(Full disclosure: I have nothing to disclose on this one... sorry...)
Soon after the sub-division of Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru, got created in 1956, the very first commercial car came out: the 1958 Subaru 360. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, long before becomming Rally World Champions, creating amazing AWD cars and giving erections to all the Bros in this world, Subaru started by making small kei-cars. Today’s car is a 1968 Subaru 360 a very popular tiny economy car that was rear wheel drive, rear engined and develop an almighty 25hp. Not much to say the least, but compared to the 16hp it was making in 1958, it’s massively better! This one is my friend’s car and he let me drive it on the Japanese mountain roads for a quick Oppo Review!
So let’s start with the...
Exterior - 9/10
Patina. Patina. Patina!!! This car is the archetype of the car that has seen some stuff through its long life. Look at this paint, these lines, this cute little face. Immediatly when you see it, you want to know its history and what happened to it. To sum things up, one of its past owners attempted to repaint it and put the wrong primer on the car. So after a few years of sun, snow and rain, the whole paint started to peel, making it look like it is today. You may also notice the rear tinted window... Well, it’s not tinted, it’s burnt. A fire started a few years back when its current owner was working on the car and the whole rear of the car got “a little burnt”. I would problably rate a good looking 360 around 7out of 10, but this one is so damn cool and unique that it deserves a 9 out 10.
Interior - 6/10
For starter, it’s got 4 seats, which makes it quite practical, granted that the people seating in the back have no legs, of course. Other than that, a very typical 60’s design... A thin plastic steering wheel, tiny seats, no seatbelt, an AM radio (that works!!) and a speedometer only, with no tachometer. Not much rust on this specific car, but if you were to drive it, I’d still recommend to double-check that your tetanus vaccine is up to date, you never know.
Toys - 1/10
There is one toy and it’s your steering wheel. You can also play with the heater button if you want... Other than that... Nothing much.
Audio - 5/10
It has an AM radio and some tiny speakers, that’s already pretty damn good! As far as the engine noise is goes, it’s not really great. Since it’s not my car, and since it has no tachometer, I didn’t really know how far to rev it and most certainly didn’t rev it high enough. The whole thing screams quite a bit, but it doesn’t scream out of rage or anything like that. It feels like it wants to be put out of its misery when you start going into higher RPMs. I didn’t like the sound it made that much and I was more worried than happy when getting it to scream a bit.
Acceleration - 2/10
2 out of 10, because I have to keep the 1 out of 10 for something like a first gen 2CV or for a first gen Fiat 500. It’s slow. The little 356cc engine is not what I would call “sporty” to say the least. It couldn’t go uphill in 3rd gear and I had to pull over to let keicars pass. Granted, I could certainly have revved the engine more than I did, but I just didn’t want to risk it, even if its owner told me it could rev happily, it didn’t feel that way to me :)
Braking - 2/10
(Suicide doors are actually here to help airbrake the car. True story)
Holy crap! Braking is terrible!!! This car in particular was pulling left like crazy as soon as you tapped the brakes! Compared to the Panhard PL17, it was definitely worse and considering how bad the Panhard was, that says a lot. As soon as you would start braking, it would pull left, then you would start noticing that it doesn’t brake enough to take the corner safely and normally, so you’d keep braking more INTO the turn, only to see the rear feeling loose on corner entry, all that while doing 25mph. It’s very light, so I guess it could be worse... I’d have to try a first gen-Challenger to experience what bad braking really is.
Ride - 8/10
Its confortable! Really! Not even kidding. Suspensions are soft, seats are good, just overall very very good. When comparing to my Austin Mini 1000, it feels like a S series Mercedes. You don’t bounce all over the place and it glides over bumps and cracks. Really great!
Gearbox - 6/10
Dog-leg type, 2nd is a little bit too short and 3rd is too high. No synchro for 1st of course, but this particular car has the optional 4 speed gearbox. Gears are very smooth overall, but it’s a car that is mostly built for flat places. As soon as you start going up a mountain, you struggle quite a bit with the lack of power and the 3rd gear being a bit too long.
Handling - 3/10
To describe the handling, such video is always much better than words, but I’ll still try to explain how it feels when you’re behind the wheel, just in case the video wasn’t clear enough.
As described in the braking part, the whole thing is a bit scary. Especially while going downhill. Pulls to the left under braking, then the rear would start feeling very light on corner entry. Other than that it understeers A LOT and most likely wants to kill you. It sure looks cute, but all it wants, is your dead body through its windshield... On the other hand, since you are most likely not suicidal, you won’t get it over 35mph, which means that you’re probably somewhat safe...ish.
Value - 9/10
These can be bought for pretty cheap and it won’t lose value for sure. Parts can get a bit expensive due to rarity, but still, you won’t lose money and will most certainly make some, when selling it in a few years. As far as what it costs to run, it’s extremely economical. It does about 40 to 45mpg on average. Yes, FORTY FIVE miles per gallon. For a city car, it’s truly awesome! No need to premix also for engines after 1963.
Total - 78/100
Yeah, fuck it. It doesn’t deserve the 51 out of 100 that it’s supposed to have. Sure it’s goofy, weird, tiny, slow and so on. But who cares?? You don’t own this car for practicality, speed or even handling: you own it because it’s fun, cute and offer tons of smiles per gallons. The audio of the test drive video I did sums it up very well. It’s a mix between “hahaha” and “Ohlala”, that makes your commute SOOOO much better than if you were behind the wheel of a Maxima. I’m sure a Fiat 500 would be better and in some ways, an Austin Mini is also a much better car, but it still deserves much more than a mere 51 out of 100. Even if it sucks a little, it definitly doesn’t matter! That’s actually what makes it good!