Saturday 27 December 2014

Savings of €10,000 likely as new rules unveiled for jeeps

Streamlining of tax regulations on 4x4 commercials for families who need a workhorse and family car as well

Published 11/06/2014 | 02:30

The Toyota Land Cruiser is regarded by many as the best all-rounder on and off the road
Discovery
Interior of Land Cruiser.
Eye-Catching: If you are looking for a bargain, this Rexton model could be right up your street with its reasonable €38,000 price tag
Comfortable The Mitsubishi Pajero is expected to market from €49,950, which makes it good value for all that is on offer
Spacious: The Pajero is big and roomy and has a lot of cargo room when the rear seats are folded down.

THE taxman doesn't often give you the chance to save money but every so often some regulations can actually work in your favour.

And that is exactly what has happened with a number of large 4x4 'commercials'.

A change in regulations means that some vehicles now cost thousands and thousands of euro less – good news for farm and business families.

The price difference can be as much as €10,000 to €14,000. You'll milk a lot of cows, rear a lot of cattle and till many a field for that sort of a net profit.

So, just how has it come about?

The Revenue Commissioners decided, back in 2011, to align themselves more closely with EU regulations in streamlining commercial vehicle taxation.

Traditionally in the case of large 4x4s, you had your two-seat commercials with panels instead of windows along the sides.

As commercials, they incurred low rates of VRT and road tax. They just had the driver's and front passenger's seats and a large cargo area. But most farming families needed a car as well.

If they wanted a large 4x4 with more seats (usually seven) for the family then they paid a heavy price – the equivalent of a bunch of good weanlings extra – for the privilege.

Now, since the change in regulations, it is possible to get a commercial workhorse and a five-seat family car all in one – at the much lower VRT and road tax levels.

Before this the only thing that could give you that sort of flexibility was a pick-up (I always feel the rear seats are a bit cramped in those).

Now, so long as the manufacturer meets what are called N1 specifications, you can get a flexible five-seater commercial for all those thousands less.

The regulations, measurements and dimensions on cargo/load space, size and distance from seats to rear etc are strict and rigid.

But provided the manufacturer stamps the vehicle as N1 at the factory, the Revenue Commissioners will charge VRT at just 13.3pc and, in most cases, permit road tax of €333.

Compare that with the seven-seaters of old which invoked 34pc VRT and you see how and why prices are lower.

What might have cost in the region of upwards of €65,000 as a seven-seater now comes in around or under the €50,000-€55,000 mark for a five-seater commercial. Little wonder they have virtually replaced the old guard.

These new 'commercials' have several common denominators:

* They meet the criteria of being factory-approved N1 – all the dimensions and weight rules;

* Prices include VAT, and look even better if and when you claim it back;

* They have big, strong diesel engines with loads of torque (pulling power) at low revs;

* All have myriad technologies that aid stability, hill descent, traction etc;

* You can fold-flat some, or all, of the second-row seats, depending on your passenger/cargo needs;

* There is plenty of room for rear-seat passengers when all seats are in use. And there is still a large cargo/load area;

* The big players – Land Rover, Mitsubishi and Toyota – are gearing and targeting these vehicles at farmers and business people in particular;

* Equipment levels are high, and leather upholstery is widespread.

Indeed, I'd say you should plan on getting a special cover for the cargo-area floor and sides to prevent soiling or damaging the surrounds if you're carrying stuff that could spill or stain!

In reality we are looking at the three big players mentioned – and a fourth trying to knock at the door – on the Irish market.

I've taken all four for a drive here – some abroad – to give you a flavour of what each of them are like.

Young pretender is still a rough ride – but has decent price

SsangYong Rexton W Business Edition

Key facts

From €38,329 (automatic from €41,377) including VAT, delivery and related charges extra. Five-seater; 2-litre diesel (155bhp); 4WD; Torque 360Nm; 6-spd manual/5-spd automatic; 2.6-tonne towing capacity. Ladder chassis – double wishbone and coil spring suspension at front; five-link rigid axle with coil springs at the rear.

