Ten Point Test

Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 82%

Land Rover has been synonymous with rugged off road ability since it started building vehicles in 1948.

But today’s buyer demands more comfort, more on-road ability and better fuel economy with the rugged look which Land Rover is famous for.

That’s where the Freelander steps in. The original model was a best seller across Europe and its replacement, according to Land Rover, is better in every way.

We took to the road to find out.

1. Looks 8/10

Those loving the rugged looks of the Discovery and Range Rover Sport will find lots to like in the Freelander. It’s immediately identifiable as the baby Land Rover, but styling cues like its twin-unit headlights, bulbous snout and huge vents on the wings move things along nicely.

The door handles are pleasantly bulky and feel robust – a theme that’s strengthened by the no-nonsense black trim around the bottom of the car.

2. Looks inside 8/10

Like the exterior, the cabin owes plenty to the Land Rover Freelander’s bigger brothers. The interior feels very high quality and chunky – particularly the door pillars and steering wheel. The centre console is festooned with buttons to control the audio, telephone, sat-nav and heating systems. But despite looking chaotic, all the controls were surprisingly easy to locate. Aft of these controls is a dial to select the Terrain Response system modes, which adjusts how the power is transferred to the wheels depending on the road surface.

3. Practicality 7/10

The electrically-operated seats were supremely comfortable, and there was more than enough leg, shoulder and head room for front occupants. However, rear space was slightly disappointing for such a big vehicle. Boot space is plentiful, but at 755 litres, less than some of its rivals. This has much to do with the raised boot floor which covers the spare wheel underneath – without it, space could be increased by another 200-odd litres. And unlike some soft-roaders, the Freelander is carpeted throughout – pleasant for a run to the shops, but a nightmare for muddy boots.

4. Ride and Handling 8/10

On the road the Freelander feels as composed as some saloon cars. It soaks up lumps and bumps with ease and bodyroll – often the Achilles heel of SUVs – is minimal. The steering is precise for an off-roader, but has a tendency to become slightly vague at speed. This became particularly disconcerting on fast motorway bends, where the front of the car felt as though it was beginning to push wide into understeer.

5. Performance 8/10

The 2.2-litre turbo diesel fitted in our test car has a remarkable turn of speed, particularly through the gears. It can reach 62mph from rest in 10.2 seconds, before hitting 112mph. That’s thanks to a hefty 295lb/ft of pulling muscle rather than its 158bhp. The engine feels refined, even at higher speeds, and there’s just enough power available at low engine speeds to make the Freelander a nippy machine around town.

6. Running Costs 7/10

At more than £30,000, our Freelander didn’t come cheap. The range starts at just over £20k, which is on par with a well specced Nissan X-Trail; indeed a middle-of-the-range Freelander is around the same price as an entry-level Discovery. But few other rivals can compete with the Land Rover’s image.

On a variety of rapid motorway journeys and through-town crawls the Freelander managed to return just over 33mpg – 4mpg less than the official figure. Road tax is a heavyweight £205 a year at the time of going to press thanks to 194g/km of CO2, while insurance is group 13; typical of this class of car.

7. Reliability 8/10

Previous Freelanders have been beset with niggling faults, but reports so far indicate this, the second generation, to be largely fault free. It certainly felt like a solid piece of kit, and we foresaw no cause for concern on our low-mileage test car.

8. Safety 10/10

The Freelander scored a full five stars for adult occupant protection in the EuroNCAP crash tests, and four stars for child protection. All models feature seven airbags as standard – driver, passenger, front side, side curtain and driver’s knee. It also has an intelligent four wheel drive system which pumps 10 per cent of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions, but can transfer almost all power to the rear if the going gets tough. All models bar the entry level Freelander have Land Rover’s Terrain Response system which optimises traction depending on the road conditions.

9. Equipment 9/10

All models come with alloy wheels, air conditioning and a CD player, while our range-topping HSE counted leather seats, a touch screen sat-nav with integrated telephone, an Alpine stereo with 12 speakers and 18-inch alloy wheels as standard.

10. X-Factor 9/10

The little Land Rover might not offer ultimate luxury like the big Range Rover or amazing off-road ability like the Defender. But the Freelander is a sensible choice for townies who occasionally need to traverse fields. It should make an excellent towcar too.

Key facts

Model tested: Land Rover Freelander 2 HSE TD4
On the road price: £30,960
Range price: £20,960 – £34,095
Date tested: July 2007
Road tester: Stuart Milne