One For The Road: An off-roader to cope with frozen hills


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Indy Lifestyle Online

Janice Henderson wants a 4x4 for £5,000. As an old-age pensioner living up a hilly, unmade road which freezes and floods, she's fed up driving her husband's pick-up.

A Car for the Head

I think the key here is a compact but sturdy 4x4. Unlike many who want a 4x4, Janice is actually going to use the hardware. So rather than a so-called "softroader" with part-time four-wheel drive she really needs a proper working vehicle. For that reason the Suzuki Grand Vitara is an excellent choice. Off-road this is no plaything but a proper mud-plugger, which can do all the dirty stuff. On the road it is almost civilised, though it can be harsh and noisy. The driving position is certainly good, provided the model has seat-height adjust. There is a 2.0 petrol, which is perfectly adequate, returning around 31mpg. There's also a more frugal 1.9 diesel. Janice's budget will buy a one-owner, full-service history 2004 2.0 with just 36,000 miles.

A Car for the Heart

There is another Suzuki, the small, cute and almost cuddly Suzuki Jimny that is a two-door terrier that could easily cope with Janice's hill. However, a slightly more civilised practical alternative would be the underrated and just as compact Daihatsu Terios (below). It should cost no more to run than the same marque's Charade (small hatchback) on which it is based. The fuel consumption is 36.7mpg, and Janice probably won't find another off-roader that is cheaper to run. It has permanent four-wheel drive, though the 1.3 engine struggles with the bigger body and extra transmission hardware. Cruising on the motorway isn't so bad, but the gearbox has to be worked hard to get that Terios moving with any conviction. Five thousand buys a 2005 Tracker, which has 43,000 miles with front electric windows.

Looking to buy?

Email James Ruppert at onefortheroad, 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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