LEGO Technic 42178 Surface Space Loader LT78 – More rover than loader [Review]

The latest round of Technic sets has created a bit of a stir with all their epic space-y-ness! We’ve already taken a close look at 42181 VTOL Heavy Cargo Spaceship LT81 and 42180 Mars Crew Exploration Rover and now it’s time to turn our attention to the smallest of the space vehicles:  LEGO Technic 42178 Surface Space Loader LT78. Is it a mighty mouse? You’ll have to read on to see! Like its counterparts, this set will also be available March 1st. It has 435 pieces and will retail for US $34.99 | CAN $44.99 | UK £29.99.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews

Unboxing the parts, instructions, and sticker sheet

Like the other sets from this wave, the front of the small box has the large SPACE banner and logo. While the front shows the loader in its lifted position, the back shows it flat. The back also reveals the play features.

Inside are five bags numbers 1-5 and an unnumbered bag for the tires and windscreen.

For a small set, there are a fair number of stickers.

The build

We kick things off with the core of the model, which includes some of the mechanisms and the cockpit. The seat sticker has the number “05” on it, following the “01” and “02” of the large rover, and the “03” and “04” of the cargo spaceship. While there was a white tile lacking a decal in the cockpit of the spaceship, this one has a nice computer screen decal. Just below the cockpit are arms – one with a basic claw, and one with a metal detector element.

The mechanism includes one of the newer azure gears as well as knob gears to lift the vehicle.

Up next we put in the linkage for the steering mechanism.

From there we tack on the thick front “arms” of the loader.

The process of raising and lowering the front of the loader is a slow one. The GIF below is sped up significantly.

Next, we add the loader mechanism. This is an odd-looking appendage on the left side of the vehicle. It’s not entirely clear what the “catch” axle connector is for, apart from maybe an unnecessary handle.

With that complete, we cover everything up with panels and add the windscreen and the lovely new light bluish-grey rubber tires. The windscreen comes off easily enough to put a minifigure inside, but it doesn’t exactly feel like it’s supposed to be removed.

Finally, to round out the set, we build a little cargo container (?). Within it is a 1×1 round tile printed with an amoeba or something you would see under a microscope. The set also includes a 1×1 lime flower to swap out with the tile, so the whole thing is seemingly a specimen/sample carrier.

With that, we’re finished! Let’s take a look at the final product…

The completed model

On its face, the vehicle looks interesting enough. The windscreen and tires are a big focal point. But it seems like more of a rover than a loader.

There is a knob with a steering wheel sticker on the back of the loader for maneuvering it. The radius isn’t particularly big, but it’s on par with most sets of this size.

The raised positioning of the loader is certainly more interesting than the flat format. It looks a bit like a crab or a bug. If you look at the smaller pictures below, you’ll notice there’s a bar at the center that says “lift” that can be flipped up, but it doesn’t do anything as far as I could tell. Its position doesn’t affect the ability to raise and lower the front arms. It’s possible that I did something wrong in building, but I couldn’t find anything amiss. Plus, there is nothing on the box or instructions to indicate the necessity to include it.

It made sense to include another view of this particular mechanism, with everything complete. Like before, this is sped up quite a bit. It takes a significant amount of time to go through the full pushup – not that that’s a bad thing. It’s an interesting and potentially useful mechanism for other builds.

As for the loader, the arm stretches out and the entire back lifts to carry the cargo. It’s a bit clunky and not the most practical thing. The arm should stay out if you were to drive the loader around while carrying something, otherwise it gets hung up on the tire.

Conclusions and recommendations

When all is said and done, I’m wishy-washy on this set. Some things make it awesome, like the windscreen and the new tires. The mechanism to raise it is fun. But overall, I don’t think it’s Technic’s best. I’m left wanting more and feeling like it’s not nearly as cool as its large counterparts. There’s only so much you can pack into a small set, compared to the heavy hitters in the wave, yet I’m not so sure I want to resign to that thinking. Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it should get away with not being as awesome. I may be being too harsh. It’s a decent kit that I think kiddos would love. The price isn’t terrible. I suppose this one is “what you see is what you get” and if you think it looks cool, go for it. If you’re on the fence, maybe save your dollars for one of the larger models.

While you’re here, check out our reviews archive for more from this wave, and keep an eye on the front page as we add many additional reviews in the next couple weeks.

LEGO Technic 42178 Surface Space Loader LT78 will be available March 1st and retail for US $34.99 | CAN $44.99 | UK £29.99.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.


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