Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 front cornering
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 front cornering
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 rear cornering
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior dashboard
  • Land Rover Defender 2021 interior front seats
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior infotainment
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 right tracking off road
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 right tracking
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 front cornering
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior front seats
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior detail
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior detail
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior rear storage
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 rear door open
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 front cornering
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 rear cornering
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior dashboard
  • Land Rover Defender 2021 interior front seats
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior infotainment
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 right tracking off road
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 right tracking
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 front cornering
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior front seats
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior detail
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior detail
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior rear storage
  • Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 rear door open
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What Car? says...

The Land Rover Defender Hard Top is the commercial ‘van’ version of the latest Defender luxury SUV, reviving a name dating back to 1950, when a removable roof was first offered for the soft-top Series 1. 

Now, you might think resurrecting the Hard Top designation is a bit odd given that the modern Defender has a fixed roof, but it’s a symbolic move. The original was as popular with farmers as it was with fashion-conscious buyers, and the British brand hopes to repeat that trick by offering one with purely utilitarian roots. 

Like the regular Land Rover Defender, the Hard Top is available as either a three-door ‘90’ or a five-door ‘110’ and ditches the rear seats so you get a larger cargo space. Both body styles have a reinforced bulkhead separating the interior from the storage area, multiple lashing points in the rear, lockable underfloor storage and heavy duty hose-down rubber mats. 

From the outside, the Hard Top looks very similar to the passenger model – the only real giveaway is that the rearmost side windows have been replaced with solid panels. The 110 retains its rear doors, but the glass in them has been heavily tinted and reinforced with an internal layer of hard plastic.

Under the skin, the Hard Top retains the regular Defender’s four-wheel drive system, which makes it very capable off-road, although air suspension is an option that is only available on the 110. The 90 is limited to one engine and one trim level choice, while 110 buyers can pick from three engines and three additional trim levels. 

The Defender Hard Top's closest rivals are the Toyota Land Cruiser Commercial and off-road capable pick-ups such as the Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux. Over the next few pages, this review will tell you how it stacks up against them, plus what it’s like on the road, how classy it is inside and whether it's costly to run. 

If you do decide to buy a Land Rover – or any make or model of vehicle that suits your needs – remember that you could save thousands of pounds by checking out the best prices using the free What Car? New Car Buying service.


The Land Rover Defender Hard Top is not cheap and it lacks the load space and payload capacity of most pick-up trucks. However, no other commercial vehicle on the market manages to blend incredible off-road capability and utilitarian practicality with on-road comfort and refinement.

  • Excellent off-road
  • Impressive towing capabilities
  • Fantastic on-road manners
  • An expensive commercial vehicle
  • Most pick-ups have a higher payload capacity
  • Poor reliability is not ideal for a commercial vehicle

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

All Defender Hard Top models use Land Rover’s latest turbocharged mild-hybrid 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine, with the 197bhp D200 the sole choice for the 90.

Buyers of the 110 get to choose from a wider range of power outputs in the form of the D250 and D300. We've tested a 110 Hard Top with the mid-range D250 engine, which offers 246bhp and 420lb ft of torque. 

The D250 is our favourite engine in the regular Defender and it’s equally alluring here. Even with a load in the rear it has more than enough low-down pull for effortless in-gear acceleration (on or off road) and the standard eight-speed gearbox makes for slick, intelligent gear changes.

It even makes a good noise, which is something you can’t say about the four-cylinder Ford Ranger or the Toyota Hilux pick-up. Talking of pick-ups, the Hard Top rides and handles better than the vast majority of commercial vehicles.

Of course, that shouldn’t come as a shock as the Hard Top is mechanically identical to the standard Defender SUV, but it is genuinely surprising how confidence-inspiring the Hard Top is on a country road. The steering is beautifully weighted and the chassis generates a surprising amount of grip in the dry (the off-road tyres grip less well in the wet). 

We would, however, advise you to opt for the optional air-suspension on the Hard Top 110. Not only does it help to limit body roll, but it also smoothes out the ride. On standard coil springs, the Hard Top can jiggle and shudder a little over larger abrasions, although not to the same extent as a Ranger or Hilux. 

