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

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 jamesruppert.com 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 carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.