It would be useful to see some plots so we could figure out exactly what magnitude and phase error correspond to "gross" and "miserable".
To show why Matlab is bad in filtering at small cut-off frequencies we did the same thing in Matab, Octave and R: we've taken the low-pass chebyshev filter of the type 1, order 6, ripple 1 dB, the sampling frequency was 16384 Hz and cut-off frequency varied from 1 to 1000 Hz. Here is the plot for the gain of the zpk model versus to cut-off frequency.
We can see that Matlab's gain shows surprising gains for low cut-off frequencies through for > 100 Hz it is fine. In the next table we compare gain from Foton, Matlab, R and Octave for the same filter. So Foton is also good