Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 22 September 2017

Wheels for all seasons: Market's changing shape

Aidan Timmons reports on the changing shape of the 4x4 commercials market

The Toyota Land Cruiser
The Toyota Land Cruiser
Land Rover Discovery

Aidan Timmons

Commercial four-wheel-drive vehicles are a mainstay on Irish farms. There is a hardly a field in the country that has not at some stage borne the weight of a Landcruiser, Pajero, Discovery or some other such vehicle.

However, the emergence of and subsequent rise in popularity of five-seat commercials makes for a compelling argument in combining a work vehicle with a second family car.

Then there is the crossover segment which has created an opportunity for farmers looking to supplement or replace and downsize their commercial four-wheel-drive without spending a fortune.

With all of this in mind, let us take a closer look at a whole range of options, spanning budgets from under €25,000 to €60,000.

 

THE 'CROSSOVERS'

Ford KugaFord's popular SUV comes in 'Utility' guise which removes the rear seats and offers 1,600 litres of storage space instead. Two-wheel drive versions are primarily aimed at road users but Ford's All Wheel Drive system is also available which broadens its usability on a farm or small landholding. Powered by the same 2.0 TDCi engine found in the passenger version, the Kuga will return 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres (but expect the figure to worsen with heavy loads).

All models come with Hill Start Assist which maintains breaking pressure on an incline to allow the driver to step off the brake and onto the accelerator without rolling backwards. Ford's All Wheel Drive system is capable of controlling all four wheels independently to reduce slippage too.

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Utility models feature a nifty Handsfree Tailgate feature which allows the tailgate to be opened by waving your foot under the rear bumper. Great for when you have your arms wrapped around a bag of ration. Prices start at €31,580 for a front-wheel drive Kuga Utility in Zetec trim. The step up to a four-wheel-drive model will set you back an extra €2,390.

Hyundai ix35

The ix35 was one of the fastest crossovers out of the blocks in the January new-car market. Commercial sales are still relatively small but the shape and size of the vehicle is perfectly suitable for running farm errands in a comfortable and stylish manner.

The 2.0 diesel four-wheel-drive version has a six speed manual transmission and is inherently more powerful than the entry level 1.7 litre diesel model.

Some clever features of the ix35 include Hill Descent Control, which negates the need to manually regulate breaking pressure on sharp descents; and Trailer Safety Control which delicately balances the engine torque and braking pressure to safeguard against weaving trailers.

The ix35 has an attractive starting price of €24,495. The 2.0 litre 4WD version will set you back €27,495 for an entry-level Celebration model. Even the top specification Executive model comes in under €30,000. Hyundai's five-year warranty does not extend to its commercial range where the standard three years applies.

SsangYong Korando

SsangYong can sometimes unfairly be considered "the other Korean brand". It exited the country some years ago but returned under the auspices of the Harris Group, notable heavy commercial vehicle specialists. While the range of models offered is not as extensive as its competitors, SsangYong is attempting to use value for money as a persuasive bargaining tool. It is a little soon to judge whether this tactic will sway buyers from mainstream brands but it provides pause for thought.

Admittedly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the Korando has some universally appealing aesthetics. Superficialities aside, it holds its own in the engine and performance departments too.

It has a 2.0 diesel engine and a braked towing capacity of two tons. Specification levels are generous with a mesh bulkhead coming as standard. And there is a decent, comfortable cabin with a good level of equipment.

Best of all is the Korando's price, which starts at a flat-cap-tipping €23,995. Not only that, SsangYong also offers a comprehensive five-year warranty and five-year roadside assistance.

Medium Segment

Hyundai Santa Fe

If you require something with more space, power and comfort than a crossover, then Hyundai's Santa Fe will dutifully oblige. The present model in SUV guise has attracted buyers out of premium brands by offering luxury and refinement at a competitive price.

The commercial Santa Fe has long been a favourite with predominantly road-going drivers but it still has four-wheel-drive credentials to suit a farm environment.

