Monthly Archives: February 2014

Hils BlogToyota’s RAV4 celebrates 20 years in the business, as does our columnist! And even after two decades, the world of the SUV continues to surprise

So, here we are, now well into 2014. I hope you all had a great Christmas and fun New Year and managed to survive the awful weather that the end of 2013 brought us. In recent years, this has been a busy time of year for 4x4s, dealing with heavy snow brought to our shores from Siberia. This time it’s been high winds and terrible floods bought by weather systems from the northwest. But, once again, 4x4s have been prominent in responding to the floods, and the emergency services, in their Land Rovers and pick-ups, have been invaluable.

We all know, however, that even a traditional 4×4 with a higher air intake than your average saloon car isn’t immune and careless people still manage to kill their vehicles by thinking they can just drive through any deep standing water because they have an ‘SUV’. Even our impressively capable vehicles can be washed away in deep water: it’s a very strong element. You, dear 4×4 readers, would not be so reckless, of course.

BobCookeBob Cooke – contributor

Jeep CherokeeThe sign said ‘winch vehicles only’, which is why I didn’t take the Cherokee over that particular hump, but it didn’t stop Tom Parr driving his Land Rover up the steep climb leading into that area. The sudden burst of laughter from his on-looking buddies after the car disappeared over the other side was a call I couldn’t resist, so I parked the Cherokee and walked over. Surprise, surprise, Tom’s Land Rover had planted itself so deeply into a water-filled hole that it had flooded the driver’s footwell; it took a snatch recovery from a friend’s car to pull it back out of the hole.

The Slindon Safari off-road site, near Arundel in West Sussex, is a place where you can quite easily get a car stuck, but that’s only part of its attraction. There’s a good selection of really difficult off-roading that allows well-modified and winch-equipped vehicles to get to grips with the terrain, but there are also areas just challenging enough to enjoy a day out with an unmodified car, and plenty of middling tortuous terrain for something in between, like the Cherokee. There are wide open areas, there’s a lower section with so many humps and holes that you could easily lose a car in it, but my favourite areas are under the trees where, at times, you could imagine yourself in a dark and almost impenetrable jungle. That’s an impression enhanced after the recent heavy rains, since some of the tracks threading through the forest area had become so waterlogged that progress along some of them brought images of the most demanding days of the Camel Trophy to mind.

Screen shot 2012-04-05 at 15.17.51Robert Pepper

Land Rover Discovery 3Just got back from a camping trip of about three weeks. Our trips are somewhat unplanned; we pretty much decide where to stay late each afternoon, and typically move on after one or two nights. Everything our family of four needs is carried by the D3, either inside or on the roof rack. Fully loaded, the D3 might surprise many, as it looks a lot less ‘loaded’ than many other 4x4s, yet has everything a family needs for four days of remote bush camping. There are a few tricks to the packing, and I’ll share some here.

First up is buy all your gear from hiking shops, because that’s where you’ll find the lightest, smallest and best quality kit as every gram counts when on foot, whereas car people tend not to care. But you should, because weight and bulk add up. For example, down sleeping bags are warmer and compress more tightly than polyester bags, and quality inflatable mats pack down smaller than cheap self-inflators. Two, or even three small hiking stoves work very well and give you more space, better than lugging around a huge gas BBQ with a heavy gas pot. You probably don’t really need that big, heavy director’s camp chair – a smaller, simpler, lighter one often works well. Modern LED battery-powered camp lights are small and light, so ditch the big, bulky 12v electrics. Hikers also have collapsible buckets and dual-purpose cutlery, again cutting the weight and bulk. Take this minimisation approach throughout your gear and it’s amazing how you can cut the bulk and the weight.

Nigel FryattBob Cooke – contributor


Suzuki Grand Vitara SZ4EVEN the most cautious and careful driver can have an ‘incident’ when driving off-road. It’s one of those activities that you shouldn’t do, if you are not prepared for the consequences that might involve some damaged metal (or plastic), since it’s not always just your pride that gets dented.

That would be a good way of introducing, or indeed excusing, the dent that now appears on the Suzuki’s front bumper. I could regale you with stories of derring-do, on how the little Suzuki had been ploughing through the rough stuff, embarrassing vehicles more suited to serious mud-plugging, when one of those nasty mobile rocks ‘jumped out’ in front of me and caught the valance. I could say that, if it was true. Sadly, I have to admit that the damage was done… in a car park. Now it was the muddy, slippery car park at a small wildlife nature reserve somewhere in Surrey, and not a tarmac covered Tesco’s car park, but that still doesn’t quite excuse it.

Stupid thing was, when I drove in and parked I noticed the small wooden fence, less than a foot high, low down on the passenger’s side. It would be easy to miss that I thought to myself. Of course, some time later when I came to reverse out of the space, putting the wheel to full lock and looking over my shoulder to see all was clear behind and easing back, the resulting graunching noise told me that, basically, I was an idiot.


MPVs, or multi-purpose vehicles, are gaining popularity in the UK and abroad for their flexibility and versatility. As their name suggests, MPVs are now being used by different people for a huge number of reasons; they’re strong, sturdy vehicles that can be used to travel on difficult terrain with significant luggage and passengers. Compact MPVs, in particular, are popular with families, especially those with more than two kids – and what family of five or more isn’t looking to save a little money here or there? If you’re looking to save money, second hand MPVs are the answer.

Second hand doesn’t have to be second best; in fact, with the money you can save by purchasing an MPV second hand, you can almost always bag yourself a better MPV than if you were to buy one new. MPVs are made by just about every car manufacturer making cars today, including Vauxhall, Citroen and Peugeot, though some seem to be better at it than others. Honda have certainly made a name for themselves in this arena, having produced the Stream Estate as well as the incredibly popular Honda FR-V.

As an example, a used Honda FR-V in good condition can be purchased second hand for less than £5,000, whereas brand new it would set you back at least £15,000. That’s a saving of £10,000 – or two more used Honda FR-Vs! While many people might think that purchasing a second hand MPV is a compromise that comes at the cost of reliability or quality, this is not the case provided buyers shop wisely. By viewing the car before you purchase it and choosing a car with relatively low mileage, canny drivers can save themselves thousands of pounds on a vehicle which may well be almost like new.