Video and pictures: Santana off-roader becomes the Iveco Massif

A big name in the truck world, Iveco is lining up for an attack on the 4×4 market with a revamped version of the Santana. Nick Fone tries out Spain’s answer to the Land Rover Defender

Aside from its aggressive ladder-rack grill, the Massif adopts that familiar Solihull silhouette. It’s when you peel back its plastic-and-steel skin that the marked differences begin to appear.

Iveco Massif Spec

Engine 3-litre Iveco 4-cyl common-rail turbo

Power 146hp or 176hp

Transmission Six-speed manual with 2wd high, 4wd high and 4wd low ranges

Load capacity 1t

Towing capacity 3t

Price From 21,900 in Italy* (£16,863)

*LH drive – RH conversion for UK goes on sale early 2009

For starters, Santana’s engineers have stuck with parabolic leaf springs al round rather than opting for Defender-esque coils. In our brief off-road trial this gave the Spaniard bags of axle oscillation and surprisingly good on-road handling thanks to a clever combination of hydraulic dampers up front, gas units at the rear and anti-roll bars top and tail.

In much the same way that Land Rover steals the new Defender’s powertrain from the Ford Transit parts bin, the Massif’s engine and gearbox are borrowed from Iveco’s Daily vans, a slick six-shifter with a willing four-pot partner pumping out an impressive 146hp (with a 176hp option). That’s compared with the Defender’s more modest 122hp.

Massif 6

Another big difference comes in the driveline. The Massif has selectable two- and four-wheel drive through a 2-H, 4-H and 4-L transfer box. There’s an optional limited slip differential for the rear and old-school manual-locking front free-wheeling hubs.

The Iveco-modified driveline is claimed to reduce drag and drop fuel consumption by up to 10% compared with the previous Santana.

Massif 5

So when can we get hold of one? It’s not good news right-hand-drive versions won’t be available until early 2009 and it is hoped that a commercial version with 3.5t GVW and towing capacity will have been developed by then.

Who will sell the Massif? It will initially be launched through the existing Iveco truck network, but there is potential for other outlets to pick up the baton. Other brands also owned by Fiat, such as Case IH and New Holland, could prove useful sales agents for farming.

Santana history

State-owned Santana was set up in 1955 building farm machinery. In 1958 it entered an agreement with Land Rover to assemble its Series 2 vehicle under licence in Spain. At the same time the firm was also making gearboxes for Citroen and in 1981 set up a deal to build Suzuki’s all-terrain SJ Samurai 4×4. It still builds the Japanese firm’s Jimny model today.

The Land Rover deal came to an end in 1991, but keen to continue its presence in the utility 4×4 market, the Spanish firm modified the original design and in 1999 rebranded the result as the “Santana”.

In 2006 Fiat-owned commercial vehicle specialist Iveco announced its intention to take over the sales and marketing of the ex-Land Rover off-roader with Santana continuing to build it. It’s a deal that makes good sense, as Iveco has supplied the engine and gearbox for the Santana since 1999 and has access to a ready market through its existing dealer network.

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