Standard equipment

Heated front and rear seats, cruise control; air con; electric/heated folding door mirrors; CD and RDS radio with USB and Bluetooth connectivity; Hill Descent Control (HDC);ISO-Fix; and tether anchorage points for child seats in second row.

Driven

This is very much the baby of the pack and is pushing for recognition. Make no mistake: its big selling point is its price.

Unlike the others, leatherette seats are standard. Full leather is an optional extra.

It is not in the same league as the 'Big Three' either in terms of power, drive or comfort and, despite its recent overhaul, it retains a lot of what has gone before.

Off-road, it gives a low range for tougher terrain with power split equally between front and rear axles to give as much traction as possible.

I wasn't as impressed driving this as I was with all the other three.

It wouldn't be my choice but I will say this – you get a lot of car for the money and the towing capacity figure is strong.

Definitely worth a look for someone hunting down a bargain.

Discovery just like a Range Rover at a fraction of price

Land Rover Discovery

Key facts

Five-seater; from €55,120 (including VAT); delivery, related charges extra; 3-litre V6 (2,993cc) diesel 210bhp; 4x4; 207g/km; torque 520Nm, maximum torque between 1,500 – 2,500rpm; towing capacity 3,500kg; air suspension.

Standard equipment:

Includes 8spd automatic gearbox, Hill-start assist, Stop/start technology, electric park brake, Hill-Descent Control, rear park sensors, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, leather seats, steering wheel with audio/telephone controls, 19in alloys, heated electric mirrors, automatic climate control and cruise control.

Driven

This is a mammoth. There is no other way to describe it. You don't get in – you climb in. The cabin is enormous and you feel like you are in a Range Rover.

Indeed many have asked why you'd bother with the latter when you can have this for tens of thousands less.

I have not been a major devotee down the years because I am aware that in previous guises, Discovery have had their troubles.

However, over the past number of years they have made significant and substantial improvements and upgrades. It's a totally different animal now.

I've driven this off-road abroad. I've had it up to its neck in thick mud, and deep water. I experienced that strange sensation of either panicking or trusting the car when it felt like a submerging submarine.

Without exception I opted for trust. It never wavered. I've driven it over rocky outcrops at angles that, I thought, defied gravity and balance. It is a serious package.

With five big seats and a driving position that is not properly described by the word 'elevated' it also benefits from a sprucing up this year. The 'Discovery' name is now across the bonnet (it used to have Land Rover) and there is a new light cluster. The diesel engine has great low-end pulling power.

There is an 8spd automatic transmission in this and its 'intelligent' system takes care of coping with the prevailing underfoot conditions. It is a powerful drive on the tarmac and instils total confidence off-road.

The only thing against the Discovery is the legacy of former models. Funny how these things linger but this is now a mighty impressive machine and a big, big seller.

Extraordinary capability in all-rounder

Toyota Land Cruiser Business Commercial

Key facts

Five-seater from €53,995 (including VAT), delivery and related charges extra. Full-time 4WD; 3-litre D-4D diesel (2,982cc; 190bhp; 3,000kg towing capacity; 420Nm torque; 39.7mpg; 214g/km). High and low-range transmission, double wishbone suspension at the front and a live-rear axle with four-link and lateral rod location at rear.

Standard equipment

Dual-zone climate control; remote audio switches; electric lumber support; leather upholstery; cruise control; electric/adjustable/heated front seats; Toyota Touch 2 (multimedia system); rear-view camera; nine-speaker radio/CD (MP3/WMA file compatible); Bluetooth mobile phone hands-free system; USB port and AUX socket for audio connectivity; connection to iPod, MP3 players, USB Flash Drive etc; 17in alloys; front fogs and side steps.

