Review: Helion Criterion RTR

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Ok, firstly an admission, this car isn’t mine, it belongs to my 7 year old son who loves it to pieces, literally on occasion.  So for this review there was effectively two test drivers.

At the price point, $230 from a local store in a Ready to Run form, it not only presents good value, but good quality and a persuasive option for the learner driver, or novice parent.  I did a bit of research as the budget I was given was very tight, and I wanted my Son to be able to race later on if he continued to retain his interest.

Whilst adjustable turnbuckles and other setup parts have little or no adjustability on the Criterion, it really is not aimed at the Racing market despite it’s design following an older generation of racing buggies.  However with a battery, charger, radio etc all included, the only thing you need is some AA batteries in the radio and you are away.  Yes the 1A wall chrger takes forever, but if you already have batteries they fit in, and the quick release battery strap fits the hump pack 7 cell battery in just nicely as well as regular NiMH and Lipo battery packs.  Just remember to make sure the switch on the ESC is set to the correct battery chemistry as the ESC does not automatically detect this!

Manufacturer: Helion
Kit: Criterion RTR
Type: 1:10 2wd Buggy
Website: http://helion-rc.com/criterion/
Servo: Helion HLNA0058 3kg Waterproof
Radio: Helion HRS-3.1 2.4GHz Radio System
ESC: Helion Metric 30A ESC
Motor: Helion 12T Brushed 540
Body: Helion
Rims: Helion
Tyres Front: Helion Rib
Tyres Rear: Helion Block
Differential: Gear
Motor Configuration: Rear Mount
Optional Items: At the moment, shoe is all bog stock, with the only additional items being used are batteries.

The Unpack

Inside the box lies a very tidy package.
Inside the box lies a very tidy package.

Ok, normally this is a build section, but as this is a RTR, it will be hte Unpack!  The packaging looked great, and once the box was opened proved easy to slide out, and provided the vehicle with plenty of protection.  One surprise was the ESC and battery plug.  I was expecting from my research, and from the box, a Tamiya style plug that I would have to swap out for a deans to suit the batteries I already have.  To my surprise a deans plug was already fitted to the ESC, charger and battery.  Once less job for me and a big plus for the Distributor or Helion, whoever changed it.

First Impressions

The appearance of the Buggy is very good, and the quality seemed very sound.  I was certainly impressed with the package considering what it cost.  The layout of the vehicle is fairly conventional and the blue colour scheme looked fantastic. I love the wheels far more than any of the dish wheels you see on race buggies.  Not as practical I know, and some will disagree, but I like them.  Important things like the slipper clutch and Lipo cutoff are there, even some alloy parts in important places.

The Drive

I was quite surprised with the power that came from this 12T unit which puts on an amazing turn of speed.  Admittedly it does come with a 3000mah 7 cell NiMH battery, although the Criterion is not much slower on a 6 cell.  Put a lipo in and slike the switch on the ESC and you have even more power on tap.  I have to admit it would have been nice to have a beginner mode like the traxxas vehicle,s but with a 6 cell NiMH it isn’t ridiculously fast for a young driver with some supervision.

Natually the 7 ear old owner was the first to test the vehicle, and a little disapointingly within the first 5 minutes of driving the gear cover fell off with the screws nowhere to be found in the grass.  Fortunately I had a couple of the right  size in my pit bag, but really it was a minor issue.  I should have checked how tight they were.  Certainly the vehicle’s ability to zip along at impressive speed, do donuts and burnouts put a huge smile on the face of the birthday boy.  When I had a chance to test the vehicle I was no less impressed.  I was able to test the Criterion on Bitumen, Grass, Dirt and on the Launceston R/C carpet track, and I have found little that this plucky buggy can’t conquer.
On Bitumen it’s handling was fairly neautral with the tyres providing good grip, and seem to show a reasonable longevity given the abuse that they have been given. Sure there is a little push understeer, but that’s because the wheels are barely on the ground.  On grass the tyres happily grab the dirt to propel the buggy forward.  On looser dirt the grip was reasonably, but in loos and dusty conditions the arder compound provided better rooster tails than traction as you can see in the photos.  It was on a carpet track that this buggy surprised me to be honest.  For a rear motor car it was fairly poised and did not show too much tendancy to traction roll, or slide around.  The fairly neutral banace remained and a surprising level of grip on caret which nrmally only suits carpet secialist tyres.  In fact I will be “borrowing” these tyres to try on my buggy at some stage around the track to compare lap times and handling. Jumping the car did have a tendancy to thrown the nose down, but some throtle application soon corrected this.

