Car Choice: It's got to be right for the rural rough stuff

Alan Corsie needs to replace his Honda CR-V. He lives in rural Perth and Kinross, which gets some snow every year – a lot this year – and his work takes him up rough farm tracks and across fields. He therefore requires four-wheel drive and good ground clearance. The vehicle also has to be the main family car at weekends, and needs to carry two adults, three children, and a dog. His budget is the trade-in value of the Honda, plus £10,000-£12,000.

A car for the head

Alan also made it clear to me that he wanted utter reliability, something the Honda seems to have been rather good at. With that in mind, I always believe that buyers cannot go very wrong with a Nissan. In this particular case, the Nissan X-Trail would be the most sensible choice. This is one of the most flexible and practical multi-purpose vehicles on sale. Here is a high-rise estate car, which will have plenty of room for five bodies plus a dog. It can certainly cope off-road and is also capable of towing very efficiently. On-road it is very comfy, and reasonably refined too. Boot space is pretty generous and the specification is equally good, with climate control and electric windows all round. Economy is also close to Alan's heart because he uses the vehicle constantly, so ideally he should go for the diesel engine and the 148bhp version of the 2.0dCi, which returns 39mpg. I would calculate that Alan will have around £15,000 to spend, including the part exchange. That puts a new X-Trail out of the question, but he should be able to buy a model that is a couple of years old. In the classifieds I found several 2007 examples with under 30,000 miles on the clock.

A car for the heart

Alan is considering another Honda CR-V, although he is concerned that the latest model has less ground clearance than the older version. At the very least he should test drive and take a close look at a vehicle he is familiar with. However, I would draw Alan's attention to an overlooked off-roader made by four-wheel drive specialists Subaru. The Forester (inset) is a very spacious and capable vehicle, which has a spectacular reputation for reliability. High mileage Subarus are commonplace, and although parts can be expensive, I find that is the case with all 4x4s. I have been checking prices and to get the latest model, which in 2.0D form returns 44mpg, Alan will struggle to get to the £18,000-plus required for a 2008 model. Mind you, if he negotiates hard and sells his old Honda privately, he might just get enough. In case it is out of reach, then another overlooked 4x4 would be the Mitsubishi Outlander. This has a very spacious cabin, is nice to drive on the road, and easily better than the CR-V off it. For just over £15,000 it should be possible to get a 2007 2.0 Di-D which will return 42.8mpg – and I found a 2009 example with 11,000 miles on the clock at a main dealer. There is certainly plenty for Alan to check out.

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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