19 January 2001



Four-wheel drive, VAT-reclaimable vans provide a relatively

cheap yet comfortable form of farm transport, but theres

not a lot of choice of models. However, the good news is

that two new ones will be arriving shortly

ITS a fair bet, in these impoverished times, that many farmers will be wondering whether they can trim the number of vehicles they own. But its never so easy to do in practice, largely because of the diverse nature of the transport requirements of most farms.

Lets say youre a standard medium-sized family farm with a 4WD vehicle, a pick-up truck and a car. Which do you get rid of? The pick-ups leaf spring suspension and steady-Eddie performance mean its not much fun on long journeys. but for load-carrying it cant be beaten. The 4WD is expensive to run but its the only thing with enough grunt to pull a livestock trailer.

And the car? Well it may look like an obvious candidate for the chop, but its not too expensive to run and it seems permanently in use doing essential family fetch-and-carry journeys.

Is there any way out of this three vehicle dilemma? A 4WD van may be the answer. These are simply 4WD vehicles with the back seats, rear side windows and most of the fripperies taken out and extra space available for carrying (typically) 400-750kg of farm flotsam.

However, they generally retain the relatively sophisticated suspension of the original vehicle, so youre less shook up after a long journey. And best of all, the basic spec and ability to reclaim the VAT mean the price tags of even a new vehicle look pretty sane.

There are some established players in the market, including commercial versions of the Isuzu Trooper, Daihatsu Fourtrak Fieldman and Nissan Terrano van. All three are characterised by relatively large diesel engines and payloads above 500kg.

There is also a range of smaller-engined 4WD vans, including the Land Rover Freelander (in petrol and diesel versions) and now the Suzuki Vitara van and Mitsubishi van. These generally have engines of around 2 litres in capacity and payloads somewhat below the 500kg mark.

&#42 Mitsubishi Pinin

Mitsubishis diminutive Pinin leisure-oriented 4WD arrived at the beginning of 2000, while the van version was announced in September. Judging by the companys launch blurb, its mainly aimed at small businesses like bakers, florists, electricians and painters and decorators, as well as firms delivering products bought over the internet. All are expected to want the kudos of 4WD though theyll almost certainly never leave the tarmac.

This may all sound distinctly unagricultural, but the ordinary Pinin proved surprisingly capable off-road and theres no reason to think the van version wont be just as good. So it could be a worthwhile vehicle for farmers wanting a smaller 4WD without the running costs of a mammoth version. Theres no diesel version, but with road diesel now more expensive than unleaded, thats probably less of a drawback than it was.

Standard engine is Mitsubishis 1.8GDI, which musters 118hp and 128lb ft of torque and is allied to a five-speed gearbox and selectable 4WD. Fuel consumption is expected to be in the range 25-31mpg and the CO2 figure is 217. Maximum speed is 104mph.

There are two spec levels, the i and the GLX, with on-the-road (but ex-VAT) price-tags of £10,995 and £11,995 respectively.

The load area on the Pinin runs to 925 litres (32.6 cu ft) and maximum payload is 330kg. Towing capacity is 1500kg. A three-year/100,000 mile warranty is standard.

&#42 Suzuki Vitara

Suzukis Vitara has been around for a while and is a volume seller, though latterly it has been somewhat eclipsed by the bigger Grand Vitara. However, for those wanting a simple, unpretentious farm runabout, the less trendy-looking Vitara, aimed more firmly at farmers and other rural users anyway, could be a good bet. A 74hp 1.9 litre turbodiesel provides 100lb ft of torque and power passes through a five-speed manual gearbox, selectable 4WD and a high and low ratio box. Payload is 446kg.

Standard spec includes power steering, radio/cassette, rear wash-wipe, key pad immobiliser and lockable glove box. On-the-road (but ex-VAT) price is £10,420.

Commercial four-wheel drive vehicles

Model Engine Power Payload Price ex VAT

Daihatsu Fourtrak 2.8 litre turbodiesel 98hp 830kg £12,994

Isuzu Trooper 3 litre turbodiesel 159hp 685kg £15,174

Land Rover Freelander 1.8 litre petrol 117hp 580kg £13,719

Land Rover Freelander 2 litre turbodiesel 112hp 580kg £14,740

Mitsubishi Pinin 1.8 litre petrol 118hp 330kg £10,995

Nissan Terrano 2.7 litre turbodiesel 125hp 765kg £13,497

Suzuki Vitara 1.9 litre turbodiesel 74hp 446kg £10,420

Mitsubishi Pinin 4WD van is aimed mainly

at style-conscious small businesses. But it

could make a useful

farm runaround too.

Suzuki Vitara van has 1.9 litre turbodiesel engine with 74hp output. Load capacity is 446kg and price £10,420.

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