Funtek Raid Adventure : A low-cost, Land Rover style RC car
Now reading: Hurricane and Thunder : Absima's perfect beginner 1/18th scale cars
Buying a remote control car for a child is a minefield. Do you opt for a £5 toy from wish.com, knowing full well that it won't last the week. Or do you go all in and throw £200 at a branded hobby-grade model from the likes of HPI Racing, Kyosho or FTX? Manufacturers are getting wise to the struggle and competition in the mid-market for that 'first' model is hotting up, but what can you expect for £60? We find out by unboxing and testing two of Absima’s new ‘first step’ models, the Thunder and Hurricane.
Included in the windowed packaging is the factory-built car, transmitter, printed manual and battery charger. The manual has information on getting started, charging the battery, powering up, driving, spare parts and troubleshooting.
Although classified as 'ready-to-run' you will need to provide three AA batteries to power the transmitter before you can drive it.
The battery arrives 70% charged, we advise removing it and fully charging it before first use. Flip the model over to access the battery door in the bottom of the chassis plate. Frustratingly Absima have secured the door with a screw, so keep a small cross head screwdriver on hand.
Once removed, plug the USB charger into the white three-pin balance plug on the cell pack. With its 1200mAh capacity it can take up to two and a half hours to charge from flat with the supplied charger. The supplied charger can be plugged into a laptop, car charger or even a portable battery pack, ideal if you are away on holiday. When the green LED on the charger is solid instead of flashing, the battery is fully charged.
1/18th scale can be difficult to visualise, the models measuring 25cm long by 18cm wide and varying in height depending on the body style. Below you can see them alongside a 'standard' 1/10th scale on-road drift car with a 20cm wide body.
These compact cars are suitable for indoor, as well as outdoor use and can easily be thrown in a backpack to carry them around.
Absima's first step performance chassis is available three different bodies (the truggy and buggy we are reviewing and a monster truck), each with two liveries. Blue (as pictured) or Red for the Thunder and Blue or Green for the Hurricane.
The truggy body is low and compact whilst the buggy has a taller, functional rollcage with chunkier looks.
Under the skin, the only differences in the chassis are the body posts, longer pieces are installed at the rear to support the buggies taller frame. Our photos concentrate on the truggy from here on, thus the large plastic rear wing slung out of the back. Both are retained by four mini, silver body clips.
The chassis is laid out with the motor and servo on the right and the ESC sat infront of the battery compartment on the left.
The 30A speed controller and receiver are integrated into one board sat up front, the power switch sticking out of the port side of the chassis. Helpfully, this can be accessed with the body in place.
Absima have fitted the cars with a tiny steering servo with saver. It hooks up to the plastic steering linkages to direct the front wheels via plastic tie rods. It isn't a powerful setup but should suffice for a model barely 600g in weight.
The 380-sized brushed motor has two metal mounting plates screwed into it that slot into the mouldings on the chassis to hold it in place and is hardwired to the ESC. Fitted with a metal pinion, it meshes with a large spur gear (for a 15:1 gearing) mounted to the aluminium propshaft running the length of the chassis.
Note that whilst the electronics are somewhat covered from dust, this model is not water resistant, let alone waterproof. We'd advise against using it on wet terrain if you want it to last.
The cars feature open differentials front and rear with ring and pinon gears inside. These are connected together via the aluminium propshaft that sits on metal bearings.
Non-adjustable, sprung 'shock absorbers' are fitted to the chassis. We doubt that the dampers have anything inside by the way the models bounce over terrain.
Plastic arms are joined with plastic upper links to secure the plastic hubs to the chassis. The wheel shafts and cups themselves are metal, protruding through a pinned ~6mm hex mount.
The wheels themselves are wide and secured to the hubs via 5mm hub nuts. We doubt that Absima have included inserts, but the shallow block rubber tyres are stiff enough to hold the model up.
Underneath you can get a better feel for the basic chassis plate, with the bumpers sandwiched between the plate and the diff housings. The battery compartment lid does have a catch on it, but we'd advise on securing it with the metal screw each time to prevent the battery ejecting in a roll over.
Overall the chassis is what we would expect for the price. The plastics are of a reasonable quality that should absorb an impact as opposed to cracking on impact. We like how so many of the arms and upper links are inter-changeable which will make keeping spares on hand a lot cheaper. The parts are held on hand by Absima and are surprisingly inexpensive.
Smaller than usual, the included transmitter is a basic unit with only one adjustment, a tiny steering trim dial used to effectively correct the 'tracking' of the steering. The soft foam covered steering wheel sadly isn't enough to distract you from the hard plastic of the transmitter, reminding you that this is a low budget model. With a simple sliding power switch and readout LED, the transmitter is about as basic as it can get.