Driven

This vehicle is regarded by many as the best all-rounder on and off the road, though I'm sure the others will have something to say about that.

I remember, some time back, taking a seven-seater Land Cruiser, pictured above, down a long slippery, cloying, deeply rutted muddy lane typical of many a farm route.

It was extraordinarily capable but because of its severely-high price at the time I took it for granted and dismissed it as being for an elite sort of buyer.

The technology was impressive but way outside most people's capacity to purchase.

Now it is a different matter, as it is there for a lot less money in the five-seater.

I took it for a recent drive around west Dublin and it reminded me of how good this can be on the road as well as off-road.

It felt bigger and roomier than the Pajero and less massive than the Discovery and I found it, despite heavy traffic and brazen cyclists, a bit easier to drive than either of those.

There is a lot of room in it – though again I prefer the upswing tailgate to the sideways opening on this.

It does really well on keeping things simple, such as functions for off-roading and the 4.2in multi-information display which conveys fuel consumption, range, temperature and a variety of on-board systems.

I thought the icons for elements such as phones and connectivity were particularly excellent – hands free and uncluttered.

It is a fine example of how lots of functions can be channelled through a few 'windows'.

This is the most user-friendly I've come across.

Again, leather is standard and the seats are large, strong and, in the one I drove, had lumbar support just where and when I needed it.

This is something those who negotiate bumpy and rough terrain on a daily basis should always check out.

Backs take a fair hammering being jostled up-and-down and from side to side.

We often don't realise that – until it is too late.

I think the Land Cruiser is one of those understated, but exceptional, vehicles that ranks with the best.

A reasonably-priced and roomy drive that packs a real punch

Mitsubishi Pajero Executive

Key facts

From €49,950 (including VAT), delivery and related charges extra; five-seater; automatic (5spd); selective 4x4; 3.2-litre turbocharged/intercooled four-cylinder; 200bhp; direct injection; 441Nm torque; 3,500kg towing capacity. Suspension – double wishbone coil springs with stabiliser bar at front, multi-link coil springs with stabiliser bar at rear.

Standard equipment

Front and rear air-con; sat nav; rear-park distance; cruise control; electric sunroof; Bluetooth hands-free phone kit; electric windows; electric/ heated/folding door mirrors; rear Isofix child-seat anchors; leather seat upholstery; central armrests; 18in alloys; rain sensor wipers; side steps etc.

Driven

The 200bhp gave it serious grunt on the road where it required just 2WD.

You can pick 4WD at the push of a button (Super Select 4WD system) and switch between the two at speeds of up to 100kmph.

There are low-gear ratios for the dirty, muddy, heavy pulling jobs as well as electronic traction and stability control.

In many ways I expected all that and, unless I had a trailer load of cattle to haul or a rocky mountainside to manoeuvre, I would not require the extra traction.

However, as this is likely to combine as a farm and family 'car' it is obvious the Mitsubishi people pushed hard to have Pajero score highly on comfort.

It is big and roomy but, on the road, did not feel overwhelming or overpowering.

It certainly didn't feel as mammoth as the Land Rover Discovery.

This had a lot of cargo room when I folded the rear seats, as well as rear-seat room when the second row was upright.

The Pajero has built a strong profile with its endurance drives.

I liked the cabin in this. It was nicely comfortable and the trim is certainly not something you'd normally associate with 'commercial'.

I felt surfaces in the cabin would cope well with the rough and tumble of everyday use because they are hard-wearing.

I'm not mad about the rear door opening sideways. I prefer upwards, preferably with a split tailgate.

No question, however, that getting stuff into the load area was easy and I could fold the seats and re-instate them quickly – without having to re-read the handbook.

It really is the sort of vehicle you could drive for hours without feeling discomfited.

One of the major criticisms that has endured over the years was that the 7-seater Pajero was quite expensive.

In stark contrast, this 5-seater is really well priced now, has lots of equipment and has some of the best engineering around.

Indo Farming

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