Damage

Needless to say, as the new toy this Buggy has been run in a variety of places, with a varying level of supevision.  Whilst the plastic parts are fairly flexible, that provides a bonus for crash resistance with some massive and spectacular crashes happening at the hands of my Son in locations varying from gutters to walls, trees, jumps at a model show display and even a washing line.  Apart from popping off the odd ball cup, the only damage sustained was from the washing line which caught the rear wheel and tore the arm off.  I was expecting a fair layoff to occur because of broken hinge pin holders, missing hinge pin and broken A arms.  However after some searching we found the hinge pin, the A arm and hinge pin retainer were unbroken, and the only thing missing was the plastic ball slieve that goes over the hinge pin and sits in the hinge pin bracket.  At the time this was replaced by a washer and an O ring as that was all I had on hand at the time, and, well after using that for 3 months I really must replace the part.  HLNA0310 is the part number, and comes with a few other useful spares at the $10 USD list price. However I suspect one of the ones from my XV-01 kit will actually fit it.

Other damage so far, apart from tyre wear, and the rear wing being cracked and a little 2nd hand now, the Criterion has proved to be as strong as an Ox.

Parts Availability

Parts are fairly readily available from my local store, although they carry no stock the exploded parts view on the Helion website http://helion-rc.com/criterion/Criterion_ExplodedView.pdf makes it easy to identify the correct part.  There are not many aftermarket parts available, but being a traditional design it is easy to upgrade motors, tyres, wheels, radios etc etc.

Photos

Final Thoughts

As a RTR package, it not only ticks all the boxes, but puts a smile on your dial, and certainly has done so for my Son.  It is however fairly powerful so some supervsion of jun

or drivers may be needed to start with.  It has been difficult to get any time at the wheel myself, but then it isn’t my car is it!

3 thoughts on “Review: Helion Criterion RTR”

  1. I bought a helion criterion buggy for my son . nothing but troubles with the car had it for a month and then the motor burned out two weeks later pinion gear and the slipper gear warn out the hobby shop said it wasn’t a warranty issue just regular wear and tear I’m not happy about the quality with the product

    1. It sounds like you have not had a good experience with your Criterion. I am surprised that the steel pinion gear was work out in any way, although certainy there is scope for the spur gear to be damaged if the mesh is not set rught, and the slipper if it is too loose. Certainly slippers wear out, they are designed to as part of hteir job, but a month or two even under heavy usage of reverse to forward throttle application and jumps shouldn’t have worn it out. Have you taken it up with the distributor or manufacturer?

  2. Overall I think the Helion Criterion is a brilliant product for the crazy-low price, especially when you see it on sale online. Things like a slipper clutch are very rare at this price point and you don’t find it on more expensive Tamiya buggies. I picked one up for my daughter who’d outgrown her £20 junky RC car.

    The ‘downside’ to the Hellion is that it is a proper RC car for ‘toy’ money. It’s largely a clone of the Kyosho RB5, a high end buggy from around 2010 so no slouch and not really a ‘basher’ even though sold to the basher market. It’s only really the lack of proper turnbuckles, better shocks and metal drive shafts that separate it from the Kyosho. When adjusted with the spacers the shocks do the job, turnbuckles could be easily added and, perhaps with a brushless upgrade, you’d have a solid club racer.

    As it’s a ‘racer in disguise’ you have to expect to replace parts now and again, especially if driven hard. With the fairly ferocious speed a young novice can damage it quite easily. Do a jump on a hard surface while holding in the throttle and you’ll instantly grind the spur gear. I have three spares on hand as it happens quite often! I hadn’t thought about taming it with a 6 cell battery for a little less oomph by will try this. My daughter tends to stab at the trigger as it accelerates so wildly.

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