31 August 2001

GET A SMART 4×4 FOR LESS MONEY!

Want a 4×4 that can haul

loads and cost much less

than the standard

version? Then what about

a commercial version?

Mike Williams looks at

whats on offer

ALTHOUGH the rest of your family may not appreciate it, choosing the commercial version of a new off-road type 4×4 with no side windows or seats at the rear can bring serious financial benefits.

The van-like specification, including a load space behind the front seats, is the qualification for the commercial vehicle category – and the savings start with the list price.

Vehicle manufacturers are not often noted for their generosity, but they do reduce the prices of their commercial models to compensate for the reduced specification. Although it is not always possible to make exact price comparisons, the cash savings on some models can be substantial.

A much bigger contribution to the financial savings comes from the VAT man. Although VAT is charged at the going rate on commercial versions of 4x4s, Customs and Excise allows a full refund for businesses that are VAT-registered – a valuable concession.

The downside, of course, is that the 4×4 commercial is basically a working vehicle with extra load space where the rear seats should be. Because it usually shares the same power and performance on and off the road as the more expensive passenger-carrying version, it may be ideal for the fetching and carrying jobs on the farm but the absence of rear seats means it cant be used for the family day out or to carry a load of children on the school run.

Sales of commercial versions of off-road type 4x4s suffered a downturn in the late 1990s when Customs and Excise officials allowed VAT concessions for some double-cab pick-up trucks. These offer direct competition for 4×4 commercials, providing a hefty load carrying capacity plus the added benefit of a 4/5 seater cab with windows all round. The specification for most double-cab trucks includes diesel power, while four-wheel drive versions are also available.

Although sales of double-cab trucks to farms and other VAT-registered businesses have increased significantly, vehicle manufacturers and importers are also expecting a sales upturn for commercial 4x4s, which has brought a big surge of new model launches aimed at attracting more customers.

&#42 Land Rover

Recent arrivals include commercial versions of the latest specification Land Rover Discovery and Freelander, both arriving in dealers showrooms this summer.

The Discovery is based on the Series II model announced in 1998 and powered by the 2.5 litre Td5 turbo diesel engine. It comes with a package of electronic systems including advanced self-levelling suspension, ABS braking with brake force distribution, traction control for all four wheels plus the hill descent control recently inherited from the Freelander.

An unusual feature of the Discovery commercial is that it retains the passenger versions five-door body style, and the rear side windows have opaque glass instead of being blanked off with sheet metal. The result is easier access to the rear load space and a less van-like appearance.

The list price is £19,242 instead of £20,693 for the passenger version with a comparable specification, allowing a £1451 saving.

The VAT-refundable Freelan-der is offered with a 2 litre Td4 diesel that can be matched with a manual gearbox or the new five-speed automatic, while the 1.8 litre petrol engine comes with a manual gearbox as standard.

It is based on the three-door hardback/softback model, and list prices for the commercial version start at £13,719 for the petrol version and £14,740 for the oil burner.

&#42 Suzuki

Suzukis first 4×4 commercial model – the Vitara Van – was announced at the end of last year. Specification includes a 1.9 litre turbo diesel providing 74hp at 4600 rpm and 99 lb/ft of torque delivered at 2250 rpm. Tinted glass, a heated rear window with wash/wipe facility plus full instrumentation are included in the £9995 list price,

&#42 Mitsubishi

Two vans or commercial versions have been announced this summer by Mitsubishi. The big one is the Shogun CV or Commercial Vehicle, based on the short wheelbase model and powered by a direct injection diesel with 3.2 litres capacity and producing 162hp – probably the biggest engine available in this type of 4×4.

The payload for the Shogun CV is 500kg in 1651 litres of load space, while the list price starts at £17,995 excluding VAT.

Mitsubishis Shogun Pinin Van is available with a 118hp diesel diesel engine, a five-speed manual transmission and two equipment level options. Maximum payload is 330kg with 925 litres of load space and the list price of the higher spec GLX version is £11,995, saving £1500 compared with the equivalent standard model.

&#42 Nissan/Isuzu

The Nissan Terrano II Van, which benefited from specification improvements and a reduced price earlier this year, has a £13,770 list price, £502 less than the comparable passenger version.

There is also a commercial version of the short wheelbase Isuzu Trooper, powered by a beefy 3 litre diesel producing 159hp, ample power for the 685kg payload. Base price is £15,147.

&#42 Daihatsu

When 4×4 commercials first made their mark, the Fourtrak Fieldman was one of the top selling models. It is still available and continues to offer some of the best payload figures at 950kg for the short wheelbase TDS model or 830kg for the long wheelbase TDL. The power unit is a 2.7 litre diesel, the maximum output is 98hp and the basic prices are £12,995 for the short wheelbase model and £13,495 for the long wheelbase TDL.

VAT recovery

The cost saving through VAT recovery is 17.5% of the base price plus delivery and number plates charges. Total VAT on the Suzuki Vitara Van amounts to more than £1800, but further up the price scale the ability to recover the VAT payment becomes more attractive, with more than £2700 at stake on the Isuzu Trooper.