Car Choice: Finding the right 4x4 can be an uphill struggle

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Heather Read bought a Honda CRV last September, but apparently it all went horribly wrong and she ended up with a refund, but no vehicle. Heather and her family need four-wheel drive because they live on top of a hill in an area that is prone to flooding. They like the idea of seven seats – space is a priority for visits to family around the country – and they might get a dog! Heather is currently test driving various 4x4s, but which one should she buy?

A car for the head

As the owner of a fairly old seven seat Land Rover Discovery which copes brilliantly with adverse weather conditions, I would unhesitatingly recommend one of those. Indeed, Heather loves them too, but reckons it is far too thirsty on fuel. With around £20,000 to spend, there are many options. Heather probably needs a Land Rover, BMW or Mercedes off roader. For Japanese reliability I would suggest looking at the Nissan X-Trail. Here is a vehicle that will return around 38mpg. It is comfortable, well built, with a decently large interior and, more recently, an extended boot area. As an alternative to the CRV this would be the closest but it has a slightly tougher image. Heather can get a 2008 example, with less than 30,000 miles on the clock, from a dealer with a full warranty for £17,000.

A car for the heart

Seven seats in most vehicles apart from dedicated people carriers are always something of a compromise. Among the many options out there is a Korean-built model that is often overlooked and underrated – the Chevrolet Captiva (pictured). Designed by General Motors, but built in the Far East, it is a good combination of quality and value. The diesel 2.0 CDTi will deliver a reasonable 38mpg, which should please Heather. It is a good car to drive, and when the going gets slippery power is supplied to the rear wheels. Inside, there is bags of room for head and legs. The boot – especially if Heather is planning on getting a dog – is pretty big when five seats are being used. The top of the range LT model has seven seats, alloy wheels, and sat nav among many other luxuries. A 2009 example, with 20,000 miles on the clock, in LTX trim, from a Chevrolet dealer, would be great value at £17,495 and barely run in.

James Ruppert's new book The German Car Industry: My Part in Its Victory is out now (Foresight Publications) and is also available via at £12.99 including p&p.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.

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