Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Big off-roaders are desperately unfashionable - until you really need them

STORM DESMOND was horrid – and I wasn’t even in it. It’s no fun flicking on Sky News and seeing somewhere you love largely underwater.

My three-year student stint in Carlisle included (quite literally) wading through the 2005 floods, which is why I went up there the other weekend to help people stuck in the same position. It’s deeply saddening to see the picturesque villages I all too often frequent – particularly Keswick and Pooley Bridge – being mauled by the savagery of the waters.

Yet I did spot one good thing – other than the sheer generosity of people pitching in to help – to come out of all the depressing news coverage. Footage of off-roaders doing useful things and helping with the rescue efforts.

Chances are if it wasn’t a commandeered canoe or a dinghy doing the rescue work, it was a Land Rover Defender or a Mitsubishi Shogun. Lots of my petrolhead pals rail against my love of off-roaders and argue they’re thirsty and expensive and don’t handle properly – and in most cases, they’re absolutely right.

But when the chips are down you’ll want a rugged off-roader – and I mean a proper one with chunky tyres and four-wheel-drive, not a supermini that thinks it’s on Countryfile – on your side.

The Defender’s still the 4x4 of choice for the rescue agencies, even in its twilight years, but don’t fret if you can’t afford the £23,100 for a new one (or even the £4-5k a decent used one costs).

On the same weekend Storm Desmond was doing its worst a mate and I went green-laning in a 1998 Range Rover – a fully working, leather lined mountain goat of a motor that cost just £1700.

If you’re scared of the Rangie’s running costs there’s the Vauxhall Frontera – all it took was a quick flick through the classifieds to find three for under a grand. It’s the same story with the petite-but-persistent Suzuki Jimny, the Isuzu Trooper and the older iterations of Jeep’s Cherokee – and don’t forget the original Land Rover Discovery either.

They’re cheap because they’re out of fashion - these days everyone wants a car that looks, rather than acts, like a big off-roader – but any of this lot will run rings around a Qashqai or a Captur should the gritters forget to call by your place over Christmas.

I know big off-roaders are thirsty and antisocial and clog up the school run far more than a Fiesta does – but I bet I know which Storm Desmond’s victims were happier to see.

1 comment:

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