Thursday, 7 August 2014

COLUMN - August 2014

Here is my column from the August edition of The Local Herald. I had three cars to test, which were the Kia Sportage, Land Rover Freelander and the everlasting Land Rover Defender. Each were very different in their own respects, and it was an unlikely favourite that emerged; the Freelander. So read on to find out how I got on. Also, my wedding is tomorrow, so there's some exciting cars on the driveway at the minute. But more on that next month!

I’m going to stick to bigger cars this month. First up is the Kia Sportage. This is a popular and stylish crossover offering great levels of practicality. My test car was a ‘3’ Nav, which means full leather, heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, parking sensors a twin sunroof and cruise control to name but a few features. This is a well kitted-out car and leaves you wanting for nothing. I think it looks good too. Silver isn’t the best colour; I much prefer the white or orange versions, and I found the wheels uninspiring.

The engine also left a little to be desired. At 1.7-litre the diesel engine in the Sportage is a bit small. It produces 114PS and 260Nm and can haul the big Kia from 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds. It does feel somewhat quicker than the figures suggest, but this is by no means as Sport-age as the name suggests. It cruises well on the motorway though, thanks to a 6-speed gearbox. Price for my test car was £23,900 which I think is pretty good for a car with a 7-year warranty to give you peace of mind.

Not too far away though, at £27,765 is the Land Rover Defender. I tested an SE spec with the 2.2-litre TD4 diesel engine. And I rather liked it. On the outside there are some nice 19” alloy wheels, although if it were me I’d go for a nicer colour and privacy glass. The inside though, is absolutely wonderful. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in a proper Range Rover, with the premium leather captains chairs, familiar steering wheel and built-in satellite navigation.

I was impressed with how it drove, too. 150PS may not seem like a lot, but 420Nm of torque certainly is. Coupled to a delightful 6-speed manual gearbox, cruising on the motorway is a dream. I thought it handled well for a big car with big wheels; the Freelander was comfortable and body roll wasn’t as much of a problem as you’d expect. It even had adaptive steering which was much nicer than having to wind lots of lock on every time you want to navigate a corner. But best of all; it’s a Land Rover. It has a proper 4WD system and a ‘go anywhere’ attitude. And now they’ve started putting them together properly, there’s no reason not to get one.

Or if you prefer your off-roading to be a little bit more extreme, then you might want to consider the Land Rover Defender. Not a lot has changed in several decades, but then again if it’s not broken… Obviously you get a few more creature comforts these days; heated seats, a heated windscreen, electric front windows, air conditioning to name a few. But the rest of it is still as rugged as ever. Take the steering, which is about as precise as using a chainsaw to chop vegetables. You need two feet to press the clutch, a degree in acrobatics to release the handbrake, and no right arm to fit in the drivers’ seat.

It might all sound negative, but I loved the defender right down to the last rivet on the body. It’s cracking fun, and has the most character of any car I’ve ever driven. And it’s an exclusive little club as well; be prepared to beep your horn and wave at passing Defender drivers. But that’s just it, people know what they’re getting with a Defender. It’s as rustic as modern motoring gets, and when the going gets tough, the Defender keeps going. And going. And going.

As always full reviews can be found on the Reviews page.
Dan

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