Veggie Wagon – LEGO City, Farmer’s Market Van (60345)

I don’t put up reviews of LEGO City sets that often, but that doesn’t mean I’m not buying any at all or don’t like them. Most of the time it’s just that I buy small, cheap stuff that is not worth turning into an article unless there is a specific reason like when I elaborated on the new Neon Yellow color. Apparently this must also be the case for the Farmer’s Market Van (60345) then, don’t you think? As a certain Juno Birch would say: Yes, that’s happening! 🙂 So let’s look at what we have here.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Box

Pricing and Contents

This package is part of this year’s farm-centric line-up that also includes the Chicken Henhouse (60344), Grocery Store (60347) and then Barn & Farm Animals (60346). Apparently it’s been ages since LEGO had such sets in their portfolio, so it was about time and these sets have generally been welcomed. However, there’s a an ugly dark cloud in this scenario: Except for the 10 Euro chicken pen (which I also got in the meantime, by the way), these sets are prohibitively expensive. The store has a MSRP of 60 Euro for only 404 pieces and at 50 Euro for 230 pieces the farm house doesn’t fare much better despite containing many desirable molded animals.

By comparison this makes the van the cheapest in the whole sub-series with 30 Euro for 310 elements. This pricing logic doesn’t make any sense on any level even if you figure in factors like large pieces or 4+ sets always being more expensive. It doesn’t make this little truck a steal, but by and large the most cost-efficient of the series. That’s even more true once you factor in the discounts. I got mine for still relatively expensive 24 Euro, but as of now you can find offerings for around 21 Euro.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Overview

As you can see in the photo there are many smaller parts, so there’s ultimately not that much “volume of stuff”. That does not only extend to the field/ plot of land but also the car itself, which is quite hollow (not in a bad way, though). Point in case: While the models look good, you don’t have much in your hands in terms of pieces once you break them down again. The pile really isn’t that big. That’s why aside from my usual very cost-aware attitude I feel that 25 Euro is really more in line with what you get and any additional discounts sweeten the deal further.

The Minifigures

The set comes with three minifigures, which isn’t bad for such a small and affordable offering. The figures themselves don’t look anything special, but interestingly the girl with the blue hair has not only said hairpiece in Blue for the first time but also a new and unique torso print. Inevitably, the “farmer guy” called Horace also had to have a custom print with an imaginary logo on his dungarees. If you look hard enough you can see a slight color mismatch to the Lime Green leg piece. regrettably this seems to be more the norm than the exception with LEGO‘s prints these days. Also included in the set is the small rabbit, for the first time in Light Bluish Grey when before it was only available in White. A nice expansion of the color if you ever plan on building your own little brick farm.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Figures

The Field

One of the main attractions in this set is undeniably the field with the green stalks on it. There’s so much new to find here and that alone could make it worthwhile. The use of green minifigure candle elements is not new and has been seen in the Spring Lantern Festival (80107) where it was used to emulate bamboo stalks. However, this has been heavily expanded upon here. The most obvious addition is the new branch element that fits into this system and onto which then more stuff can be added. In this set this includes Red horns for peppers, Dark Purple bubbles/ ice cream scoops as berries (first seen as wine grapes in the Heartlake City Restaurant [41379]) and the new dual molded corn cob piece. The stalks are fixated in Bright Green round jumper plates that were only introduced in this color earlier this year (see Antonios Magical Door [43200] for instance). Finally, we also get a Medium Nougat barrel, yet another recent recolor.

The field is built from two structurally identical segments that can be connected with pin bricks, so in theory you could expand this if you buy multiple packages. In such a case one would likely also consolidate the plant stalks into sensible groups. Personally I would have preferred the set contained more of these pieces from the outset and one could build at least a second row or ideally a fully decked out square plot with up to sixteen plants. That would also have sensibly allowed to throw in a wheel barrow for harvesting and perhaps more rabbits and some chickens sneaking through the greenery and “pull out” carrots as indicated by the little slightly hidden mechanism that flips over to reveal the carrot in place of the former stalk. For me a massive expansion of the field would have been one of the few occasions where I then also would have accepted having to pay more simply for the fact that those plant elements can be used to such great advantage elsewhere. With that in mind I also hope that the branch element will soon enough come out in other colors so we can start building nice trees or branching water pipes.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Field, CratesThere’s a small add-on by ways of some crates mounted on swivel hinges. This segment connects to the field in a similar fashion thanks to Technic bricks providing the necessary pin holes. Unfortunately LEGO are cheapening out again, as clearly there is plenty of room left to fill the boxes. This would have been yet another good opportunity to sneak in a few extra corn cobs, but they reserved that little trick for the expensive supermarket. A third apple, Lime Green bananas or a Tan/ Bright Light Yellow pumpkin might have been other ideas that would have made this more interesting.