What about its prowess on the rough stuff? Well, the High Top’s ability to carry on when the going gets tough is impressive and easy to exploit.

The Terrain Response system makes it simple to set up the car for different conditions, and in its highest off-road suspension setting (provided air suspension is fitted), it powers over deep ruts and climbs up muddy hills with relative ease.

We'd recommend the optional locking rear differential that provides extra traction on slippery ground, though. With it fitted, the Defender will go places that will leave even the most off-road-oriented pick-up or van floundering.

In terms of refinement, the Hard Top is very impressive. At a cruise, the diesel D250 is almost imperceptible, and wind and road noise are quieter than you get in a Ranger, Hilux or VW Transporter van.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 rear cornering


The interior layout, fit and finish

Once you're inside the Land Rover Defender Hard Top, you’ll struggle to tell you’re in the commercial version. Well, that is until you look over your shoulder and realise you can’t see out of the non-existent rear side window.

Because of that, the large side mirrors are a saving grace, as is the optional ClearSight rear-view mirror. At the touch of a button, the mirror becomes a digital screen that shows a live camera feed from directly behind the car, so you can still what's behind even when the storage area is loaded to the roof. 

The Hard Top is very easy to position for a car of its size. That's partly down to the fact that the Defender is quite boxy, so it’s fairly easy to judge its extremities. All models get front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree camera as standard, and the lofty driving position puts you at eye level with most van drivers.

The vehicle we drove came with eight-way heated and semi-powered front seats, but 12-way electrically adjustable ones are standard from S trim and up. SE trim adds memory settings, which recall your ideal position.

Whichever trim level you choose, the pedals, seat and steering wheel are positioned well relative to each other. There’s lots of up, down and in-and-out movement to the steering wheel, which is electrically adjustable from SE. Our only criticism of the seat is that it doesn't have much side support to stop you sliding sideways in tight corners. 

The Hard Top’s dashboard is very much fit for purpose, with chunky buttons you can operate even when you're wearing gloves. With entry-level trim, you get analogue instrument dials, but if you move up to S trim they are swapped for clear digital instruments that you can configure to display information in a variety of ways. The only other commercial vehicle with digital instruments is the VW Caddy Cargo

The Hard Top’s interior gets all the standard Defender’s back-to-basics interior design. Certain structural elements are deliberately exposed, including the front crossbeam that functions as part of the dashboard and also as a passenger grab handle.

There are loads of exposed bolt heads dotted around the interior, emphasising the vehicle's characteristically utilitarian feel, and most of the surfaces you touch are covered in a rugged-feeling rubberised material. Compared with the more plush feeling Land Rover Discovery Commercial, the Hard Top’s interior feels as though it will stand up better to a hard working life. 

In terms of infotainment, the Hard Top gets exactly the same 10.0in touchscreen as the regular Land Rover Defender. It responds swiftly to touches, is crystal clear and the graphics look quite impressive, too.

There’s also lots of functionality, including standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration so you can mirror you smartphone's screen on the display. It is, quite simply, in a different league to the infotainment systems offered in the majority of commercial vehicles.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

One of the benefits of designing the Defender with boxy proportions is that it gives everyone on board lots of space in every direction.

You get lots of head room and shoulder space, and Land Rover has been very clever in the way it has positioned the Hard Top's bulkhead. Instead of sitting right up against the back of the front seats (as in most vans) it has been pushed quite far back. That gives the front passenger plenty of room to push their seat back and opens up plenty of legroom. 

For a reasonable outlay, you can replace the standard centre console between the driver and passenger seat with an occasional middle seat – although its high and narrow base means an adult will only want to sit on it for the briefest of journeys. When the third seat is folded flat, you’re left with a useful centre console that has integrated cup holders and two extra USB ports. 

Fans of the original Defender will love how the latest model's tailgate opens sideways, rather than lifting up. Fans of the original Defender were also used to compromising, and the arrangement does make accessing the boot tricky if you're backed up to a wall or another car. The same problem affects the Toyota Land Cruiser Commercial. 

