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What Car? says

1 out of 5 stars

For Good off-road and a cheap used buy

Against Poor on-road and unreliable

Verdict Rivals do a much better job

Go for… 2.2 DTi 3dr

Avoid… 3.2 V6 Estate 5dr

Vauxhall Frontera 4x4
  • 1. The 2.2 petrol is prone to snapping its timing chain and the diesel needs careful servicing
  • 2. Look out for rust, especially on the wings
  • 3. The boot is good, although it's marred by a side-opening tailgate
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Vauxhall Frontera 4x4 full review with expert trade views

Even when this version of the Frontera was launched, it felt outdated. Land Rover had recently launched the Freelander, What Car?’s Car of the Year that year, and it had moved the goalposts in this class.

On-road, the Frontera’s ride is choppy at all speeds, the gearchange is awkward and its refinement leaves a lot to be desired. The only consolation is that, off-road, it regains some of the ground it lost to the Freelander – it’s a better choice than a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V if you head away from the Tarmac regularly. But, overall, a Freelander has a much better blend of abilities.

Inside, too, things are far from great. For the driver and front-seat passenger, the shallow footwells make things uncomfortable, and the cheap-looking interior is disappointing, if durable.

On the plus side, there’s as much space in the back as in the Freelander, but getting there is tricky. The only saving grace is the boot, which is much bigger than a Freelander’s, although even that is spoilt by the side-opening tailgate.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Best left alone unless bought at the right price. 2.2 diesel best

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The three- and five-door cars are very distinct; the three-door is less spacious, but more sporty to drive, whereas the five-door is far more spacious and practical, and its ride is less choppy.

In either, the 2.2-litre diesel engine suits the car best, especially if you want to use the car off-road, for towing or ferrying the family around.

By comparison, the 2.2-litre petrol is sluggish and noisy when worked hard – and that’s most of the time. The 3.2-litre V6 is certainly quick, but the car's poor handling means you can’t make the most of it. And, perhaps more importantly, you’re unlikely to see more than 20mpg in everyday use.

Olympus, launched in early 2003, is the most lavish trim available, but we reckon the more basic trims are better value. So, stick with Sport rather than RS on three-door models, and avoid the Limited versions of the five-door.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Can only be sold as a workhorse and if the price is low

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Compared to the Freelander, the Frontera looks like something of a bargain used buy. At the same age, a Frontera is at least a few hundred pounds less expensive than the Land Rover, and even a Suzuki Grand Vitara will cost more.

The Frontera also looks pretty good in terms of everyday running costs. Insurance groups are lower than rivals’ and it’s much the same story with routine servicing: compared to a Freelander or Mitsubishi Shogun Sport, the Vauxhall is generally a little cheaper.

On the other hand the Frontera loses out when you look at fuel economy. Engine for engine, the Vauxhall is always less economical than the Land Rover or Suzuki rivals.

Likewise, when it comes to unscheduled repairs, the Frontera also looks very dear. According to Warranty Direct, average repairs on a Frontera are considerably more expensive than on a Freelander.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Best left alone unless bought at the right price. 2.2 diesel best

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

There has only been one recall on the Frontera, affecting cars built in 1998 and 1999. In all, almost 7500 cars were recalled for checks on the steering.

All in all, reliability is a major issue, and Warranty Direct says that the engines are responsible for more than a half of all claims: the 2.2 petrol is prone to snapping its timing chain and the diesel needs careful servicing.

You should also look out for rust, especially on the wings, as well as watching out for dodgy electrics, steering and suspension.

The Frontera hasn’t performed well in JD Power Customer Satisfaction reports, either, and online reports are mixed, to say the least. Many people have had no problems at all, but many others report a lot of trouble, with weak points including the engine and electrics.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Can only be sold as a workhorse and if the price is low

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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