Our Two Cents: 7 cars that we got wrong at first


In the last episode of Our Two Cents, Hagerty Media’s staffers shared the first vehicles they reviewed in their career in the automotive media business. Some were expected, some were creative in ways that only make sense in a Web 2.0 world, but each provided an entertaining look behind the scenes.

That is our mission in this series, but Hagerty Community member @hyperv6 asked for more.

This story should have taken another path: Cars you reviewed back then that you see much differently today.

How often have we seen cars get awards that turn out to be a major lemon a few years later. Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year has suffered this fate many times. I today have many old magazines and read these reviews and now with hindsight can say this story would be much different today.

That’s a fantastic question! I posed the question to the staff here at Hagerty Media. Let’s see what cars we reviewed “back then” that we see differently today.

The Mitsubishi Mirage is actually awesome

Sajeev Mehta

Boy, I am glad that executive editor Eric Weiner mentioned this car. I was one of the few journalists that heaped praise on the affordable little gas-sipper—and for good reason. However, it was less about the product and more about the finances.

Should you buy the Mirage over its sub-$15K competition, or any “superior” used car? Maybe, but given the combo of a low asking price, $1000 rebate with 1.9 percent APR (this month), robust 10-year warranty, and new-car smell unavailable in used cars, you’d be forgiven for heading straight to a Mitsubishi dealer, using the extra monthly cash for food, gas, shelter, children, baby momma/daddy drama, medical bills, credit-card debt, college debt … see where I’m going with this?

Not everyone was thinking along my lines, at least back then. Eric Weiner has wisely changed his tune: “I was pretty harsh on the Mitsubishi Mirage back in 2014. It had a little to do with the fact that there were (and are) so few shameless budget cars. Now that new-car prices have gone insane, I think a cheap-but-honest thing like the Mirage is not so bad.”

The Ford Maverick is now a terrible value

That’s a spicy meatball with steel wheels! Carvana

Matthew Fink, branded content writer and car-detailing guru, has a beef with the state of affairs for the Ford Maverick. After heaping praise on it in his review, he realized the resale world of these featherweight trucks is more than a little unfair:

I reviewed the 2022 Ford Maverick in December of 2021. I loved it and noted how impressive it was that Ford was selling a brand-new, pretty great truck for under $20,000. However, I didn’t realize how great that price really was. CarMax is selling used base, two-wheel-drive models for $33,000 now. As of this writing, I can only find three new Mavericks for sale at all central Ohio dealerships combined, and they are over $40K, loaded.

I now see that $20,000 Maverick as more of a game-changer than I realized—if Ford could keep up with demand! There is nothing even close in the market, especially considering Ford doesn’t charge extra for the hybrid now.

The BMW 318i (E30) legacy


Steven Cole Smith, our special projects editor and McFish expert, has changed his tune on the first vehicle he reviewed, a 1985 BMW 318i. While not the performance darling of the 3 Series lineup, it proved to have a staying power that he appreciates.

Of all the cars reviewed by my colleagues, few have maintained the sense of purpose mine has over the years. The BMW 318i that I reviewed doesn’t exist anymore, but the BMW 3 Series certainly does, and it has maintained its assignment as the family-sized entry-level model, despite the presence of the 1 and 2 Series. The 330i starts at $43,800 now—more, even counting inflation, than the four-cylinder 318i I tested in 1985 was—but it remains a solid, fun-to-drive car that is as happy carpooling as it is carving corners. Long live the 3 Series.

The Ford Bronco Sport is too popular

2021 Bronco Sport outer banks front three quarter
Cameron Neveu

His love for Love’s truck stops may be as strong as ever, but Imola’s motorsports editor Cameron Neveu has soured on the Ford Bronco Sport. As with Fink and the Ford Maverick, it’s common to dislike a vehicle once popularity changes its trajectory.

A couple years ago, I shot the Bronco Sport early in its run. Like, really early. I don’t think I had even seen the new, big-boy Bronc’ yet, so I had hearts in my eyes for the Escape-platformed stud. Right angles, retro-inspired touches, and decent off-road capability. But now everyone and their cousin has one. They infest Michigan like whitetail deer.

