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Freelander marks its territory; Best compact SUV.

FEW firms have the off-road heritage of Land Rover - and that shows in the marque's line-up. When it comes to building compact SUVs, the Freelander is proof that the Solihull brand simply can't be beaten.

A raft of new arrivals has aimed to knock it off its perch in the past 12 months, but the smallest Land Rover reigns supreme. So what makes it so good? The answer lies in its terrific all-round abilities. It is hugely capable in the rough, but also manages to deliver a rewarding and refined on-road experience.

It feels more like a conventional hatch from behind the wheel, so choosing it as your only vehicle won't leave you thinking you've made sacrifices for the freedom to head off-road.

The stylish exterior is mirrored inside with high-quality trim and plenty of space.

The huge 755-litre boot makes it as practical as an estate, and the big cabin means it is a versatile family car. Then there's the lure of the badge, which easily matches premium brands for driveway appeal.

Engine choices are limited, with only one diesel - but the 2.2-litre TD4 is so good you don't need anything else. It provides a well judged mix of economy and pace, while a host of electronic gadgetry ensures you won't get stuck when the going gets really tough.

COMMENDED

Ford Kuga

The blue oval knows how to make a great-handling car - and the Kuga has been sprinkled with stardust by its chassis experts. It rides and handles better than many a modern hatch. With an excellent diesel and four-wheel drive, only its limited line-up lets it down.

COMMENDED

Nissan X-Trail

This X-Trail picks up where the old car left off - superb on-road and a typically strong performer off it. It makes up in ability for what it lacks in style - although the no-nonsense looks are sure to appeal to many would-be 4x4 owners .

CAPTION(S):

CHAMPION PERFORMER The Freelander, above right, is proof that the Land Rover brand simply can't be beaten, although the Ford Kuga, right, is only let down by its limited line-up and the Nissan X-Trail, below right, makes up in ability for what it might lack in style.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 23, 2008
Words:365
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