Consumer Reports didn’t think highly of the Subaru 360

Colin
By Colin Wood
Jan 24, 2022 | Subaru 360, Consumer Reports, Car Review

What did Consumer Reports have to say in its review of Subaru 360, the car maker’s first production car and one of America’s earliest exposures to the kei car?

Two words: “Not Acceptable.”

Why such harsh criticism? You can read the full review below or by clicking here, but even in a time when urban traffic congestion was on the rise (due in part to a decline in decent public transportation offerings) and there was a demand for compact, efficient city cars, the Subaru 360 fell short in a number of key categories when compared to pretty much every other car on the road–namely in speed, driving dynamics and passive safety.

So, is this valid criticism, or was Consumer Reports being too harsh on the little Subaru 360?

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Comments
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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
1/24/22 2:33 p.m.

That MSRP of $1357 comes out to a little over $10,300 in today's money. So yeah, that's some pretty cheap transportation.

Type Q
Type Q SuperDork
1/24/22 2:54 p.m.

When I was in Japanese documentary about the development of the 360. It was designed for a particular place and time. 1960's US roads were not it. For the US market, I don't think CR was too harsh on it.    

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
1/24/22 3:00 p.m.

It wasn't really intended for the US market and given the year the test was done it's no surprise they found it unacceptable.

Throw in the idiosyncrasies of a two stroke and it was never going to get a good rating here.

adam525i
adam525i GRM+ Memberand Dork
1/24/22 3:01 p.m.

That little 360 cc fan cooled twin 2 stroke always looks so familiar to me as my '88 Polaris Indy Trail had a 488 in it made by Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru), naturally I think someone needs to swap in an 800 Triple along with CVT setup out of an Indy Storm with 3 glorious expansion chamber pipes coming out the back.

nocones
nocones GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/24/22 3:13 p.m.

That is a shockingly thurough takedown.  I don't think they liked it much.  

I enjoy mine, though it's slightly modified.  

nocones
nocones GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/24/22 3:14 p.m.

In reply to adam525i :

My Autobianchi needs an engine.  This is one of the ideas floating in space.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/24/22 3:54 p.m.
Colin Wood said:
feature_image

 

I love how the swing axle already has the rear tire rolled up onto the sidewall when the car is just parked there.

Yes, I realize that the car is empty, but still.

 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/24/22 9:24 p.m.

In reply to Duke :

The 4wd models of the 80s (and the Loyales from the 90s) specified up to two degrees of positive camber in the front.

Subaru used the same control arms and uprights on the 4wds and 2wds, they merely used taller springs and said "Yep, that'll work" for the resulting alignment.

 

...

I wonder if CR tested the Ford Prefect and judged it to be "Mostly Harmless".

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
1/24/22 10:03 p.m.

I feel like Consumer Reports, in a relatively rare occurrance, got it 100% right with this car. It's pretty terrible. I also think "NOT ACCEPTABLE" -Consumer Reports would be an excellent Lemons theme for a Subaru. Not a 360 because they're not Lemons legal.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
1/24/22 11:48 p.m.

CR called the Toyota Matrix's engine smooth and peppy. The Pontiac Vibe got a harsh and buzzy. Same year. Same engine. SAME CAR.

CR holds zero water with me. Although  they are probably right about the 360.

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
1/25/22 7:46 a.m.

The only reason the Subaru 360 arrived on our shores was because Malcolm Bricklin brought it here.

You know him. He also gave us a plastic Canadian car with his name on it.

And the brief marketing of Bertone & Pininfarina Fiats.

And the Yugo.

rslifkin
rslifkin UberDork
1/25/22 7:49 a.m.
Appleseed said:

CR called the Toyota Matrix's engine smooth and peppy. The Pontiac Vibe got a harsh and buzzy. Same year. Same engine. SAME CAR.

CR holds zero water with me. Although  they are probably right about the 360.

Is it possible one version of the car has more sound insulation than the other?  Especially if one was a higher trim than the other. 

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/25/22 7:59 a.m.

In reply to Appleseed :

See also: "rugged" Honda Passport vs "cheap" Isuzu Rodeo, when they were built on the same assembly line and were literally identical except for the applied badging.

 

Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
1/25/22 8:07 a.m.
Colin Wood said:

That MSRP of $1357 comes out to a little over $10,300 in today's money. So yeah, that's some pretty cheap transportation.

Kind of amazing that the current cheapest new car you can buy is $14,395 (if the linked autotrader article is to be believed).  When you consider how much more substance and complication you get for the new car (meeting new safety standards), it's pretty amazing that its that cheap. 

 

Autotrader article about cheapest new car

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
1/25/22 8:10 a.m.
ddavidv said:

The only reason the Subaru 360 arrived on our shores was because Malcolm Bricklin brought it here.

You know him. He also gave us a plastic Canadian car with his name on it.

And the brief marketing of Bertone & Pininfarina Fiats.

And the Yugo.

He's been trying to find the next Subaru ever since Subaru of America gave him the boot.

And failing spectacularly.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
1/25/22 11:21 a.m.
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
1/25/22 11:38 a.m.

Any motorcycle in my garage would fare even worse in an accident with your average American car than a Subaru 360. Would Consumer's Reports consider them all unacceptable as well? What about Polaris Slingshots and other three wheeled contraptions? What about a Lotus 7 or any replica of one? The nose of a Lotus 7 would go right under the bumper of your average Chevy Tahoe.

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
1/25/22 11:53 a.m.

Yeah, CU has long since lost its way when it comes to cars.  I recall old articles where they would recommend getting the larger optional engine in a car, then 3 months  later say that bigger engines were a waste of money.

clshore
clshore Reader
1/25/22 12:17 p.m.