In 2023, I’m less enthusiastic about the ride, sure, but I would still take it over any other compact sport utility.

Minivans need more love


Fresh from rewiring his 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo, Insider’s senior editor Eddy Eckart takes a moment to dig deeper. One of his earlier automotive experiences has matured over the years.

I’m just a spring chicken in this auto-review world, so I’m going to reach back to my youth for this one: Minivans.

I didn’t like them one bit when they infested the roads in the ’90s and was disappointed when my parents picked out a ’92 Grand Caravan (though it did its best impression of ’90s sporty in dark green with gold lace wheels). I now recognize the value of being able to haul stuff. That, and I love how automakers are still using the minivan as a platform to implement crafty innovations that maximize space or distract little humans.

The SL500 was indeed a proper Merc

Sajeev Mehta

Aaron Robinson, editor at large for Hagerty Drivers Club magazine, gave us a heckuva story about his time with the R230 Mercedes-Benz, so let’s get right to it.

It’s all a blur, an endless series of Corvette and 3 Series comparison tests. But one that stands out in memory is the 2003 Mercedes-Benz SL500. I was pretty hard on the styling because I thought Mercedes being Mercedes, i.e., conservative, shouldn’t have bent so much to the winds of fashion with silly design embellishments like those giant hood vents. And at the time we used to like to make fun of the Mr. Peanut headlights on all Benzes of that generation.

Mercedes was so steamed by the review that it sent a hit squad over from New Jersey to bitch up a storm in Csaba Csere’s office. He kept me out of it, which was to his credit. And now I think the design has held up pretty well and it has proven to be one of the better looking SLs.

Once I sent a mocking email to Don Sherman about a glowing review he did back in the ’80s of the Renault Fuego, in which he wrote that the car was likely to cause American gas jockeys to start speaking French with reverence.

He replied with words to the effect that I should live so long to see all my mistakes of judgement come back to haunt me.

Maybe we weren’t critical enough of the Neon



Joe DeMatio, veteran of the car-journalism industry and our magazine’s senior manager of content, takes the opposite approach. Maybe we sometimes look at cars through rose-colored glasses. As previously discussed with the Dodge Avenger, Chrysler was riding high in the saddle in the 1990s. But perhaps its story was a bit too much like that of Icarus, and the Neon and its three-speed automatic and less-than-ideal long-term quality is why it never reached the rarified air (and customer loyalty) that the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla did. But let’s allow Joe to speak for himself.

There’s a lot that can be said, in retrospect, about Detroit’s efforts to respond to the superb cars from Japan in the 1990s, but one car in particular that kinda makes me wince now is the Dodge/Plymouth Neon. It was cheap and cheerful, and it looked great and drove incredibly well, but it was poorly bolted together and it was introduced with a three-speed automatic transmission, laughable even back then.

I distinctly remember that the trade newspaper Automotive News did a story, some time after the car launched, describing how Toyota had bought a Neon to dissect it for competitive analysis, which all automakers routinely do. Toyota operatives described the Neon as being basically a prototype. Meaning, in the Toyota manufacturing system, a production-spec Neon would be several generations of development away from being offered to the public. That’s how unrefined it was and how shoddy its construction was, compared with that of the cars against which it was ostensibly created to compete. Now, I know that many people drove Neons happily for years, and passed them along to family members who drove them for years more. I know that the car has served amateur racers faithfully and affordably for decades, and I personally had one of the best drives of my life in a Neon SRT-4 in rural Kentucky circa 1998.

One could argue that the Neon’s affordability compensated for its faults, and that Chrysler was doing the very best it could with the engineering and production resources it possessed 29 years ago. But the automotive media establishment was so eager for Detroit to score home runs, we routinely turned a blind eye to obvious failings from the home team.


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    I knew several people that had Neons. They all loved driving them, but every one of them went through head gaskets like crazy!

