Land Rover Freelander 5 door Td4 SE

March 2004

picture of land rover freelander on road

Land Rover's Freelander where it will be driven the most

Ratings

Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 6Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 6Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 7Controls and display

Comfort Rating 6Comfort

Security Rating 6Car security

Safety Rating 5Car safety


Likes

  • Redesigned nose looks very chic
  • New headlamps and rear lamps improve visibility
  • Dash-mounted cupholders within easy reach

Gripes

  • V6 engine requires frequent filling of the fuel tank
  • No steering wheel reach adjustment
  • No driving seat height adjustment
  • Reputation for mechanical niggles persists

Even though it faces stiff competition from a multitude of rivals such as the Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-TRAIL and Honda CR-V, the Land Rover Freelander is consistently near the top of the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) sales charts.

Just when it was starting to look a little dated, a highly effective facelift repositioned the Freelander as a baby brother to the Range Rover, injecting a valuable dose of 'premium' appeal in the process.

Exterior styling tweaks such as distinctive pocket headlamps, repositioned rear lights and a chunky but cleverly integrated body-coloured bumper may be the most obvious features of the latest Freelander, but the most significant changes are inside, where previously questionable build quality and choice of materials have been addressed.

Use of cheap plastics has been kept to a minimum, and closer attention to detail complements the improved quality of most surfaces. The result is a cabin that feels classy, even if the actual layout and lack of adjustability leaves something to be desired. But if the Freelander is to remain competitive, it will need to improve its reputation for developing minor mechanical and electrical problems, which rarely dog its Far Eastern rivals. Most glitches seem to have been ironed out, but when a Freelander does go wrong, it tends to be expensive to fix.

The vast majority of Freelanders never venture off Tarmac, despite an advertising campaign that stresses the vehicle's adventure credentials. In recognition of this fact, a Sport variant features lowered, stiffened suspension and car-like handling characteristics that many hot hatches would be proud of.

A choice of three-door and five-door body styles, plus an optional 'softback' version (three-door only) with a removable canvas rear section means buyers can choose a Freelander to match their specific tastes. In all cases, the Land Rover badge on the grille provides instant credibility and ensures that owners who do venture off-road will be pleasantly surprised by the Freelander's considerable potential, aided by full-time all-wheel drive and traction control systems such as Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).

Our verdict on the Land Rover Freelander 5 door Td4 SE

A loyal customer base proves how likeable the Freelander has always been. The most recent models are undoubtedly the best, equally at home in town and country.

Costs
Costs rating 6

List prices for the Freelander tend to be higher than most rivals, but as compensation, resale values are also high thanks to eternally strong demand. Running costs are middling by SUV standards - unless you opt for the thirsty V6 - and if reliability questions have been conquered, a Freelander is a sound investment.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 6

Quite how practical the Freelander is depends entirely upon the uses it is put to. Few could argue against it being relatively impractical as a car to drop the kids at school in the morning rush hour, yet a large proportion of Freelanders are used for just that purpose. As a daily car for country-dwellers or transport for outdoor enthusiasts it makes more sense, but finds less use.

picture of land rover freelander from the rear

Despite looking the business, the spare wheel can prove a pain when reverse parking

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 7

Redesigned facia and instrumentation updates the workaday efforts of the early Freelander with a more elegant and sporty-looking typeface. Switchgear is improved but still betrays its aged origins, generally operating without the satisfying clicks or softened movements typical of larger premium SUVs such as the Lexus RX300 or Volkswagen Touareg.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 6

Though seats themselves are comfortable, they lack a suitable range of adjustment for height. This is not helped by a steering wheel that only adjusts for rake, not reach. Headroom is excellent throughout. Rear space suffers in the three-door.

Car security
Security Rating 6

Deadlocks, an alarm and an immobiliser are fitted as standard. Freelanders are popular targets for thieves, so an upgrade is well worth considering.

Car safety
Safety Rating 5

Most 4x4s feel inherently safe - though not always with good reason. The Freelander has front driver and passenger airbags as standard, but that's about it for safety features, apart from the inherent strength of the design and the electronic traction aids to help avoid an accident in the first place. Freelanders with an automatic gearbox change their change-up patterns on steep hills to give optimum grip.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

The Sport variant is undoubtedly the default choice for the enthusiastic on-road driver, exhibiting considerably less body roll and sharper responses than the sometimes imprecise standard models. Freelanders are engineered for optimum performance at low and medium speeds in challenging conditions, not high-speed racing. Book a day at an off-road course to release the true driving potential.

picture of land rover freelander off road

Although few will try it, the Freelander is a superb off road tool

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

Its popularity on the school run attests to the Freelander's appeal as a family car. As expected, the five-door model is considerably more effective for loading and unloading kids, who tend to enjoy the Freelander's Tonka toy looks and ability to splash through puddles for no particular reason.

First car appeal
First car Rating 3

A Freelander isn't notably cheap to buy, run or insure, making it unsuitable as a first car for anyone who doesn't happen to be the offspring of the minor aristocracy. Remember that 4x4s handle very differently to regular cars - inexperienced drivers could easily be caught out.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

Other SUVs may offer more kit, but none can match the Freelander's heritage, supplied courtesy of Land Rover. Simply put, people like to be seen driving Freelanders, as ownership identifies them as active, modern 'doers' - even if they never venture further than the local shopping mall. In truth, earlier Freelanders never quite matched up to their billing, but today's model just about manages it.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Seats are located at a pleasant height so that occupants can slip into them without having to either stoop down or climb up. Ergonomic improvements include a more sensible location for electric window switches, and clearer instruments. Some of the switches and stalks are surprisingly fiddly.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

A single-slot, 6-speaker CD player is standard. A six CD autochanger is used on top-range derivatives with a premium nine-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system. Satellite navigation is also available.

picture of land rover freelander interior

Upgrades to the cabin make the Freelander appear more refined

Colours and trim

Thirteen exterior colours are avilable including micatallic, metallic and solid finishes. Buyers can go wild if they like, but traditional Land Rover deep greens, sandy hues and basic blacks will always look best. Cloth, alcantara and perforated leather upholsteries all seem of high quality, while Sport models get a new technical fabric called Black Mogul with a special 'grippy' surface.

Parking

While the Freelander certainly isn't the trickiest off-roader to park - by a long chalk - nor is it the easiest. Fairly compact dimensions and an elevated driving position are in its favour, but the bulging bonnet at the front and the rear-mounted spare wheel make judging how much room there is to play with an imprecise science. Beware of 'kerbing' the alloy wheels, too.

Spare wheel

Full-sized, held in position on the side-opening tailgate, making it heavy and an obvious target for thieves. Don't forget to lock those wheel nuts.

 

Range information

Engine choice consists of a (117bhp) 1.8-litre petrol; a (177bhp) 2.5 V6; and a (112bhp) 2.0-litre turbo diesel. A 5-speed automatic gearbox is an option for the Td4 and standard with the V6. Specification levels are badged as E, S, SE, Sport and Sport Premium.

 

Alternative cars

Toyota RAV4 superb reliability but urban-only road manners

Nissan X-TRAIL matches Freelander for 'active lifestyle' image

Honda CR-V cheap and well-equipped but slightly anodyne

BMW X3 modern looks, and instant appeal for badge-conscious buyers



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March 2004