Behind the rear door, there’s a van-like open cargo space. Land Rover provides six load-lashing rings, heavy-duty hose-down rubber mats and handy under-floor storage, consisting of a 58-litre lockable bin plus – in the 110 body style – an additional 155-litre space accessed via the rear doors.

The 90 Hard Top's cargo area isn’t big by commercial vehicle standards – it’s 1326m wide (1124 between the wheel arches), 1037mm long and 947mm high.

On the 110, those figures rise to 1423mm (1160) and 1472mm respectively, although cargo height is slightly lower at 937mm. That’s not quite as large as a Ford Ranger Double Cab’s bed (which is 1549mm long and 1139mm between the arches) but both can accommodate one standard Euro pallet.

Pick-up rivals also have an advantage when it comes to payload because they have to be able to carry more than a tonne of payload to qualify as a commercial vehicle. That rule doesn’t apply to SUV-based commercial vehicles – the 90 has a maximum payload weight of 670kg, while the Defender 110 maxes out at 800kg, irrespective of which engine you choose.

One area where the Hard Top is a match for the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux is towing, with all versions capable of pulling a 3500kg braked trailer.

Land Rover Defender 2021 interior front seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Land Rover Defender Hard Top’s pricing is roughly in line with the Defender SUV. That makes it an expensive proposition if you're simply looking for a practical commercial vehicle – the Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux and Toyota Land Cruiser Utility Commercial and are all significantly cheaper

The Ranger and Hilux are also predicted to hold on to their value against depreciation just as well as the Defender Hard Top over three years of ownership. So why buy the Hard Top? 

Well, there are the subjective reasons, like the fact that many businesses use their commercial vehicles as rolling billboards – and rolling billboards don’t get much better than the Defender. To focus simply on the heritage and the cache of running a Hard Top would be to sell it short, though. 

Quite simply, no other commercial vehicle blends practicality with comfort in quite the same way as the Defender. It also has greater off-road ability than any commercial pick up, or even a dedicated off-road van like the Vauxhall Combo Cargo 4x4. 

In terms of running costs, the Hard Top will prove more expensive to fuel than many alternatives. Our favourite engine, the D250 diesel, officially averages just over 29mpg in the 110 Hard Top, which isn't great.

It gets somewhere near that in the real world, at least – we saw 25-28mpg with prolonged use. Thankfully, commercial vehicles have a fixed rate of VED, so the Defender Hard Top's emissions don't affect this. 

All Hard Tops come pretty well equipped, with LED headlights, heated mirrors, a heated windscreen, lockable underfloor storage, 8-way adjustable heated front seats, the infotainment system we discussed earlier and plenty of safety kit coming as standard.

You can spec your Hard Top with luxuries such as a premium Meridian Sound System and 20in alloy wheels, but we’d keep ours basic and add key features such as the ClearSight interior mirror, middle jump seat and electronic active differential. 

You can also choose from three design packs to further customise the look of the Defender Hard Top. Some are more city orientated and add glitzy wheels. Others are off-road-inspired with features including a ladder, roof rack and off-road tyres. There's even a satin protective wrap for the bodywork, which stops the paintwork getting scratched when off-roading.

Euro NCAP awarded the regular Defender five stars (out of five) overall in its crash tests, which makes it one of the safest commercial vehicles on sale.

All trims come with active safety gizmos designed to prevent you from having an accident, including lane-keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition (displaying the current speed limit on the dashboard) as well as automatic emergency braking (AEB), which automatically hits the brakes if it senses that a collision is imminent. It can even recognise pedestrians and cyclists. 

When it comes to reliability, Land Rover doesn’t have a great track record. Indeed, the brand finished rock bottom (out of 31 manufacturers) in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey.

Land Rover Defender Hard Top 2021 interior infotainment
At a glance
New car deals
Target Price from £57,540
or from £615pm
Swipe to see used and leasing deals
RRP price range £57,540 - £117,120
Number of trims (see all)10
Number of engines (see all)8
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel, petrol, hybrid
MPG range across all versions 106.1 - 34.8
Available doors options 3
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,587 / £8,470
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £3,174 / £16,940
Available colours