    The best critique I’ve ever heard of the Neon came during a scene from the movie “She’s Out of My League” when during a scene where they are point rating the character who is dating a gorgeous girl comments about his car.

    “…but you have to deduct a point because he drives a $hitbox so you have to deduct s point. What’s wrong with my car, eh I don’t know except the people who make that car don’t even like it…”

    Enough said…

    We bought a Neon Sport new in ’95. It was a fantastic car put together with the cheapest parts. That would be the problem looking at one now. After all of these years, most of those cheap parts will have likely broken.

    I have a 2023 maverick on order.loaded for just over 30 grand. Can’t believe people would pay several grand over that for used.thats just dumb. I regards to the bronco,I live in northern lower Michigan,don’t know anyone that owns one,and rarely even see one on the road.

    We see the Bronco Sports all over the Metro Detroit area, though I feel like I see more of the full size Bronco’s than the Sport’s these days…

    Besides, if popularity is a deducting point, then the Mustang is crap. I have top admit, that is why I yawn every time I see a Mustang, but I don’t think I would deduct points from a Bronco because people like it.

    yup-the new bronco is something else–When I think Bronco-I think off road capability -Built so light duty it isn’t funny-Just take a look Under them-Economy car suspension/platic skid pans ect–This could be Fords Neon–

    Daughter had one, bought used from my sister – NEVER had a headgasket problem. It wosbroken into twice and stolen once but if it hadn’t rusted away she might well still be driving it. It was bulletproof (twin cam 5 speed)

    In most cases people buy a car that suits them, use and appreciate it until it’s traded in, never knowing or careing how much auto magazine editors hate it.

    Exactly. I will always be a Mopar guy even if the dumb asses go electric which is phoney and will be a mistake.

    Big $$ being spent to retool for 10 more years of Pentstar V6. New twin turbo inline six.
    Chevy developing a new sb V8.
    2024 Stang with no plug on sight.
    The handwriting is on the wall.

    Had a 1995 Neon Sport with 5 speed. No head gasket issues or anything else major for that point. I drove it to 93K miles and gave it to our son for college. 4 years later at 117K (and graduation) we sold it our nephew for high school and it topped out at 147K. Not bad for one adult and two teenage drivers. I must mention that I (and others subsequently) adhered to pretty strict maintenance schedule, especially oil/filter changes. Handled well and only needed one replacement clutch.

    True and Chrysler Corp solved the issue with a redesigned head gasket. They also covered the repair on cars long out of warranty on a case by case basis. My 1987 Plymouth Neon had the head gasket job done at 42K miles. That was out of the 3 year, 36K new vehicle warranty but I had purchased a 7 year, 75K extended factory warranty at point of sale when new and so the repair cost me the $50 deductible. The car is still my daily driver and at 236K miles, it still runs and looks as it did when brand new. I even got the car featured in the Plymouth Bulletin, July / August 2021, #369 volume 62, #5.
    I love this car!

    Hind sight is 20-20.

    The Bronco sport has been exposed for what it is. A cheap Escape in Bronco clothing. Sales are tanking.

    The Maverick is just an Escape in Maverick clothing and folks will find out in the end they did not get what they paid for over paying. Why Ford is unable to break 100,000 units is strange as the plant is shared with the Bronco Sport and could build 300,000 units. I suspect they are artificially keeping demand up. Ford has real money issues.

    318 has always been over rated. They are expensive to keep up and are built no better than a Buick.

    Mini Van just is for the practical sorts that just want to get there tough in in the Mopar it may be smoking..

    Mitsubishi. There was a reason Japanese airmen crashed their Mitsubishi planes into ships. They were out matched by the competition.

    Neon. Not bad not great but better than a Omni. What else can you say?

    Ford has real money issues as it gets away from core products and spending all their engineering cash on evs, even though majority of buyers don’t want that junk.

    I’ll never buy another Ford after my 2018 Escape 1.5 motor cracked a head and blew the motor at 36K. Yes Ford replaced it but they’ll never get that shot at me again. I asked for an extended warranty on the new motor and was refused. I was a Ford guy for years but no more. GM and Toyota now.