The Santa Fe's 2.2 diesel engine produces 197bhp and is available with a manual or automatic transmission. Both gearboxes have six forward gears that are geared to reduce CO2 and fuel costs.

The Santa Fe is kept in a straight line thanks to the same cocktail of clever safety features found in the ix35.

The front and rear overhangs do not protrude too much so steep and rugged terrain should not pose much of a threat to the bodywork.

Prices start at €39,995 incl. VAT.

 

Mitsubishi Outlander

With a pedigree in rally driving, Mitsubishi's four-wheel-drive systems are world class.

The fact that Mitsubishi has more SUV style vehicles than regular passenger cars speaks volumes about the Japanese brand's area of expertise.

The Outlander commercial comes with a 150bhp 2.2 litre diesel engine. Torque has been tuned to reach its maximum output very early in the rev range so the Outlander is great in boggy conditions.

It will tow two tonnes and has more than 2,000 litres of storage in the back.

This translates roughly into a payload of around 645kgs which equates to the carrying capacity of a small cargo van.

It has front and rear skid plates and the interior, while not exactly luxurious, will absorb a fair beating and show very little signs of wear.

Prices for the Outlander start at €29,950 incl. VAT which seems like good value for money.

If you are very environmentally conscious you could always opt for the new Plug in Hybrid Electric version of the Outlander which can operate using electricity only or a blend of petrol engine and electricity; all the while retaining four wheel drive capabilities.

The price for the Outlander PHEV jumps up to €40,000, though.

large commercials

Mitsubishi Pajero

Sticking with Mitsubishi, the Pajero has long been a firm favourite with Irish buyers. With a reputation for taking a heavy pounding and a towing capacity strong enough to drag horse boxes and braked loads of up to three tonnes, the Pajero is a viable alternative to the Toyota Landcruiser.

The 3.2 litre diesel engine in the Pajero has been doing the rounds for donkey's years and so parts and maintenance costs are relatively cheap. Ground clearance is high enough to wade deep water and Mitsubishi provide a range of four wheel drive functions thanks to it's locking differential.

Prices start at €37,950 incl. VAT for the short wheel base Pajero. Long-wheel base versions cost an additional €3,000.

 

Toyota Landcruiser

Typically regarded as one of the best commercial four-wheel drives on the market, the Toyota Landcruiser makes a compelling argument for ignoring the rest of the pack and sticking with what works.

Most farmers buy the short-wheel base version as it makes towing and reversing into fields and barns a lot easier. Interior space is still ample to transport dry supplies too. The 3.0 litre diesel engine is plenty powerful to tackle heavy towing duties but refined enough for comfortable motorway cruising.

When the present model launched in 2011, it arrived to a mixed reception. The last of the old model 2010 versions still attract huge appeal and this helps residual values. The farm's accountant certainly won't have just cause for complaining that the starting price of €39,785 is a little more than competitors because it sets the benchmark for values in this category.

Five seat

commercials

Landrover Discovery 4 five-Seat Utility

The much-loved Discovery (pictured above) found a market niche and a peculiarity in the vehicle classification system by offering enough room for five occupants but a long enough boot to qualify for a lower rate of VRT.

The regular Discovery commercial was phased out in 2011 and the seven-seat version was, for some, too much car and not enough workhorse. Compromises usually involve giving something up, but in the case of the Discovery, less proved to be more. The 3.0 litre V6 engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and produces an earth moving 520Nm of torque.

Extras includes multiple cameras that provide a near 360 degree view of the exterior of the car.

There's loads of room in the rear for tall passengers, a big enough boot for bags of feed and a towing capacity strong enough to pull a horse box. XE models start at €57,460.

The Toyota Landcruiser, Mitsubishi Pajero and Ssangyong Rexton W are also available as five seat 'Business Edition' variants with prices of €53,995, €49,950 and €38,328 respectively. With such limited availability it is worth driving every model to find the one that suits you best.

Indo Farming