Friday, October 21, 2011

Tried and not tested

The Goat is mobile in Doha either on his motorcycle or in the rented Honda Jazz. As the latter of these is a member of the Rice-Pudding-Skin Preservation Society, and both vehicles are equally useless off asphalt, the Goat has been on the lookout for a four-wheel-drive for desert driving and hauling diving and camping gear.

As has been previously lamented, the Goatmobile languishes unsold in Dubai. It can’t be exported to Qatar because it’s more than five years old, so a different vehicle will have to be procured. Naturally, all available used vehicles are some combination of thrashed to death, never seen an oil change, crash-damaged or over-priced; most are some combination, and one or two hit the jackpot.

So a safer option is to buy a new one. Most decent 4x4s are stupidly expensive, so the likes of the Nissan Patrol at QR210,000 or more must be rejected outright. Even such delights as Toyota’s FJ Cruiser or Prado are prohibitively expensive. One possibility, now that expatriates are allowed to own certain commercial vehicles, is a crew-cab pickup. The Chevy Silverado with a ten-inch lift and a five-litre V8 is simply too large, too expensive and anyway the Goat doesn’t live in West Virginia. The Nissan Navara that is on offer is extremely basic, and the local dealer can’t or won’t supply one with higher spec. The indestructible Hilux is probably too expensive, and for the next few months is Not Coming In Doha.

So the Goat has found himself looking at Daihatsu’s Terios. Basically a 1500cc 4x4 Yaris, the Tear-Arse seems to tick most of the boxes. But will it perform off road? Published reviews range from: “The only one of us never to get stuck on an overland trip from Namibia to Mozambique,” through, “Being so light, it simply skips over the sand while heavy 4x4s sink in,” to “It was unremittingly awful in every respect. Avoid.” Jeremy Clarkson seemed to like it in Top Gear’s “Let’s pretend it’s a fox” but that was on mud and wet grass rather than power-sapping sand dunes.

The Goat concluded that the solution would be to borrow or rent a Tear-Arse for a weekend (and take it for a comprehensive thrashing to the Inland Sea). Having failed to find a car rental company with one that was available, he asked the Daihatsu dealer to provide a solution that involved a borrowed or rented vehicle. There followed a complicated series of phone calls and car shuffling between the dealer, Adonis car rental, and a customer who had been talked into relinquishing her Terios for the weekend. The salesman put in an inordinate effort to get the Goat his test drive. Full marks for that.

And then disaster! It was the two-wheel-drive version. Back to square one.



Bush Mechanic said...

You could also look at the Suzuki Vitara. Very capable off roader when there was mud and rocks. I don't know about the sand. But they do skip over soft paddocks when my hilux sank to the axles. Yes it didn't stop running, but it wasn't going anywhere either.

Downside to the light 4WD is the lightness means there is no rebuilding and things will break and must be replaced rather than repaired. Brake rotors, you can expect less life in pads and the rotors can only be machined once.

Anonymous said...

Syl's got a Gran(d?) Vitara and it's a sporty little beast. Have you looked into them? BW

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this is still available but might be worth a look. Often these sorts of vehicles come up from Expats. Model Year: 2008 Price: 75 000 QR Mileage: 35 000 Km Make: Mitsubishi Type: 4x4/SUV Contact Details Contact Number: 66030149 Mitsubishi Outlander 2008 Color- Gold EXCELLENT CONDITION. NEVER DRIVEN IN THE DESERT. ACCIDENT FREE ALL SERVICE DONE AT MISUBISHI WORKSHOPS 3.0L V6 4WD. Regards, Paul.(PaulRB-Doha)

Anonymous said...

The Suzuki Vitara was very capable in sand, as Grumpy Goat will remember from Inland Sea trips 10 years ago. Whether the current model is as good I don't know.

Eric the Boat.

Grumpy Goat said...

You're right, Eric. It is in no small part because of your Vitara that I'm considering the Tear-Arse for Inland Sea trips.

Unlike the UAE, there are no massive fields of rolling dunes in Qatar, and the case for a large, virile and expensive 4x4 therefore becomes reduced to kudos around town.

Suzuki's Grand Vitara is, I believe, unfortunately too soft a soft-roader, and is also priced in competition with more 'serious' 4x4s. The Suzuki Jimny ("Does off road brilliantly; does everything else appallingly") is simply too small.


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