For many city folk the lure of 4×4 ownership is such that a car only has to look like a 4×4 to succeed. Nissan’s prescience in tapping that resource has made their ‘urbanproof’ Qashqai a best seller
TARGET RANGE: £5000 – £23,000
We have to admit to being somewhat baffled by the mass appeal of the Nissan Qashqai. It certainly seems to be a good-value package as a family hatchback, with sensible pricing and good equipment throughout the range, but that has nothing to do with any four-wheel drive pretensions it may have, and we’ve always considered the interior to be somewhat featureless and unexciting. The Qashqai has smart enough modern exterior styling, if you like that very Eastern rather startled bug-eyed expression on the bluff front and can live with the swept-down roofline and rising waistline that starves rear occupants of headroom and visibility, but it’s hardly a design that stands out among a dozen other modern mid-range SUV-type hatchbacks. Still, it’s good news that the Qashqai is doing so well, because it shows that the British automotive industry is still a force to be reckoned with.
The Yeti has proved an impressive sales success for Skoda and the latest revised version is likely to gain more converts, thanks to the fifth generation Haldex clutch
Words: Nigel Fryatt
It seems Yeti sightings are becoming a lot more common. Indeed, unlike the fabled ‘big foot’ itself, it’s now quite common to spot one, since a quarter of a million Yetis have been built since the launch in 2009. And after sightings in China, Russia and Germany, the UK is the Yeti’s most popular home with just under 30,000 having been sold. That makes it a popular SUV, and in its 4×4 mode it has achieved our Highly Recommended Award in its class for the last two 4×4 Of The Year group tests. It’s a very popular machine, and owners tend to be extremely enthusiastic, this is one SUV that you make a decisive decision to buy. In looks alone, this is not another ‘copycat’ SUV design and for 2014 the Skoda Yeti has received a facelift, which actually goes a lot further than just tarting up the somewhat idiosyncratic exterior. It’s the changes underneath that interest us.
No need to keep the family standing around in the rain waiting for a bus to come along when you can have an all-weather people carrier parked right outside the house. We look at the Top Ten seven-seaters…
With fuel prices and the cost of public transport rising to ever more ridiculous heights with every passing day, the lure of the seven-seater SUV seems more attractive than ever. Who, after all, would board a bus or take a train when there’s a comfortable minibus parked right there on the driveway? How many families will be considering a single seven-seater as an alternative to two five-seater family cars, thereby saving on insurance and maintenance costs as well?
The car manufacturers have anticipated this surge of interest with the result that more and more have been offering seven-seater versions of their family estates. Four-wheel drives are no exception, seemingly offering the best all-round all-weather solution for the active family. There’s a good selection of seven-seater SUVs available; here we’ve chosen to feature our top ten, ranging from the patently old-fashioned to the hi-tech trend leaders, from affordable yet still well equipped budget models to prestige limousines reflecting the heights of luxury. We’ve chosen to look at cars not more than seven years old, settling on a lower price limit of £5000; naturally much of what we have to say about these lower-end models will apply to earlier examples that could be available – albeit with more signs of wear and higher mileages – for much less. At the other extreme the sky’s the limit, epitomised by the £60,000 being asked for a nearly new Mercedes-Benz GL with all the luxury trimmings.
As we all know, 4x4s come in all shapes and sizes, but few can actually float. We meet with Tim Dutton, an endearing character, and founding father of the this country’s kit car industry, with his latest 4×4 creation. Let’s go off-road Surf-ing in the UK…
Words and photography: Nigel Fryatt
For most people, an amphibious car answers a question that never gets asked. Surely you only ever want one or the other; a road vehicle, or a boat. Strange, therefore, that when Tim Dutton asks the simple question, “Would you like a coffee?” the only answer is an amphibious four-wheel drive.
When the cappuccino in question awaits you on the other side of the River Arun in Littlehampton, logic says you take the road away from the river to search out the nearest bridge. Not so, of course, when you have a Dutton Surf, since the journey to the local barista merely involves negotiating the gluttonous mud of the river bank, before ploughing into the water, deselecting the four-wheel drive, initiating the jet motor and powering across the fast flowing river to the somewhat slippery slipway, where four-wheel drive is re-engaged for the effortless, and remarkably drama free, exit from the water up to the café.
Now we don’t usually cover classic military Jeeps… but then this amazing vehicle is nothing of the kind! For one Polish 4×4 enthusiast, the Jeep ‘look’ was what he wanted, but with reliable running gear, in this case, from standard Nissan parts! Yes, that’s right, this is a Jeep CJ7 Nissan. Sort of….
Words: Jakub Chelmicki Photography: Igor Kohutnicki
The idea for this car came about by chance while I was doing an engine replacement in a friend’s passenger car. My colleague Michael was helping me and he casually mentioned that he’d give me one of his four (!) Jeep CJ7s, along with all the documents and suggested I rebuild it. Now I had a set of axles from a Nissan Patrol 260, a Nissan Patrol 160 gearbox with a transfer box, together with some other junk, so since I had the axles and gearbox, the engine was not going to be a problem, and I could do the wiring by myself. This would mean that working at my own pace, I could build a car in the shape of a classic Jeep, but based on my favourite Nissan mechanics. Michael is known for really outlandish ideas, so this one was no surprise. But the more I thought about it, the more I became hooked, and the project got under way.
