Jeep - Wrangler
It's a Jeep. What more can you say than that? Except perhaps that the longer proportions of the Unlimited give it more of a truck-like image, and that at long last they've stopped fitting ludicrously weedy little tyres, meaning all models now look like a ruffty tuffty off-roader should.
Live axles front and rear mean there'll always be an element of body roll in corners. But if you expect the Wrangler to handle like a boat, you'll be pleasantly surprised. It steers well enough and holds the road confidently, though if you hit a pot hole halfway round a fast corner you'll know all about it. Unlike some traditional off-roaders, however, it's very stable around the straight-ahead position, making it a docile companion on the motorway.
An excellent driving position is the best possible weapon against driver fatigue, and this is backed up here by really good, supportive seats. The cabin feels a little cramped at first, but you do get used to it. Engine noise is well muffled, with just a bit of buffeting from the wind, and the ride isn't nearly as bumpy as you might expect. None of this applies to the Rubicon model, whose modified suspension means you have to be a dedicated off-roader to tolerate its awful dynamics on tarmac.
Not an area in which Jeep has a great track record, but the Wrangler's rugged interior feels genuinely capable of shrugging off the knocks and scrapes of everyday life. It has a reassuringly tough feel, if not quite carved from rock, and there's nothing about the vehicle to suggest that you won't be able to rely on it for years to come.
The 2.8 turbo-diesel is strong rather than sparkling, carrying you forward on a wave of torque. It pulls very hard in manual and auto form alike; if you want more from an off-roader like this, you need to reassess your expectations. The 3.8-litre V6 might sound sexy, by the way, but the Rubicon has ultra-low diff ratios ? brilliant for off-roading, but they mean the four-speed box revs out early in every gear without getting you anywhere fast.
A slightly cramped cabin aside, it's easy enough to get a good driving position. Only the Unlimited gives your rear-seat passengers a fair deal, however - the short-wheelbase is almost comically cramped back there.
Don't expect miracles here. All models will get above 30mpg on a run, but you'll typically see figures in the mid-twenties. High emissions mean high road tax, too. But buying one vehicle and keeping it for a couple of decades is THE best way to minimise your running costs - and the Wrangler is one of the very few with which this is feasible.
Jeeps tend to be very well equipped, but with the Wrangler you're paying for something different. Safety kit is pretty good, though, alloys are standard throughout and most models get cruise control. If you're seriously into off-roading, the Rubicon is an absolute steal: if not, there's not a barge pole long enough.
No complaints, with a good, clear layout that makes it easy to use the standard stereo. There's an auxiliary socket in the facia for your MP3 player, too. Sat-nav is a £1500 option across the entire range, and kit junkies hoping for a DVD option will be disappointed.