    I’ve been a Ford guy for years myself, but my current Fusion is my last Ford. Too many recalls, two power steering rack failures (the car has only 61K miles on it, but it’s out of the power train warranty. They had a recall for steering rack issues, but my car wasn’t covered by it. My water pump also had to be replaced at 32K miles. I only drive about 8k miles a year, but I always keep up with maintenance on my cars. Anyway, I’m in the market for a new car, but I’m waiting for prices to come back down to earth. I’m most interest in Hondas and Mazdas.

    Yeah, what’s up with that internal gasket/seal defect scandal?? How can they get away with forcing consumers to keep a defective engine and/or replacement engines with the same defect? I only know about it because the GSA bought fleets of them and now some federal government agencies are stuck with them too.

    Actually, the Mitsubishi Zero was VERY competitive in the Pacific war, except for two very critical flaws: it had inadequate armor, and did not have a self-sealing fuel tank.

    And, I presume you do know the actual reasons Kamikaze pilots crashed into Allied ships.

    The SL500 with Mr. Peanut headlights debuted in 2003, not 2001. Early models were among the best looking SLs ever, although later “upgrades” destroyed the cohesive flow of the original design.

    The R230 is fine, but not as good as a R129…
    A friend was left a R230 by a late friend.
    It always has issues

    Glad you included mini-vans! Still one of the most utilitarian vehicle ever produced in the U.S. Crew cab pick-up truck are a poor substitute IMO but mord profitable for mfcs.

    I own a 2006 SL500. Fantastic car and overlooked by many people.
    Great handling and power, quiet, comfortable.
    Has the ABC suspension, have had to replace one shock but find an ‘Indy’ shop and source part yourself and not overly expensive.
    Strictly my summer car and only has 79k miles on it.

    A fellow car salesman and I worked at a Dodge dealership in B.C. We each had 1998 Dodge Neon R/T’s as Demo’s.Mine was white with blue stripes, and vice versa for his demo. They were fantastic to drive, and they ran great on regular gas!! We tried to hide them from the public on the dealerships lower 40 lot, to no avail.Luckily, we each were able to sell our own Demo’s, and make commi$$ion!

    I haven’t seen a Neon on the road for years. They thinned out pretty quick and most have been recycled into the next generation of Dodge junk. Chrysler is kind of using like Buddhism in a sense. As for it’s Japanese competition of the day, plenty of strong runners are still out there – some of which even still demand a decent price.

    I agree on the build quality and reliability on vehicles from Japan.
    However every one was given to the same malady, THE TIN WORM! They may have been built very well, but boy did they rust. I had two Datsuns literally
    dissolve out from beneath me. Interesting though that the two low priced domestic cars I have owned, both Plymouths, a 1987 Horizon and a 1997 Neon were the most reliable cars I have ever owned. Even better, they did not rust out because Chrysler galvanized the lower body panels, smart.

    The new Bronco styling is just average. The Bronco image from the past is what’s selling those ‘lil 4×4’s.

    It’s been said over and over: Build a reliable “back to basics” pickup for under 20k and then just sit back and relax while the money rolls in. Apparently nobody in Detroit wants to relax. Or maybe the profit margin of jacking the “back to basics” Maverick’s price up to 40k is that much more enticing?

    The Honda Crosstour was berated almost universally for looking “weird”. Now it looks like a current model of half the crossovers on the road.

    We LOVE our Crosstour; best car we’ve ever owned. What is there to not figure out about them?🤷🏻‍♂️

    I guess we will just have to keep enjoying our secret best little car ever by ourselves. Fine with me.

    Does not look that way to me; it still looks awkward and strange – on the rare occasions I actually see one.

    Tell Cameron to stay away from Love’s Truck stops.
    I used to use the one on the interstate then they raised the price of premium 60-70 vents above regular…this was well before pandemic inflation.
    I sent an email to corporate to complain, they said stuff it.
    I stay away now.

