Review: Carisma MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Subaru Brat & Mitsubishi Pajero

Review: Carisma MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Subaru Brat & Mitsubishi Pajero

Tackle the great indoors (and outdoors) with this small-scale R/C crawler.

The small-scale R/C landscape has had its share of comers and goers through the years. I jumped into the 1/24-scale scene during the release of Pro-Line’s Ambush 4×4. Since then, many well-known names have released their own tiny trucks, including the folks at Carisma Scale Adventure. With its origins tracing back to 2018, the MSA-1E has gone through some revisions over the years, which brings us to 2022 and the release of the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec”.

Carisma sent me two of their revised 1/24-scale rigs for review; the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Subaru Brat and the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Mitsubishi Pajero. Both of these rigs feature well-crafted polycarbonate bodies, fresh tires, a larger motor, and a new approach to gearing. How do they hold up against the rest of the competition? Keep reading for my review of the Carisma MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” 1/24-scale crawler.

What’s Included:

  • One (1) Carisma Scale Adventure MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Subaru Brat or Carisma Scale Adventure MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Mitsubishi Pajero
  • One (1) KD Propo 2.4GHz Radio Transmitter
  • Two (2) Spare Pinion Gears
  • One (1) Instruction Manual
  • One (1) 7.4 NiMh Battery
  • One (1) USB NiMh Battery Charger
  • Four (4) “AA” Batteries (for the Radio Transmitter)
  • Misc. Body Accessories (only for the Mitsubishi Pajero)

What’s Remained the Same

Since this isn’t the first time around for the MSA-1E, I’m changing up the format of my review a bit. Some things have changed in this model, and quite a few things remain the same. The carry-over elements from previous MSA-1E models include the chassis design/layout, wheels, radio system, battery mounting technique, and battery. The fact that these items haven’t changed is a testament to how good they were in the first place.

Compared to other 1/24-scale R/C crawler models, Carisma makes some interesting choices when it comes to chassis materials. Rather than a metal-framed chassis, you’ll find nylon/plastic material throughout the chassis and suspension of this rig. Both lightweight and durable, I haven’t had any issues with breakage on this or previous generations of the MSA-1E.

Carisma continues to squeeze every ounce of mileage from their retro-inspired, plastic wheels. And why not? They’re a great-looking wheel that suit every iteration of the MSA-1E to a “T.” Another carryover from past models is the use of Velcro/hook and loop material to attach the body to the chassis. Knowing Carisma as well as I do, they pride themselves in their craftsmanship, especially when it comes to body detail and design. Removing the need for unsightly body pins and exposed body clips not only helps the visual impact of both of these machines but it also makes attaching and removing the body much easier. If I have one complaint to give, lining the body up “just so” can take an extra beat (especially if you’re a fanatic about scale presentation).

The KD Propo transmitter included with this, and all other MSA-1E models continues to get the job done. While it’s not the best transmitter on the market, it’s certainly not the worst. Full-featured and ergonomic, this controller gets the job done, and there isn’t much more to say beyond that.

Finally, the battery and its mounting technique are also found in previous models. While I’ve moved beyond NiMh batteries for most of my R/C fleet, the 7.4V pack that’s included with Carisma’s small-scale offerings works quite well and provides ample power for indoor or outdoor adventuring. Nestled in the rear-most section of the chassis, the battery mount securely holds the battery in place and has presented zero issues during my testing or leisurely treks.

What’s Changed On the Outside

Now for the fun part; what sets the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” apart from its predecessors? Starting with the exterior, Carisma has freshened up the appearance of its small-scale lineup with two new body shells. Returning to the lineup is the Subaru Brat, which made its debut with the original MSA-1E back in 2018. Rather than giving the 2022 version of the MSA-1E Brat the same paint scheme as the original, Carisma has replicated its 1/10-scale Brat color scheme of black with red trim. This rich combination looks amazing in photos and even greater in person.

Another version of the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” crawler is available with a 1989 Mitsubishi Pajero body. While not a household name, the Pajero holds a special place in the hearts of off-road enthusiasts. Carisma Scale Adventure is no stranger to the Pajero, as their most-recent SCA-1E model features this body style. Having this boxy beauty available as a small-scale rig provides a seemingly endless array of customization opportunities.

The MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Subaru Brat features the same body details as the original, including a front bumper, rollbar, and LED light buckets for optional lighting. On the other hand, the Mitsubishi Pajero features a new front bumper design, injection-molded grille, side mirrors, and a rear tire carrier. I’m having a hard time picking my favorite model between the two, but I would have the give the slight advantage to the Pajero.

Another exterior-facing change on the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” crawler is its tires. The previous versions of this crawler featured smaller-than normal tires, at least when you compare them to the other 1/24-scale crawlers available on the market. If you didn’t think small-scale crawler tires could get any smaller, you’re in for a surprise. The MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” crawlers feature tires with very short sidewalls and scale-detailed tread, making them excellent for trail driving. Climbing performance is decent, however, I feel this rig suffers from too little ground clearance in some situations.

What’s Changed Under the Hood

While most of the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec’s” newness is easy to spot, there are two important changes that are hidden under the surface. The motor and the transmission of these tiny trucks have been re-worked and beefed up, offering a larger-than-normal 130-size brushed motor that’s married to a transmission with 25% gear reduction when compared to the previous-generation MSA-1E.

With its new overall gear ration of 81:1, the “2.0 Spec” MSA-1E offers low-throttle crawling performance that’s almost too good to be true. Most small-scale R/C crawlers aren’t known for their low-throttle performance and it took me a while to discover this hidden gem while testing out Carisma’s latest machines.

Another change that’s almost impossible to see is the use of slightly stiffer shock springs. Previous versions of the MSA-1E features soft-to-super soft springs that allowed the chassis and body to bobble and sway when trailing or crawling. While it looked cool and helped capture the feel of the 1/10-scale crawler experience, it was slightly exaggerated. These stiffer springs help bring that bobble and sway under control without hindering the movement of the suspension.

Trail and Crawling Performance

If I was forced to choose a category to place the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” models into, I’d lean toward trail truck more than crawler. While the low-end performance is certainly amazing, these rigs ran into issues when attempting to crawl over many medium-height obstacles. With that said, there were some situations where both the MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Subaru Brat and Mitsubishi Pajero had little to no trouble conquering my test course.

The lower ground clearance of this rig made for some challenging approach attempts; however, the low-end torque helped these vehicles slowly crawl its way up and over most of what I placed in front of them.

What Could Be Improved

I’ll be honest, the MSA-1 “2.0 Spec” isn’t perfect. Honestly, no R/C vehicle is or can be perfect and there are a few areas I’d like to see Carisma address with this model going forward. First, ground clearance could stand to be increased. Between the shorter than normal tires and the bulky axle housings, this rig can get caught up on trail obstacles and debris rather easily. That’s a bummer. While it adds another layer of challenge to a crawling expedition, I’d appreciate some smoother sailing when it comes to approaching and dealing with some crawling challenges.

Another area of improvement, and truthfully my last nit-pick for this model, is the tire compound. Visually appealing as they are, the tires on both the MSA-1 “2.0 Spec” Mitsubishi Pajero and Subaru Brat are hard. Switching over to a softer compound should serve this vehicle well, especially when paired with the amazing low-end performance offered by the new motor and transmission combo.

What’s the Verdict?

After spending some time with this rig and taking it on some small-scale adventures, I have to say that I’m a fan. While it has its low points, this iteration of the MSA-1E offers impressive, smooth low-throttle input performance that make it enjoyable to drive over and around obstacles. As always, Carisma has knocked the visual details out of the park.

Whether it’s the new paint job on the Subaru Brat body or the injection-molded grille and molded features on the Mitsubishi Pajero, Carisma doesn’t miss when it comes to its bodies. I’ve got some fun customization ideas planned for both of these machines and can’t wait to make those a reality. But let’s get back on track; how good is this small-scale R/C crawler?

The short (and long) answer is; yes. If you’re looking for a solid trail machine to take with you on a long weekend outing or simply want something that you can drive around your house or yard, this rig will get it done. While not without its issues, it’s a great starter rig or add-on machine for any R/C fanatic.

Where to Buy the Carisma MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Subaru Brat

Where to Buy the Carisma MSA-1E “2.0 Spec” Mitsubishi Pajero