Over the last few weeks, my son and I have spent some time building three model kits from COBI and I might just have a new favorite when it comes to construction toys.
What Are COBI Models?
COBI is a Polish toy company that produces construction kits where you get to build a wide array of vehicles from plastic blocks—much like another construction-based toy company from Denmark that you may have heard of. The vast majority of their models are war-themed with specific product ranges for various conflicts including WWII, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War, but there are also a number of other ranges including Maserati, Boeing, and a Smithsonian collection.
The full COBI collection includes models kits for all ages, beginning with ranges like Super Wings and Action Town for the youngest builders, and going right up to complex kits for adults with many thousands of pieces—such as the RMS Titanic, which includes 2840 pieces and stands at nearly a meter long when fully constructed!
What’s in the Box?
My son and I tried out three different COBI models from three different ranges at three different levels of difficulty: the 98-piece Skoda Kodiaq VRS, 227-piece Boeing Starliner, and 455-piece Concorde. Each of the boxes included multiple bags containing the plastic pieces, an instruction manual, and stickers to be applied when the models are complete. The Concorde model also included a small tool to help put some particularly fiddly pieces in place.
Obviously, kits like these contain a lot of plastic—they have to when you consider they are plastic construction blocks—but in terms of single-use plastic packaging, COBI does well at keeping plastic to a minimum. The outer packaging uses high-quality cardboard boxes and minimal bags are used for the pieces, although this could still be improved. The boxes themselves are well-sized for their content and don’t take up more shelf/transportation space than necessary.
Building COBI Models
As with other well-known building block kits, COBI kits work using step-by-step instructions which you follow to create your finished models. Unlike many of these construction toys, however, the instructions are very clear and easy-to-understand. Each step lists all the pieces required, often with 1:1 scale drawings for those pieces where it might not be clear which of two or more visually identical pieces are required. Each step also has a large, colorful diagram to show how to connect the new pieces for that step. These were some of the clearest construction diagrams I have ever come across and might even be better than those of that other famous building block company. You can download a sample set of instructions on the COBI website to take a look for yourself.
As for the blocks themselves, they connected together very well without needing to be forcefully pressed together in order to stick to one another, thus saving your fingers from becoming sore while building. There are many custom pieces in each kit, which helps the models maintain smooth lines. This is often a vital element of making them look accurate, Concorde with blocky, angular wings just wouldn’t look right at all.
There are some absolutely tiny pieces to work with within some of the kits, which would make these difficult for kids to build them, but adults without dexterity concerns shouldn’t have any issues.
Skoda Kodiaq VRS
The Skoda Kodiaq VRS was the first model we chose to build because it was the smallest. I requested this model because we have a Skoda family car in the same (very distinct) color, so I was curious to see how similar they were. Sadly, the model of our car isn’t yet available as a model for comparison.
The Kodiaq model has no moving parts apart from the wheels, so no opening doors or windows which makes it less fun to play with but helps it to be very sturdy. As a result, this was by far the most solid of all three models we built. Two stickers are included for the side windows, but the other parts of the car such as the front and rear taillights are pre-printed blocks.
The Boeing Starliner is by far the most fun finished product and has the most play value, partly because it is the only one of the three to come with figures. The finished model can be closed up into its conical shape for display, be fully opened to allow for play, or be partially opened in various ways. A dozen stickers were included with this model and only a few pieces were pre-printed with their designs. Given the curved surfaces, this made it quite challenging to position them correctly.
One of the four sides features a door that can be opened and closed. Inside, there are five adjustable seats that can recline back for launch and then be tipped forward when your ship has landed to allow the crew to sit up. An adjustable display screen is also featured which, when the ship is closed up for launch/flight, will be positioned in front of the crew. I would have liked to see a way of clipping the figures into their chairs more securely though.
The two figures in the set have different skin tones and long and short hair-pieces are included as well as helmets, so an impressive amount of diversity is offered between just the two of them. It would be great to be able to buy some extra figures wearing the same Starliner uniforms to be able to fill up those spare seats on the ship, though.
The G-BBDG Concorde is the model most obviously aimed at collectors and is produced in connection with the Brooklands Museum as a model of the exact Concorde currently on display there. The finished model is very large, at approximately two feet long, which does it make it rather difficult to display! It has a few moving parts including landing flaps on the wings, the tail, and retractable landing gear. The finished model is absolutely stunning thanks to the custom parts that include Concorde’s distinctive nose.
Concorde also had the most pre-printed parts of all the models, with the cockpit windows, airplane registration code, the rear section of blue side stripes, and the engines all pre-printed. A little annoyingly, however, the blue stripe and windows down each side from the rear of the wings forward came as a sticker and was incredibly difficult to position straight while lining it up with the pre-printed parts. This meant I had to unpeel and reposition the stickers a few times, which has led to them peeling up at the corners. This makes the finished model look messy unless you use a little extra glue or tape to seal them down again.
We absolutely loved building the three COBI models we received. So much so that I think I might have a new favorite building block construction company! The finished models are stunning to look at and wouldn’t look out of place on the shelf of any collector. The kits are also very well priced with a 285-piece model costing around one third that of a 280-piece LEGO set on a similar theme.
The finished models are also very sturdy. My ten-year-old son has put the Skoda car through the wringer by crashing it into various items of furniture and it has yet to show a scratch, much less break apart. The Concorde model is the only one with a minor issue in that the front set of landing gear does occasionally buckle if the plane is being moved around (or is knocked by a cat climbing where it shouldn’t…) but this is a minor concern really and if the model is left alone, it suffers no issues at all.
One thing I did find surprising was how quickly we were able to build the models. The Skoda Kodiaq VRS took my son only half an hour or so to put together, the Boeing Starliner took around 90 minutes, and the Concorde model took me around four hours to build by myself over two afternoons. This means that the models go together quickly so you always feel a sense of constant progress and don’t become frustrated as you spend hours working on something without it seeming to pay off until the end. I can’t say yet whether this remains the same for the much higher level models with piece counts in the thousands, but I feel hopeful that it might.
The only real issue I have with the COBI models is that the plastic used for the pieces somehow attracts dust like a magnet. All our finished models seem to gather dust within hours, and I could already see it being attracted to the surface as I worked on building them! This means they do need regular cleaning, more so than other models.
Overall, I was hugely impressed with all three COBI models and am excited to see what new collections they produce in the future.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a sample of this item for review purposes.