Great off-road, but too compromised on tarmac

What is it?

This is possibly the Land Rover Defender's most significant rival yet. Few people outside Italy will be familiar with the Campagnola name, but this butch off-roader can call on a lineage dating back to 1951 as Fiat's version of the wartime Willys Jeep.

The current Campagnola is marketed under the branding of Iveco, Fiat's commercial division, and it's undoubtedly a proper off-roader.

This is partly due to its distant relationship with Land Rover's earlier products - it was spawned from the Spanish-built Santara 4x4, which originated as a constructor of licence-built cart-sprung Land Rovers.

What is it like?

As you would expect, it's pretty talented in the dirt and pretty compromised off it.

Iveco has combined the Santana's chassis with its own 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel unit, drafted in from the Daily van.

The 176bhp engine is undoubtedly the Campagnola's best feature. It delivers strong performance low down the rev range, and peak torque arrives at just 1250rpm.

The car is still mounted on leaf springs at the back, but axle articulation is excellent and the Campagnola can get an impressive distance into the wilderness without breaking sweat.

Four-wheel-drive is also available in both high and low range, but can be disengaged to improve fuel economy, making the car rear-drive only. There is also an electronic centre differential.

Unfortunately on road the inadequacies of the Campagnola's rudimentary chassis quickly become apparent.

The steering feels vague and disconnected while the suspension combines poor body control and acute roll angles with an uncomfortably bouncy ride.

The enormous transmission tunnel also creates an awkward seating position for the driver, off-setting you from the pedals and pointing slightly towards the side of the vehicle.

Iveco is only planning to bring the Campagnola to the UK in limited numbers, but leather upholstery and air conditioning will come as standard along with the option of satellite navigation.

None of which fits particularly well with the tough, unpretentious interior. Curiously, only two colours are available - drab "sage green" and a slightly dirty-looking "ivory".

Should I buy one?

Iveco believes the Campagnola is the "best true off-road car on the market", and although its Santana/ Land Rover DNA gives it plenty of off-road ability, it lacks the capability of a Defender or Wrangler to combine heavy duty mud-plugging with acceptable road manners.

The name might evoke nostalgia on the continent but in the UK there isn't enough history and prestige to justify buying one.

George Barrow

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Bruce Wayne 21 September 2008

Re: Iveco Campagnola

"Taint your soul" ??!! It's a bloody car forum you pretentious handpump ! It would have to be going some to "taint my soul" !

theonlydt 18 September 2008

Re: Iveco Campagnola

The end of the article... the defender has acceptable on-road manners? What defenders have you driven?!