The Van

The transport vehicle is pretty much a “Seen them once, seen them all.” thing. This for me includes the Surfer Van (31079) for instance, but I could just as well point to others I have either reviewed here on this blog or built, including of course from other series like Friends or Creator 3in1. that’s not meant to put blame on anyone, as after all there’s only so many ways to skin a cat, but I really yearn for some variety. Just doing the mudgard pieces in an unusual color like Yellowish Green would totally make my day, considering that the majority of them are still one of the greys, White or Black. LEGO are oddly conservative in this matter and reserve other colors mostly for police vehicles and fire trucks, give or take the occasional exception from the rule.

For what it represents the car is not bad, just a tad mundane and boring. As I mentioned earlier, the build is pretty spacious with a lot of room on the inside and this shows during the assembly. All the side walls stand openly nearly until the end when you add the top plates and wedges, which makes them fragile and has you believe something is wrong because there are larger gaps left until adding the force of the plates pulls everything together.

The build is not completely symmetrical and uses a few different techniques to accommodate a hinged sidewall on the right hand side of the van and a sliding window on the left side. To me this seems a bit of an odd choice as it’s more likely that this would have an flap swinging upward and doubling as a protective roof when selling goods at the weekly groceries market. Slide windows are more appropriate for food trucks, after all.

LEGO City, Farmer's Market Van (60345), Car, Interior, Right ViewThe interior is sparse, to put it mildly and slightly disappointing. There would have been plenty of opportunity to spruce it up like again adding a (small) create with corn cobs or other fruit, a small glass door fridge with soda cans in it and so on. It’s also unfortunate that you cannot easily remove the roof due to how everything is built and held in place by it. Mind you, it’s not that you cannot access the inside, it’s just not as easy and efficient. This also applies to the small deck behind the rear doors. You know what it is supposed to represent, it’s just not that terribly useful in light of the absence of something to put there.

The door itself is made from the 6 x 6 window frame introduced a while ago and the new 3 x 6 door elements that came out this year for easily creating double-winged doors. I’ve blathered on about the novelty and use cases for the elements of the field, but there’s a few more hidden gems in this set. More specifically the big carrot uses two significant elements: One is the 3 x 3 cone, which only once has been done in Orange so far in a Nexo Knights set and next to it there is its companion 3 x 3 dome. Those large chunky pieces are not what you would use everyday, but it’s nice to know they exist and are available just in case you may need them.


Concluding Thoughts

This set certainly doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but is what people call a solid effort on LEGO‘s part. Most importantly it reintroduces a theme that has long been underrepresented or even totally absent from the City series and this should help to familiarize and popularize the subject with younger audiences who hadn’t seen it before. For adults there’s of course the rich harvest (cheap pun alert!) of new and unique elements that could make it worthwhile. In conjunction with a straightforward assembly and the result looking nice this is a relaxing and fun experience. My only gripe really is that there could have been more agricultural stuff and by that I mean a lot more of the veggies and a larger field to “grow” them on.

Kiosk x 2? – LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park CafĂ© (41426) and Olivia’s Flower Garden (41425)

In today’s review we’re going to have a look at two relatively small Friends sets. I’ve rolled them into a single article to make it worthwhile in terms of volume and because there’s a potential little twist to this.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Box

The first set is the Heartlake City Park CafĂ© (41426). The name sounds grandiose, but in fact it’s really just a tiny waffle stand – of sorts.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Overview

The point why I’m using “of sorts” is that while the whole thing is modeled after those little shallow sheds you can indeed find in parks or on the sidewalks of cities like Paris for instance, which really aren’t more than boxes, it doesn’t quite qualify as a waffle stand or even “cafĂ©”. A newspaper stand? A flower stand? Just fine, but not anything to do with food. There would be some serious hygiene and safety concerns.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Front closed

This becomes clear once you open the doors. On the real thing those wouldn’t even be glass doors, but rather just solid doors with all sorts of little utilities, hooks, compartments and so on on their inside, so once opened those could be filled with goods for presentation, i.e. newspapers, flowers or souvenirs.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Front open

