Car Choice: I'm after an eco-friendly 4x4

Peter clearly wants it all. Unfortunately a 4x4 vehicle only delivers in certain areas and economy really isn't one of them. There is also an argument that it isn't the ideal commuting vehicle. If I was feeling really cruel I might recommend the Daihatsu Terios. It is very cheap and well equipped, and brand new the Tracker model costs just £8,995.

It is actually pretty good off road, but on the highway many find it tinny, noisy and cramped. Having said that, it will do around 35mpg overall and that is from a petrol, not diesel, engine. I can't see Peter taking it seriously, but does he really need a 4 x 4 or would a normal four-wheel drive do? I think it is everyone's right to drive whatever sort of vehicle they want, but sometimes you need one that is appropriate for the job. So for the times of year when it does get slippy and four-wheel drive comes in handy,

I think Peter should be thinking along more conventional lines. We must not lose sight of the fact that all he really wants to do is drive something interesting until he has enough money to buy his Murano.

A car for the head

I don't know what Peter has against the Toyota RAV4, which I think is a great on/off road compromise, but his dislike will also put him off both the Suzuki Grand Vitara and the Suzuki Jimny, despite the fact that with 1.6- and 1.3-litre engines they can deliver a decent 35mpg and great off-road ability. On road, though, they are less than comfortable.

Then there are the truly half estate, half 4x4 concoctions such as the Honda CRV and Subaru Forester. Early versions are now around £5,000, but maybe Peter finds them as offensive as the Nissan X-Trail, which is actually an excellent piece of on/off road kit.

Personally, if I needed on-road comfort and just a little bit of reassurance in the winter then my choice would have to be an Audi Quattro. An older A4 from 1996 with a 1.9 diesel engine is very frugal, but obviously not that quick. But it is comfortable enough, and higher-mile examples are now quite cheap, especially in saloon form.

If Peter needs estate-car practicality, though, he must be prepared to pay several hundred more for the Avant model. If money is an issue then the previous Audi 80 Quattro is now available at giveaway prices.

A car for the heart

How about a Subaru Impreza? In hatchback form it would give Peter some practicality and the extra grip of the four-wheel-drive system is not really in question with these rally-winning cars. But I don't think that Peter should have the full-fat Turbo hooligan version. From 1993 to 1996 Subaru built a 1.6 version and that was just about adequate, and remarkably returned almost 35mpg. If Peter wants a bit more performance there were also a 1.8- and 2.0-litre versions.

It is not a very large car and in hatchback form it still looks less than ordinary, but what he will get is a reliable and tough car that is cheap to buy, and provided it does not break down, won't be expensive to run. OK, so he does not have the extra ride height, but if that's all he wants then a Toyota HiLux is the answer.

Imported from Japan with an indestructible diesel engine, the HiLux is motoring at its most basic, and the pick-up style rear end may be a little too exposed and impractical for everyday round-town use.

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail James Ruppert at carchoice@independent.co.uk, giving your age, address and contact number, and details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested.

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