Land Rover Freelander vs Toyota RAV4
Posted Thursday, October 24 2013 at 01:00
The year is 1994, Toyota unleashes on to the world the first compact crossover Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), the RAV4. The market for style-led small off-roaders did not exist, but many quickly warmed to the appeal of a car that offered ‘street-tough’ looks.
Toyota soon discovered it had a star on its hands, the market boomed and suddenly its competitors got in on the act. Land Rover, in 1997, armed with a lazer gun, took a shot at Toyota with the Freelander.
Codenamed CB40, the Freelander was going to be developed in partnership with Honda, a deal which never took off so Land Rover decided to go at it alone. Maybe that is why the first models of the Freelander suffered from major mechanical issues. Ironically, this car went on to become Europe’s best selling 4x4. In this head-to- head, we shall look at the two cars and what they have to offer.
Freelander has modern looks, and instant appeal for badge-conscious buyers. In a broad sense, the styling of the Freelander is similar to other small SUVsspecifically the Honda CR-V of the same generation. Coming head-on, though, the Freelander looks to take the crown in a mano-a-mano toughness competition alongside the RAV4.
From the rear, the Freelander is distinguished by round lenses in its tail lamps that give it a British/European it’s-from-over-there look. Overall, it is an attractive design. It has aged well. The RAV4’s exterior may be too cute or girly, but this is a nice looking car too. It is quite easy on the eyes though the two door model looks disproportionate.
Inside, the RAV4 is typically Toyota, neat with quality plastics and cloth-trimmed seats. The sloping bonnet and tall driving position make front and rear visibility excellent.
Sometimes, the spare tyre mounted on the rear door makes rear visibility a bit impaired. There is comfortable seating for four adults in the four-door models. Two-door models are fine for singles or couples without children. On the other hand, the Freelander to me is sort of an acquired taste. Possibly, one you would warm up to.
First things first, the interior is very European, and in a way, very utilitarian. Chances are you will easily find one with leather seats if you are into that. Nevertheless, the Freelander takes the prize for comfort and an interior that is just well put together. It shall reward you with a great combination of style and practicality.
Originally launched in 1997 with choice of 1.8 litre petrol four-cylinder engine with 118 horsepower and 2.0 litre turbo diesel with 96 horsepower. When BMW was the boss at Land Rover, a 2.0 litre TD4 diesel replaced the 2.0 litre diesel. A 2.5 litre V6 became available in 2000.
Manual gearboxes dominated the early models, but automatics became increasingly popular in later years and were standard on the V6. Powered by a 2.0 litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine with 127 horsepower, RAV4 comes with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.
Fuel consumption is always a gamble in the used car space as there are so many variables including driving styles. However, the 1.8 litre Freelander engine bests the RAV4 but those are hard to come by in good condition. Diesels are always excellent sippers but RAV4 only comes in petrol. The fuel consumption of the 2.5 litre V6 Freelander is higher than the RAV4.
Right off the bat, on all accounts, reliability does not appear to be one the Freelander’s virtues. Engine overheating woes often related to problems with cylinder liners and head gaskets appear common and could necessitate expensive engine replacement.
Repeat failures have been reported by some unhappy owners, and there are many of them. A Freelander is not notably cheap to buy, run, making it unsuitable as a first car for anyone who may find its maintenance costly.
Later models offer much improved build quality and durability, so buy the most recent car you can afford. Aim for a post-2003 Freelander. With the RAV4, mechanics report few problems. Older cars with higher mileage may show some minor oil leaks from the engine, but these are routine rather than cause for concern. The engine is basically the same as many in Toyota’s stable, which has shown itself to be quite trouble-free.
Earlier RAV4s came out at a time Toyota’s base specs for safety were not up to par by today’s used car standards. As such, you shall come across RAV4s with only the driver airbag or no ABS etc.
However, post 1996, Toyota standardised dual airbags across their models and progressively improved the safety standards in model years that followed. With the Freelander, all major safety bases are covered with ABS, dual airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners and side-impact door beams. The Freelander is simply a safer car.
Bang for your money
Both cars are adequate town runners. The Land Rover Freelander is the most interesting of all the small sport-utility vehicles. It brings luxury and elegance to this class. The Land Rover badge assures Freelander buyers that their money is going into quality 4x4 technology, it also boosts the desirability of this likeable ‘lifestyle’ 4x4.
However, the maintenance gremlins and high cost of replacement parts encourages even more buyers to look elsewhere. Resale value is extremely laughable and some owners have opted to have the whole engine swapped out for a Toyota engine giving them Land Rover aesthetics on a RAV4 budget, a route I would not recommend.