Recently I received a panicky message from a mate. I quote: “My Land Rover Freelander, which has done about 130,000 miles, looks like it’s about to give up the ghost. It keeps losing power and, having just spent £450 on it at the garage getting the problem fixed only to have it resurface again today, I am thinking: ‘Is this the moment I decide to stop pouring good money after bad?’” It’s my job, then, to suggest suitable alternative banger-price small 4x4s.
First of all, I pointed him in the direction of the Kia Sportage, which I’ve always had plenty of time for. It isn’t hardcore, but it’s fine on the road. I found a 2006 2.0 XS petrol model with 102,000 miles; it seemed very tidy, and all for £2390. It must have been good indeed, because by the time my mate got around to contacting the seller, it had been sold.
I found another Kia in the shape of the Sorento, which is a bigger and rather tougher beast. This was also a 2006 car, which meant that it had a full upgrade and, being a 3.5 V6 XT model, permanent four-wheel drive. With 92,000 miles on the clock, it was quite possibly a 4x4 too far, despite costing a tempting £1995.
Something a bit more handily sized would be the off-road order of the day, so one of those super estates from Subaru. The Forester is a perky thing, and I found a 2007 2.5 XT petrol with 110,000 miles, a full service history and a recent cambelt change up for £3490. That seemed to go down well with my mate as a serious contender, although the running costs, even without breakdowns, might eclipse those of the Freelander.
A more conventional alternative to an exotic Subaru would be a Chevrolet. Well, a Vauxhall Antara with Chevrolet badges, anyway. The Captiva’s third row of seats may be useless, but its part-time four-wheel drive is all my mate needs. What’s more, the one that I found was up for £2400 – very reasonable for a 2010 2.0 Di LTX with just 65,000 miles. It also had an MOT with no advisories, so it was definitely a contender.
Going to the proper banger end of the spectrum meant going fairly ancient: a 2001 Toyota RAV4 with the reliable 1.8-litre VVT petrol engine in funky three-door format for less than £1500 with just over 106,000 miles. It might need more doors, but it’s better-looking than most modern 4x4s and simpler and cheaper to live with. Indeed, I went and found plenty of multi-door alternatives.
Then there was also a handful of Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.6 SE 4x4s from 2004 for less than £1400, but these aren’t particularly sophisticated.
Meanwhile, my mate’s Freelander remains a dead 4x4 driving…
Tales from Ruppert's garage