The actual working space would make any safety engineer’s hair stand on end (and a hygiene inspector’s as well). Things would topple over and fall down all the time, the workers would constantly bump into their kitchen appliances and furniture or burn their fingers. All those very adult concerns aside, the thing that bothers me most is that the model just doesn’t breathe that sense of a busy food-related kiosk.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Rear, Left View

You know, if this were real they couldn’t keep up with demand with only one waffle iron, There’s no mixing machine for the batter, there’s no coffee brewer, no fridge and the selection of fillings and condiments is at best sparse. Point in case: It would have been easy for LEGO to throw in at least an apple, banana or cherry and extend the model further in the back to add some more stuff. There’s no reason it only needs to be eight studs deep.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Rear, Right View

Getting to the good parts, there’s of course the new 1 x 1 heart tiles with the waffle grid print along with the older square tile version of similar ilk. Having had some Magenta window frames ever since the Heartlake Pizzeria (41311) from way back then I figured having matching door frames might come in handy one of those days – whenever that may be.

The yellow flowers are indeed actual Yellow, not the usual Bright Light Orange. That’s a pretty funky thing and one of those “I thought they had been around for years already.” moments, when in fact the color has never been used for this element. It seems trivial, but such is the world of LEGO and their inconsistent usage of colors.

Speaking of which, and this will come as an even bigger shock and you may not believe it, this set is also the first time in over forty (!) years the 1 x 1 round brick is available in Medium nougat. Given how suitable it would be for building plants and some other things and that e.g. the complementary palisade 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks with their wood stem imitations have existed in this color since forever, one can really only wonder about the company’s logic in these things.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Printed Tiles

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park CafĂ© (41426), TableTo cap things off, there’s a small table where potential passers-by could perch and chit-chat while eating. You know, those annoyances that the kiosk owners always put smack in the middle of where you walk and you have to navigate around. Nothing special to see here, but it’s good that after quite a while at least the squirrel is available again and with a new eye print to boot.

 

 

Now for that “special twist” I hinted at earlier. There may actually be a way to turn the waffle stand into that little flower kiosk with a relatively cheap investment. That’s where Olivia’s Flower Garden (41425) comes in. But first let’s look at it on its own merits.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flower Garden (41425), Box

Did I say merits? Well, sadly it doesn’t have any. This set literally feels like someone at LEGO took a tour in their storage facilities, discovered a few leftover pieces from other production runs and then told the designer to make something of it. Each of the separate items could just as well be one of those models you get in the various LEGO magazines’ foil packs. They have been reduced to the bare minimum.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flower Garden (41425), Overview

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flower Garden (41425), CartThe little cart is reminiscent of those electrically powered baggage carts you see at airports or wholesale markets. It wouldn’t really make much sense outside those scenarios, but who knows? Maybe Olivia is running a big greenhouse like the ones in The Netherlands covering acres of ground that you can see from the airplane when approaching Amsterdam?

 

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flower Garden (41425), Flowerbed

Unfortunately this isn’t the case. All you get is a tiny, tiny piece of elevated flower bed/ gardening table under an angled glass window. What makes this even worse for me is that there is not a single new piece in this set (at least they use the new binoculars piece on Zobo, though). By that I especially mean some newly colored plant piece, naturally. You know, had those leaves been Dark Green or Sand Green and we finally got those daisy blossoms in Medium Blue or another new color I’d be much happier.

Now back to my original argument: Combined with the leaf elements of the waffle stand the contents of this set could be used to re-dress it as a flower stand and if you have some extra parts from other sets to throw in, this may be even more feasible. At least in my world this would make much more sense.

As a conclusion I have to say that neither of the two are extraordinary sets by any stretch of the imagination. While the waffle stand at least tries to be a bit original and when remodeled and repurposed could actually look quite nice, the supposed “flower garden” is just a bad joke at the cost of the customer. The irony is that I get what they were aiming for, but again LEGO‘s laziness and forced cost-cutting rear their heads, preventing the sets from being much better.

Especially the “flower garden” is in no way the 10 Euro they are asking when the actual value feels like 5 Euro. Naturally, lower prices on the open market mitigate this somewhat, but even then it still feels unwarranted. This could just as well have been a 4 Euro polybag. The waffle stand fares a bit better as it boasts at least some new and unique parts. For a 15 Euro street price at a MSRP of 20 Euro that’s okay. Not great, but okay.