MOM'S TAXI TEST: Land Rover Freelander Si4 HSE
Big is the new small, it seems. I remember when the Land Rover Freelander first arrived in South Africa in about 1998: it was small, compact and cute.
But then so was the 3 Series BMW in its first version, and Toyota's RAV4 - and look at the Mini! The latter was so tiny it looked like a Matchbox toy. Today it has ballooned to such an extent it no longer looks anything like what Mr Bean trundled around London in.
Back to the Freelander 2, though. It's been beefed up, enlarged, botoxed and plumped out. It's lost its smallness, that endearing quality that was so appealing. Now it looks like a smaller version of the Discovery.
SCHOOL RUN PROOF
It's equally good-looking, though, and yes, I love that it's roomy enough for five long-legged teenagers, their schoolbags, and me. But with the swell in dimensions comes a fuel thirst second to none, at least in the case of the new petrol version.
The Freelander 2 Si4 HSE, make no bones about it, is a luxurious, comfortable, ultra-spacious, and superbly performing vehicle. Steering is precise and easy, and it was exceptional on tar and gravel or dirt. You get impeccable braking ability, and it offers every comfort a Land Rover driver would expect.
But 14 litres per 100km seemed a bit steep, particularly as it's not, say, the size of the Discovery, for instance. It's bigger than it used to be but still not huge enough, in my book, to warrant such a hefty consumption.
Of course, it's also now equipped with the fabulous Evoque's four-cylinder turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine (177kW/340Nm of torque), complete with the six-speed ZF gearbox with CommandShift.
When I queried the consumption with Land Rover, there was equal consternation, and it seems it is unusual for the vehicle to drink gas so thirstily, particularly as I do little city driving these days. They cite figures of around 9.6 litres per 100km for a combined cycle. So perhaps mine was an exception.
Either way, you're sure to get better figures from the 140kW/420Nm 2.2-litre TD4 diesel version.
Apart from the consumption of the Si4 petrol model, there's little else to fault on the Freelander. I loved driving it, and enjoyed the commanding driving position: the seats were also very easy on the butt.
Land Rover touts it as "good for town or country", and it certainly is. Smart, practical, versatile, stylish, easy on the eye, capable and efficient - there's loads to lure buyers, and now that the company has regained a reputation for quality back-up, excellent engineering, and reliability, this should certainly appeal to anyone looking for a top-of-the range SUV.
It also, girls, comes in a range of gorgeous colours, like Panema Sand Mauritius Blue, Havana and Firenze Red, for instance.
Expect to pay R546 200, and it comes with a five-year/100 000km full maintenance plan.