In reply to Duke :

That's because with a swing axle car, when you raise the car, the axles droop, and when you lower it, 
you have roll the car a few feet to settle the suspension back to normal and get rid of the negative camber.
Every owner of swing axle equipped Spitfire, ACVW, and Corvair knows that. 

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
1/25/22 1:34 p.m.
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:

Any motorcycle in my garage would fare even worse in an accident with your average American car than a Subaru 360. Would Consumer's Reports consider them all unacceptable as well? What about Polaris Slingshots and other three wheeled contraptions? What about a Lotus 7 or any replica of one? The nose of a Lotus 7 would go right under the bumper of your average Chevy Tahoe.

They're not an enthusiast publication. I imagine that yes, they would say a motorcycle, slingshot, or Lotus 7 are unacceptable due to compromises in utility, reliability, and safety. They're reviewing Impalas and Corollas and Camrys for the suburban moms and dads of the US, not oddball stuff that has numerous problems that weirdos like us will put up with.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
1/25/22 1:34 p.m.
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) said:

Yeah, CU has long since lost its way when it comes to cars.  I recall old articles where they would recommend getting the larger optional engine in a car, then 3 months  later say that bigger engines were a waste of money.

They lost my trust when they rigged the Suzuki Samurai rollover tests.

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/25/22 2:16 p.m.

Subaru: "Not acceptable? Well maybe you're not acceptable, Consumer Reports!" 

They'e mainly right. Cool looking though.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
1/25/22 2:43 p.m.

In reply to clshore :

No, I get that, that's why I specifically mentioned it.  It's just worse than typical for a swing axle.

 

Driven5
Driven5 UberDork
1/25/22 3:01 p.m.
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:

Any motorcycle in my garage would fare even worse in an accident with your average American car than a Subaru 360.

I'm not so sure about that... This might be one case where 'thrown to safety' could legitimately be the least objectionable alternative.

Pushrod
Pushrod Reader
1/26/22 5:06 a.m.

Consumer Reports: Not Acceptable!!

Grassroots Motorsports: Yeah, so?

 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
1/26/22 8:58 a.m.
rslifkin said:
Appleseed said:

CR called the Toyota Matrix's engine smooth and peppy. The Pontiac Vibe got a harsh and buzzy. Same year. Same engine. SAME CAR.

CR holds zero water with me. Although  they are probably right about the 360.

Is it possible one version of the car has more sound insulation than the other?  Especially if one was a higher trim than the other. 

Its possible. But it didn't happen that way. Same engine, same transmission, same equivalent trim level. I think it was the XRS and GT.

rslifkin
rslifkin UberDork
1/26/22 8:59 a.m.
Appleseed said:
rslifkin said:
Appleseed said:

CR called the Toyota Matrix's engine smooth and peppy. The Pontiac Vibe got a harsh and buzzy. Same year. Same engine. SAME CAR.

CR holds zero water with me. Although  they are probably right about the 360.

Is it possible one version of the car has more sound insulation than the other?  Especially if one was a higher trim than the other. 

Its possible. But it didn't happen that way. Same engine, same transmission, same equivalent trim level. I think it was the XRS and GT.

Yep, that confirms it's bullE36 M3.  CR has always given me a strong impression that they love Toyota and Honda and think all other cars are junk. 

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
1/26/22 11:58 a.m.
Pushrod said:

Consumer Reports: Not Acceptable!!

Grassroots Motorsports:   Challenge material!

 

Fixed that for you.

Pushrod
Pushrod Reader
1/27/22 10:02 a.m.

In reply to Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) :

That's even better. Thanks!  :)

Type Q
Type Q SuperDork
1/27/22 10:48 a.m.

Consumers Reports has it problems, but so did the 360.

Going back to the my earlier post, the Japanese documentary I watched had the designers and engineers who created the thing interviewed. It was the first car most of the had worked on. They were all on a steep learning curve. It barely passed all the tests the Japanese Ministry of Transportation required for a car to go on sale. It was a first effort from then non-car builder.

 

     

nocones
nocones GRM+ Memberand UberDork
1/27/22 11:40 a.m.

In reply to Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) / Pushrod :

​​​​​

frenchyd
frenchyd UltimaDork
1/27/22 3:21 p.m.
Appleseed said:

CR called the Toyota Matrix's engine smooth and peppy. The Pontiac Vibe got a harsh and buzzy. Same year. Same engine. SAME CAR.

CR holds zero water with me. Although  they are probably right about the 360.

I trust Consumer reports to tell me about toasters and vacuum cleaners.  Plus a thousand other things I really don't care about but would like to get a good value from. 
    Something I do care about, cars.  They don't have a clue. 
     Their audience puts as much importance on the light bulbs in the dash as the durability of the crankshaft.  ( mainly because their respondents don't value a crankshaft as much as a light bulb).  
     The most beautiful car ever made  the Jaguar XKE got bad marks because few mechanics knew how to work on them.  
    Sort of like complaining about the Mona Lisa because her smile isn't big.  

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia UltraDork
1/27/22 3:30 p.m.

We have been looking for a 360 van , my buddy drove one in High School

GCrites80s
GCrites80s HalfDork
1/29/22 10:44 a.m.
Appleseed said:
rslifkin said:
Appleseed said:

CR called the Toyota Matrix's engine smooth and peppy. The Pontiac Vibe got a harsh and buzzy. Same year. Same engine. SAME CAR.

CR holds zero water with me. Although  they are probably right about the 360.

Is it possible one version of the car has more sound insulation than the other?  Especially if one was a higher trim than the other. 

Its possible. But it didn't happen that way. Same engine, same transmission, same equivalent trim level. I think it was the XRS and GT.

Engine sounds could have been resonating through the cladding on the Pontiac. I'm serious.

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