    I was a dealership service manager when the Neon was introduced. Chrysler reps brought out a Saturn and a Ford to comparison test against the Neon. The Neon won every category hands down. The early head gasket issues were covered by Chrysler as goodwill far after the warranties ran out although often with a hundred dollar deductible. Overall, considering the times, Neons were great cars.

    I helped out at a Chrysler store in 1993 while their service mangler, a buddy of mine, was off with ulcer issues. After the third complaint about “head aches while driving” I took a Neon out for a drive. The windscreen was distorted! In all we replaced a dozen windscreens with the same issue.
    After recovering from his ulcers my now ex-buddy avoided the auto business like the plague.

    The factory rep asked me to check out a Sebring that the compass wouldn’t work. It had been at 2 other dealerships for repair without success. We were the last chance before a buy back. After spending some time, parts replacement and research we found the selling dealer had replaced the windshield with a metallic shade. It skewed the compass. A factory replacement windshield cured the problem.

    My automotive faux pas was the VW Touareg. I convinced a family member it was the pinnacle of midsize SUV offerings. It turned out to become an expensive vehicle that was fond of requiring maintenance. That also led to another lesson learned that at the time I thought only applied to American vehicles: never buy the first model year.

    Ha-ha… My Dad always told me the same thing: NEVER buy the first model year of a new vehicle! In 1984, I bought a first year CRX. If you were around then, you’ll remember that they only offered three colors (red, white, or blue), two engines (1.3L or 1.5L), and two trannies (Manual and AT). You’ll also remember that it was the hottest thing out at that time and you had to wait for months to get yours. So I ordered a Blue 1.5L with a manual and then sat back to wait. Probably a month and a half or two months later, my salesman called and said he had a white 1.5L Manual if I’d like to get it, otherwise it was probably going to be another couple months of waiting. By this time, my Dad had told me I was foolish for ordering the first model year, but I told him “It’s the same Civic they’ve been making for a while now – just a new body on it.” Guess what screwed up? Yep. The bodywork. The paint on the silver bottom half of the early cars peeled up and fell off when your girlfriend let gas drip on it below the filler door… Score another one for the wisdom of my Dad…

    An exception to the first year rule was the slimmed down 1977 Olds 98 I drove for almost 30 years after buying it used in 1982. It was a 1970’s unicorn, a vehicle that GM genuinely did right. Over 300K miles on the 403 motor without any rebuild. Body hardware was rock solid. It finally died of terminal rust, I live in Buffalo after all. But I did drive it to the junkyard.

    I had a 1979 Olds 98 with a 403. I also bought it used in 1982 and drove it until it had 165,000 miles on it and my brother was begging me to sell it to him. He bought it and made many a”Bonsai” runs from Ohio to Arizona. I know that he eventually sold it at well over 200,000 miles and still going strong.

    My father in law had a 1979 Olds Custom Cruiser station wagon with the 403. He finally sold it when it hit 650,000 miles. Rebuilt engine at 500,00. Ran great.

    I share Mr. Robinson’s epiphany concerning the Mercedes R230 platform. A 2003 SL 55 pushed 500 horsepower and under 5 seconds 0-60….with, at the time, polarizing exterior design. Not so much today. Perhaps an earlier example of a 2023 Lexus LC??…………hmmmmmm.

    Car & Driver writes that 95% of the electric cars are STILL on the road; that’s ’cause 5% of them made it all the way home. We’ll watch for THAT survey next year.

    As for the Mirage, the biggest lie the car buying public tells itself is asking the question; why can’t they just build a simple, basic, cheap car anymore?
    Answer: because you won’t buy it!
    “What no optional heated food messager,? What a piece of junk!”

    I think the Bronco Sport is a gen 1 Escape reboot. And that’s not a bad thing.
    Looked at a Neon back in the day, bought a Mercury Tracer LTS instead. The Neon was OK in 5-spped guise but the LTS with that scappy little Mazda engine and fantastic handling won the day.

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