Fitting the three AA batteries into the base of the pistol-grip controller requires you to break out the cross head screwdriver again.
Remember to power up the transmitter before turning on the car. The red light on the transmitter will flash quickly when it is not connected to the model.
With both the models charged up, we tested them around the office and out on the street.
On carpet those soft rubber tyres provide plenty of grip. The relatively poor steering lock (just 30°) results in a particularly large turning circle, however, a jab on the brakes before turning will load up the front end, cocking a rear wheel and allowing for a tighter rotation. We found the 2.4Ghz transmitter/receiver combo robust in its communication with no issues with interference.
With the wheels stuck out at each corner, they are more likely to come into contact with your furniture than the front and rear bumpers. This means you can clamber over the edges of rugs and room thresholds with ease. Whilst they can be used indoors, the models are probably a little too fast for the home, unless you are blessed with access to a particularly large hall.
Despite the diminutive size, these cars a much more at home outdoors. We tested them on a dry spring day on a variety of terrains.
With no real damping, the springs do all the work of resisting against the ground. They are a little under-dampened and bounce the car around on high frequency bumps but will take some of the blow out of a heavy landing. They are a fairly standard 60mm in length thus could be swapped out for something more serious from the aftermarket.
Those soft compound grippy tyres will hold the cars on inclined concrete but note that there is no drag brake or hold programmed into the ESC so coming off the power will result in them rolling back down.
The taller body mounted to the Thunder raises its centre of gravity, so that pinning the throttle from a standstill on this model will result in a little wheelie!
Meanwhile both the Thunder and the Hurricane will lift a front wheel under full power cornering, resulting in a fair amount of understeer.
There is definitely some lag in the basic transmitter setup, especially when getting onto the 'brakes'. Sadly the integrated ESC means that you won't be able to easily upgrade this to a different kit.
With their relatively low ground clearance of just 26mm, the buggies had no issues over a (mown) lawn. Even in the park where the ground was bumpy, they chopped and hopped their way across the grass with no issue.
Open differentials are common at this price, so whilst all four wheels are driven, it is still possible to get stuck with two wheels spinning as seen on the tree bark below.
On loose stuff the most fun is had, thus a gravel path or chip covered carpark provides big entertainment value. Despite the AWD, the mid-rear mount of the battery and motor gives the chassis a rear bias. This means on gravel you can turn in with a slight lift, then get back on the power to hold a big powerslide. Tight donuts are simple to perform as can be seen below.
Setting up a few stones as markers, we hammered out a track and lapped it perfecting our lines. Whilst we can't speak for the 20 minute runtime we ran both of the cars hard for a good 15 minutes and they still had some juice left in those small batteries.
Manufacturers like to play fast and loose with top speed promises and these cars are no different. We hit a GPS verified 14mph, some 7mph shy of Absima’s claims of 35km/h. Considering the younger target audience and comparatively tiny budget, we feel the performance is adequate.
Whilst you aren't going to be setting any land-speed records, the cars accelerate up to the limit quickly, which is argueably more important.
Yes, yes they will. The lightweight chassis and punchy acceleration means you can 'send' them off of a jump and get some reasonable airtime.
We'd caution against bashing them around a skatepark all afternoon as they can't put up with the sort of abuse a Traxxas Maxx can, but they aren't so fragile that you can't roll them a few times.
These cars are ideal for younger teens (13+) or younger children supervised by an adult. They are ideal for introducing the trigger throttle and analogue steering control methods of modern RC cars.
Our top selling 1/18th scale car to date has been the FTX Colt. Its classic buggy shape and inexpensive purchase price has made it a solid favourite. However, with its hunger for 8AA batteries (just for the transmitter), ultra-low ride height and £10 premium over these 'First Step' models, we feel Absima are onto a winner.
If you are looking for a toy for an older teenager or an adult, we'd suggest something a little more serious. Check our blog for more buggy reviews but the FTX Carnage and the BSD Racing Flux Storm will offer full-sized thrills albeit at a higher price point. If you believe bigger is better, also consider the Arrma Typhon Mega.
Here on our webstore we stock the Blue (as pictured) or Red Thunder and Blue or Green Hurricane with the monster truck soon to join the ranks. Keep your eyes on our store where we will also have extra batteries and a fast battery charging arriving soon.
We also stock a range of Absima cars from the £60 buggies to £200 monster trucks. You can browse the whole selection here.
Here at RC Geeks we are big fans of inexpensive RC toys like these from Absima. Browse our blog site for reviews of other great models.
Looking for that perfect RC car gift? Read out Christmas (but relevant year-round) buyers guide here.