The Mk1 Land Rover Freelander was launched in 1997 and was an instant hit - it went on to become the biggest-selling four-wheel-drive model in Europe, with over 540,000 units sold over its nine-year lifespan.

The Mk2 arrived in 2006 and was acclaimed as the best off-roader in its class. To improve its eco credentials, the Freelander 2 TD4_e arrived in 2009 as the first SUV to have a start-stop system, followed in early 2011 by a two-wheel-drive version.

As you can tell, this is a car that has not only shaken up the market, but moved with it as well. Now a front-wheel drive Land Rover might be controversial, but the brand has proved it can be popular, as sales of the Evoque prove. The rest of the Freelander range is more conventional SUV fare, offering five seats and four-wheel drive.

The Freelander proved that there was a market for a small off-roader with a big name badge and continues to sit at the forefront of it. That's quite an achievement, because with the Land Rover badge comes the expectation that it will be competent off the road as well as cosseting, quiet and composed on it. And with the caveat that while it a high-riding car, it should still be wonderfully agile.

Land Rover's one-time lengthy list of engines has been paired back to a single 2.2-litre diesel with two power outputs. A six-speed manual gearbox with start-stop as standard is fitted, although you can choose an auto and forgo the start-stop as a cost option.

Top 5 Compact SUVs

  • Ford Kuga
    Ford's targeting a class above with its bigger Kuga

    Ford Kuga

    1
  • Hyundai Santa Fe makes for an excellent ownership proposition

    Hyundai Santa Fe

    2
  • Land Rover is targeting the growing number of people buying into two-wheel-drive SUVs

    Land Rover Freelander

    3
  • If the new CR-V looks more crossover than old-guard SUV it may be because the roofline is 30mm lower than before

    Honda CR-V

    4
  • Toyota RAV4
    This is the fourth model in the RAV4's history

    Toyota RAV4

    5

First drives

Videos

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Land Rover range

Driven this week

  • The Kia Venga 1.4 CRDi SR7 costs from £14,895
    First Drive
    1 April 2015
    Looking for a practical, no-nonsense car for ferrying the family about? This facelifted Kia Venga could be an option, but is it better than its rivals?
  • First Drive
    1 April 2015
    The Mirai is Toyota's first stab at a UK production hydrogen fuel cell-powered car. What's it like to drive and does it make sense?
  • First Drive
    27 March 2015
    Lavishly-equipped, rugged-looking Peugeot 508 estate is a pleasant drive, but there are many more recommendable alternatives
  • 308 GT 1.6-litre petrol is priced from £24,095
    First Drive
    27 March 2015
    Peugeot's given the 308 the engine from the 208 GTi 30th and some chassis upgrades; we find out if the changes bring a bit of old-school Peugeot hot-hatch magic to this likeable family hatch.
  • Car review
    26 March 2015
    Does Suzuki's new city runabout have what it takes to succeed?