2001 Reliant Robin 65 / SLX 0.85L


A truly British built vehicle from a low volume manufacturer guarantees exclusivity and attention


Front brake drum internally scored - the part is unique to Robin MK3s and scarce.

Leaf spring snapped just above the axle.

Battery did not hold its charge.

Wood veneer in dashboard cracked and fell apart.

Paint lacquer on roof, bonnet and nose cone peeled badly.

General Comments:

The last Robin sold by Reliant was the '65' to commemorate 65 years of Reliant vehicle production. Each was sold with a gold plaque stuck onto the central console, engraved with the vehicle's first owner and build number (from 1 to 65).

In reality the '65' was a slightly modified Robin MK3, which had also been sold as the Robin SLX. The last Robin models were all very similar in appearance, with a separate bolted on nose cone, deeply recessed fuel filler and bug eye headlights.

All Robin 65s were painted in gold and came with mini style alloy wheels, leather seats, and white faced clocks along with wood veneer around the instruments (glued on). Red carpet and a factory sunroof rounded off a good package of trim for a Reliant 3 wheeler. The steering wheel was more modern than the familiar plastic type of old. Some Robin 65s were sold late into 2001, so had a '51' number plate, which is a talking point for the uninitiated.

The headlamps I found to be the best on any Reliant I have ever driven, and are the same as fitted to a Vauxhall Corsa B, which means you can replace them with modern looking Angel Eye / Halo lights.

Despite the modern electrics and updates to the engine, Reliant surprisingly stuck with 'old school' ignition points and S.U. carburettor. Interior noise is still as noisy as the earliest Robin ever was. Quite amazing really how Reliant managed to keep essentially the same design from 1973 to 2001, so the later models feel little different to the Robin MK1 once you are behind the wheel.

Appearance wise, quite pleasant to look at. The best equipped Reliant built 3-wheeler. The engines were variable in build quality, but in general the sealed cooling system and more modern electrics makes for slightly improved reliability over earlier Robin models.

All the usual Reliant issues are present, including poor access for major repairs, body rattles, leaking seals allowing rain water into the interior, doors that need to be slammed to shut properly, windows that steam up in the winter, and an engine that takes a while to warm up. These vehicles require frequent but simple maintenance, otherwise bits will fail or break.

These vehicles are built to keep the weight down, so if you are a bit rough or ham-fisted with the window winders, heater / choke levers, switches and bonnet release catch, expect those parts to break.

Spares, especially for the later Robins, are quite plentiful, as Reliant used many parts from popular cars of the same era. There is still a thriving enthusiast scene, so plenty of advice can be found on online.

As for owning one of these, the previous advantage that it could be driven on a full motorcycle licence and qualified for cheap road tax has been eroded, so really this is a vehicle you buy if you already understand the shortcomings as well as the joys of Reliant motoring. Not really recommended if you are expecting car-like luxury, handling and or performance.

Claims of 100MPH are mostly exaggerated. Real world top speeds are more likely in the 70-80MPH range (though some of the Rialtos from the early 1980s were capable of more). Flat out on a motorway for long periods still sees the temp gauge reading on the high side, but if you switch the heater on (pulling the heater lever out) the engine temp will drop slightly. Fuel economy is the biggest plus, as it is not too difficult to achieve 50MPG or more.

You really have to shop around for insurance to avoid excessive premiums. In theory insurance can be quite low depending on your post code. Yearly running costs are quite low as long as you look after these vehicles. The steering is probably the one area that could require an expensive repair should the usual wear and tear appear.

The Robin MK3/65 has a 12" wheel designated front brake drum, which is unique to the vehicle and like gold dust if it is damaged. Always check when buying parts for compatibility, as interchangeability is not guaranteed with the later Robins.

Prices are still on the high side for good running vehicles. If you are into these vehicles, then you will know that condition is more important than indicated mileage, as it can be quite time consuming putting multiple issues right. The limited amount of vehicles still on the road ensures that prices are less subject to seasonal factors that affect when is the best time to buy or sell. Bear in mind that they can be slow to sell if you advertise in the wrong places, and it still amazes me the crazy prices that some dealers try to sell them for...

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 8th January, 2015

2000 Reliant Robin LX 0.85


Unique, eye-catching, old-fashioned, unreliable heap of junk


Where to start? The Reliant has had lots of problems; even for a car made as recently as 2000 it's pretty shocking. Main problem is water/rain leaks: the car leaks absolutely everywhere. Water gets into both doors, all front and rear footwells, back seat always damp, back side panels fill up, the boot fills up with pools, windscreen leaks, back windows leak and roof leaks. It's a boat, or bath tub on wheels. Mold/mildew grows inside the car on the seats and trim, producing nasty smells and horrible fungus.

In the winter months car is a nightmare to drive on early mornings and at night; takes forever to warm up, door locks jam, heated rear screen doesn't work, heater doesn't work, demisters are very poor/primitive, all the windows steam up, mirrors steam up, can't see anything.

All the lights have failed during my time owning it; brake lights, head/dipped/full beam failed, reverse and tail lights, all indicators etc. Horn doesn't work. Boot lock doesn't work. Inside door handles jam up, trapping you inside. Brakes squeak. Gear changing very clunky. Doors need an incredible amount of force to slam them otherwise they won't close properly.

Suspension is horrible; very loud bangs when going over speed bumps and potholes; sounds like glass shattering if negotiating at speed. Handling poor; shakes at higher speeds, all sorts of rattles, noises and the smell of engine ever-present. There's a constant feeling the whole thing is about to blow up; very unpleasant.

General Comments:

I really wanted and waited a long time to get my Reliant, a late model mk3, one of the last, and what a huge disappointment it has proved. It has so many little problems and niggles it's enough to turn one's hair white. The car is very old fashioned: no fuel injection, so manual choke start. Very unreliable; I never know if the car will start, engine only starts with choke which I don't like using. Sometimes I forget to push the choke back in; I have to do this when I'm already on the move. This means I have to take my eyes off the road to look for the choke control; this is distracting and dangerous.

Engine is very noisy; especially when pulling away in 1st. Doesn't like gearing down even though synchromesh is fitted. Only a 4 speed transmission when it really needs 5 gears; most comfortable cruising speed is approx 45mph in 4th. Any faster and engine noise increases; 70 is absolutely deafening (imagine 20 lawn mowers at once), all because there is no 5th gear to relax the engine. The driving experience is miserable and awful on long-distance trips. Even at a steady 50 while tolerating the noise, you feel like you will never get to your destination.

I gave it the benefit of the doubt, but I've come to the conclusion that a recent report saying the Reliant Robin is the worst car ever made, is true indeed. It's just a unique, eye-catching, antique, unreliable heap of junk. A rubbish car, which I can't get rid of because due to all the problems it has, no-one will take over and buy it from me. The car was very expensive to buy, so I'm at a loss with the situation.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 29th November, 2014

4th Feb 2015, 23:48

This report had me in stitches!

Agree the car is dated, and one must surely expect it to perform like an old design or be dissatisfied, which this person surely was. I use a modern electric car, but keep an early Robin just to remind me of what inexpensive motoring was like in a past era. It's now a fun car that's appreciating, which I take to shows. I like the history of the product and its innovations that most are unaware of, such as the early use of a plastic body and aluminium engine. These two applications made for a very light and efficient vehicle, providing better fuel economy and acceleration.

I think of the Robin in the same context as the bubble cars that came before it; the Reliant was minimal motoring for a bygone era.