It’s hard to believe that we are now into our third decade of publishing this magazine’s annual 4×4 Of The Year mega test. Needless to say there isn’t another magazine that can claim anything close to that kind of experience and dedication to its subject. The knowledge and experience that such a heritage creates cannot be easily matched, and it’s fair to say we are proud of what we achieve; especially in today’s more frugal times, which limits the resources available. Or to put it another way, this group test is produced by a small, dedicated editorial team. At all times, our testers are as objective as possible; of course we are all human, we love our 4x4s, and so include some necessary subjectivity to our test regime.
As before, we have split the 30 vehicles tested into groups, each of which has its own class winner and a Highly Recommended, runner-up. Those winners are then matched together for us to decide an overall titleholder for 2014. To get to our final decisions, we look at each vehicle’s on and off-road ability, its overal competence, we consider value for money, and whether the machine is fit for purpose. This later category is how we match a £15,000 Fiat Panda 4×4 with a £100,000+ Range Rover, to surprising results at times!
Suzuki’s 4×4 range extends further with the brand new SX4 S-Cross. A ‘soft roader’ certainly, but one fitted with the new driver selectable four mode ALLGRIP system
Words and photography: Nigel Fryatt
Things seem to be going well for Suzuki in the UK, the company having nudged its way into the top 20 best selling manufacturers, overtaking Mazda and Volvo and, in the words of Managing Director Dale Wyatt, ‘going to give Renault a bloody nose soon.’ Even allowing for exuberant marketing bravado, there’s no denying that Suzuki appears on the up; and it’s a growth built on a 4×4 heritage. The Grand Vitara is a well established model, we wrote about the introduction to the UK of the Swift 4×4 in the last issue, and the ever youthful Jimny continues to sell, entertain and bring a smile to all owners, and now the company enters probably the most competitive segment of the SUV market with its Nissan Qashqai competitor, the SX4 S-Cross. This introduction comes at a time when Suzuki can boast at being the UK’s fastest growing brand.
If you find the idea of a brand new Land Rover Defender, Range Rover or Porsche Cayenne just that bit too ordinary, you might be in the market for a bespoke model created by one of the UK’s custom-build specialists. Paul Guinness takes a look at these exclusive, hand-built specials
There was a time when anybody cruising the leafier parts of Cheshire or the mean streets of Notting Hill in a brand new Range Rover would have turned heads. It was one of the ultimate ways of saying “I’ve arrived – and I want you to know it”. But times have changed. Oh sure, the Range Rover is still a superb choice, being highly praised by all those who come in contact with it; but no longer is a bog-standard example the ultimate way of announcing your success and wealth to passers-by.
The last few years have seen an increase in the numbers of custom-built 4x4s based around existing models, aimed at clients seeking the ultimate in exclusivity and individuality. We’re not talking about vehicles modified for off-road use, of course; no, we mean the 4x4s created for turning heads out on the street, as well as those built with supercar-like performance in mind.
Anyone wanting to equip their 4×4 fleet with the best protection in the world should head to Jankel, where the increasingly popular Jeep J8 is the gold star option for military and also civilian use; and that includes a pick-up version
Words: Hils Everitt Photography: Supplied by Jankel
The Jeep J8 is not a vehicle you are likely to see gracing our highways and byways in the UK. Jeep designed the J8 primarily for those in uniform who work in the harshest environments and terrains, preserving our safety.
You will find various governments and international agencies operating the many versions of J8 all over the world, but there is a tiny corner of England where the J8 is a very important product. Jankel, based in the South East, was established in 1955 and is currently the world leader in the design, testing and mass manufacture of light vehicles, including those based on Toyota Land Cruisers. Improving safety and security of occupants in threatened and vulnerable vehicles is a major part of its work.
After establishing a well-earned reputation in the world of off-road competition, KAP Motorsport has moved in an intriguing direction. Check out these excellent Suzuki Jimny specials. Admit it, you want one…
Words: Hils Everitt Photography: Hils Everitt, KAP Motorsport, Alan Coutts
KAP (originally Keighley Automotive Painting) has veered away from the Suzuki 4×4 racing side, preferring to concentrate on saloon cars, but its Suzuki credentials are still very much to the fore. Converting Suzuki Jimnys into pick-up trucks for commercial and utility purposes has become a core part of its business and it is proving highly successful. “We have converted five so far this year; it’s a very steady, good business and they are becoming more and more popular,” explains KAP founder and owner Darren Wilson. “It takes about two weeks to do the conversion; it has to look right and be totally in proportion, which has taken a while to perfect on a compact-sized vehicle.” He loves Suzukis, especially Jimnys, and is extremely proud of the fact that his trucks are dotted all over the British Isles, working very hard for a living.
Farmers, groundsmen, foresters and all manner of people working on the land and in the great outdoors make up his customers. “They want something light, easy on fuel, easily manoeuvrable, but offering more comfort, safety and space than the traditional Mule or ATV, whatever you want to call them,” he continues.