"Once the compact SUV star, the Freelander's shine has been dimmed by capable rivals."
Land Rover's Freelander 2 feels as capable on the road as it is off it, while the current model is more luxurious than the original. Part of its appeal is its driving character on tarmac, where the Freelander 2 feels more like a tall estate car than an off-roader. The diesel engine comes in two outputs, and there's a front-wheel-drive model for those seeking better fuel economy. An update late in 2012 has freshened up the looks, with new lights at the front and rear, and an interior with a much cleaner look and fewer buttons. However, the Freelander has been surpassed by other, increasingly capable rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe, the budget Dacia Duster and even Land Rover's own Evoque.
The high seating position gives a great view out, while the compact dimensions make for easy town driving. Despite incredible ability off-road, the supple suspension impresses with its comfort on long motorway journeys. An accurate manual gearbox – or smooth automatic with the more powerful 187bhp SD4 turbodiesel engine – makes the car easy to drive, however, the steering is slow to react. It works well if you’re driving slowly but the Freelander feels out of its depth when you pick up speed. The terrain response feature available on higher-spec models of the Freelander also make it a more versatile off-road vehicle than many of its more road-focused rivals.
The comfortable driving character of the Freelander 2 is matched by good levels of quietness and luxury at lower speeds. At higher motorway speeds the boxy shape does create some wind whistle, and the diesel engines are noisy at high revs. The suspension copes admirably with the UK's poor road surfaces, while the seats are firm yet supportive.
The interior feels robust, but some of the plastics lack the quality finish that you might expect in such an expensive car. The update late in 2012 has improved the quality of some materials, however. Land Rover's reliability has never been a strong point, with owners suffering niggling issues. Even so, the Freelander 2 has put in credible performances in satisfaction surveys.
The lack of a seven-seat option (found in cheaper rivals from Japanese and Korean brands) does limit the Freelander 2's people-carrying ability. But good legroom in the front and back means four adults should get in comfortably. The boot - with its handy wipe-down surfaces - is a decent size, although its shape is hindered by the large wheel arches, which intrude on floor space. Folding the seats flat increases the boot's volume from 755 litres to 1,670 litres, while big door bins and a usefully sized glovebox provide handy storage for bits and pieces.
Value for money
You’ll pay handsomely to own a Freelander, and entry-level S models don’t come especially well equipped. That said, the car offers reasonable value for money, as all versions hold their value better than most rivals. An XS model is the best compromise, as it comes with standard climate control, cruise control, leather seats and sat-nav. The HSE adds a full leather interior, but carries a hefty premium over the XS. HSE Lux and Dynamic models were added late in 2012 with a focus on ultimate luxury and sportiness, respectively.
The 2.2-litre turbodiesel version of the Freelander 2 is more economical thanks to the inclusion of stop-start technology on manual cars. Plus, the front-wheel-drive eD4 model combines rugged looks withimproved economy, even if it loses its unstoppable off-road ability as a result. This version delivers 47.2mpg, although improvements to the 4x4 versions mean even the TD4 models can achieve 45.6mpg. CO2 emissions of 165g/km put the Freelander in Road Tax band G, which means a year's road tax costs £155. Choosing the higher-powered SD4 will mean you pay £300 in the first year, and £200 thereafter.