The Land Rover Freelander is the nation’s favourite SUV, with more than 200,000 examples finding homes in the UK alone since 1997.
Used prices start from only a few thousand pounds, and the model’s attractive combination of car-like dynamics, excellent value for money and smart styling explains its popularity on second-hand forecourts.
However, this off-roader isn’t without its headaches, and early cars in particular faced numerous gremlins – which makes the job of finding a good one more difficult than you’d imagine. Here, we show you how to avoid the most common pitfalls when buying the Land Rover baby.
What to look for
Performance from the K Series 1.8-litre isn’t particularly good, while the four-cylinder powerplant’s well documented cooling problems can lead to head gasket failure and costly repair bills. The V6 petrol unit is thirsty, and when it comes to diesel models, the noisy Di engine is to be avoided.
If used hard, the Steptronic automatic transmission fitted as standard to the 2.5 V6 can fail. So on models with tow bars, find out what they have been pulling – there are enough weak spots in the Freelander’s drivetrain without putting it under extra stress. The Td4 oil-burner is the only sensible choice for most buyers.
Engines: best buy is the Td4. The 1.8 K Series has a very low coolant capacity, so even small leaks can lead to blown head gaskets. Check oil filler cap for white goo.
Transmission: a whining noise from the gearbox may mean differential or gearbox wear, while a clonking suggests the bushes and driveline joints need to be replaced.
Leaks: look under the car, but examine the ground for gearbox and differential oil leaks. Also, be very suspicious of examples which have recently been steam-cleaned.
Damp cabin: water often gets into the cockpit, so check the footwells and load bay. Carpets will go mouldy and the floorpans can rot, so have a good look under the trim.
There was a time when the Land Rover had the 4x4 market to itself, but Japanese rivals have since stolen a march on the Freelander. Cars such as the Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 all offer superior reliability, with good dynamics, generous equipment and reasonable off-road performance. What they can’t match is the affordability, image and availability of the Freelander.
Find a good example and the Land Rover will reward you with a great combination of style and practicality. But don’t be tempted by the cheapest cars, many of which have been sold on due to their poor reliability.
Later models offer much improved build quality and durability, so buy the most recent car you can afford. Aim for a post-2003 Freelander, and the Td4 is the undisputed engine choice.
All Freelanders need a service annually or every 12,000 miles, while the 1.8 and 2.5-litre petrol models require a fresh cambelt after 72,000 miles or six years. The early Di diesel needs a new cambelt after four years or 48,000 miles.
Brake fluid and coolant should be renewed every three years or 36,000 miles. Costs are typically £300-£400 per service up to 96,000 miles for all derivatives, but there are exceptions to this. Cambelt replacement services for the 1.8 and 2.0 Di are around £700; for the 2.5 V6, this rises to £900.
Nov 1998: possible failure of rear suspension locating links on cars built from June 1997 to June 1998.
Oct 2001: front seat backrest may give way on models made from Aug 2000 to end Feb 2001. Engine wiring loom chafes on Aug-Nov 2000 cars. And handbrake may release on Freelanders built from October 1997 to end of February 2001.
Nov 2002: diagnostic connector issue on petrol cars made between July 2000 and March 2002.
Aug 2004: possibility of left-hand child lock disengaging on five-doors produced from July-Sept 2002.
Nov 2004: incorrect manufacture of passenger airbag on models made from August to October 2004.
Jan 2005: incorrect nut on rear subframe, Aug 2003 cars.
Sep 2005: left-hand rear door child safety lock lever can fail on Nov 2000 to April 2005 five-doors.