Unfortunately, it seems to miss the mark in most segments.

The headline needs some explanation. Even if you haven’t played Bintendo’s success game Bokemon, you have probably heard of it. And when it first was introduced for the PlayGuy handheld console in the late 90s, one of the original Bokemons was called a Bulbasaur. And it was green, just like the Wells i6. Also the i6 is bulbous. And feels like a dinosaur.

Historically, Wells have been known for building cars that is robust but not always very exciting. Often primitive, and lacking in the handling and comfort department. But also more or less impossible to kill. A success in developing markets, not as much in western Europe.

With the i6, they are aiming more towards the top. The futuristic looks shows that they are at least trying to not look like every other car on the market. Some people may like the looks, other may hate it, and we can’t decide for you there. Let’s just say that the i6 won’t get lost on the parking lot.

Propelling the car forward is a turbocharged inline six that feels dead more or less over 3000 RPM. The power output gives a hint of that. 220 hp was what competitors managed to get out of N/A 3 litre engines 20 years ago. It also shows when it comes to performance. In this class, a top speed of 242 km/h and an 8.23 second time 0-100 is not competitive anymore, yet it has a horrible fuel thirst of 16.8 litres per 100 km and we really wonder what is happening to all the expensive drops. Also, it feels dated to only get a 5 gear automatic in this class nowadays.

However, it drives better than some Wells models have done in the past, a bit tail happy but still relatively easy to control, and there is both a limited slip diff and electronic stability control. Brakes have a good bite, it is fairly comfortable, has good safety rating and you get lots of buttons to play with for a cost of $50 000 AMU.

Still, we wonder, if someone is in the market for a luxurious 4 seater sports sedan, why would he opt for a horribly thirsty, dated and not very fast one?

With an updated driveline, the i6 could maybe be competitive. Maybe.

Depending on what it would cost, of course.

Thanks to @DuceTheTruth100 for the car!


Thanks for the review I really appreciate that!! I will redevelop the engine in the coming days with the new info I have about building them. I will try to revamp the engine while still keeping it at 50K.

Well, I am by no means some kind of engineering expert so I am not trying to put your skills down, all I can say is that I clearly see that you are improving both when it comes to engineering and exterior design, so you certainly should be proud of yourself anyway. And maybe tuning for Automation vs. Beam as you mentioned earlier is one key here. As I have said, I can not run beam anymore, unfortunately, because of weak graphics card etc. which is a bit sad (but now it is like it is, so…if that is disturbing to anyone, I haven’t banned anyone from starting a fundraiser :wink: )

From the experiences I have had from Beam in the past, though, it seems like it does not always behave like the automation stats says, for example, it seems like FWD cars will often have crazy amounts of understeer there even if they should work well according to the Automation graphs. That’s a bit disturbing in one way (but on the other hand, it was said that it should be impossible to even drive automationcars at all until just some years ago, so one should not complain).

So, if anyone is upset that they don’t recognize my descriptions from how their car behaves in Beam, well, I can’t do any better now unfortunately.




The L4 is interesting as it is the first front wheel drive car from Schnell. But is it any good? Let’s find out!

Schnell have found its place in the automobile universe, as a bit of an oddball brand but with a steady consumer base. Now, Schnell is also one of the manufacturers that have went for the front wheel drive layout. The new L4 is their first front wheel drive car ever, which of course makes it an interesting candidate for a test.

As usual for a front wheel drive car, the handling is secure and predictable but also gives a fair amount of understeering. Torque steer and wheelspin are more or less eliminated, and at 0.85 G the skidpad rating is absolutely acceptable.

The size means that it is no city car, but it has standard power steering, which is good.

A 42.3 metre stopping distance from 100 is a good result, and we noticed some fading only with heavy cargo. They pull straight and has no tendency to lock up the rear wheels.

Maybe it does not have the sporty characteristics that was found in the now almost classic 1700 model, but it is a good drivers car nonetheless.


A car this size, 88 hp and a 3 speed automatic - doesn’t sound impressive, right? Well, fact is that the L4 is lighter than one may think, which somewhat saves the situation. A 13 second time 0-100 is acceptable, 10.7 seconds 80-120 maybe a little bit on the slow side. 166 km/h is not a top speed to brag about today - but adequate on our speed limited roads. It manages to do the quartermile in 19.26 seconds.


Automatic transmission and power steering, sure. Other than that, the Schnell is not overly impressive. The ride is a bit on the harsh side, the seating comfort is nothing to write home about even if it’s adequate. Engine is well muffled but runs at quite high revs at highway speeds. In this class, there is competitors offering better comfort than the L4 by margins.


Our two door test example of course has a drawback in its lack of rear doors. But when you finally have gotten yourself in place, you can sit well in the backseat as well as up front. Also, it has a very large luggage compartment and the load capacity is good for a passenger car. So, except for the two door body, we could not find any major drawbacks actually.


The L4 is neither a bare bones affair or a luxury cruiser. The standard power steering is, as we said before, very welcome, and among other features there is a decent AM/FM stereo with tape player, carpeting on the floor, cloth upholstery, (manually) remotely controlled mirrors, tinted glass, a rear centre armrest, electric clock, and other things we have grown accustomed to lately. There is nothing important missing, but forget the gizmos.


88 hp out of an 1.7 litre engine ain’t too shabby, but the unit in itself is not really exciting. A cast iron lump with a single overhead camshaft and a single 2 barrel carb, it does its job and not much more.

The 3 speed auto works well but eats some power and does not really add to an amusing driving experience.

All in all it’s hard to complain too much, but is the driveline worthy of the “Sport” moniker on our test example? Absolutely not.


The L4 body is far from well protected against rust. If you’re in the market for one, make sure to give it an undercoating and treatment as soon as you get it. Other than that, we could not find anything that felt remarkably cheap or flimsy, but on the other hand nothing that impressed us either. Our experiences says that predicted reliability will be mediocre. Buying one is maybe not a gamble but there is more reliable cars out there.


Nice and blue, but how fast will it turn brown instead? The truth is not really amusing here.

At $12800 AMU the L4 is not expensive to buy. At $643.5 it is not expensive to service. But 18.8 litres per 100 km means that it is not cheap to fill up. For some reason the engine can run on fuel with such a low octane rating as 87. Totally pointless here and many people would probably like if Schnell should for example raise the compression a bit to improve fuel economy. Unfortunately the fuel thirst will probably affect seond hand values too. Not acceptable.


The L4 is a modern design that passes all american and european tests with flying colours. You are relatively safe, surrounded by large crumple zones inside a strengthened passenger cell. Though we are not sure about the strength from the sides, it is lacking door beams as well as some other of the equipment you find in the very best cars, like rear headrests. Still, it beats many of the other cars on the market that probably barely passes legislations. The low weight might be a disadvantage in a crash aagainst a larger car, though.


The Schnell L4 is not a bad car, and for the money it costs, it gives great value. But we would maybe have expected even a bit more. It really does not excel at anything and all in all it feels a bit bland. The weird engine tune hampering fuel economy only confuses us too, and is a major drawback.

To put it like this, we don’t expect this to be the sales success that will move Schnell to the top of the sales charts. The competition is too strong for that and nothing puts the L4 at an advantage.

Thanks to @interior for the car!