Then Toyota introduced the RAV4 seven years ago to appeal to those who have an active lifestyle, and want the rugged looks of an off-road vehicle without so much ability. Land Rover - one of the two most famous brands associated with all-terrain vehicles - responded with the Freelander in 1996, and although the RAV4 remained the definitive SUV (sport utility vehicle) the Land Rover had an important weapon on its side, particularly close to the fleet manager's heart - a diesel version.
Recent revisions to the range have seen the replacement of the 2.0di turbodiesel with the more modern Td4. The advantages of this engine have given Land Rover no end of problems in trying to meet demand. Developing 110bhp and 192lb-ft of torque, the engine is surely the quietest and most refined in its class.
Until Toyota's RAV4 diesel goes on sale in the autumn, the Freelander Td4's list of rivals is limited. First there is the Vauxhall Frontera 2.2DTi - more of an old-school 4x4 than a SUV. Alternatively there is the Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.0TD - admittedly not everyone's cup of tea but it is offered with a diesel option and provides the combination of rugged looks and four-wheel drive ability to match the appeal of its rivals.
The new kid on the block here is the Hyundai Santa Fe - recently on sale with a 2.0-litre common rail diesel, a low price and generous space and equipment.