But there’s a new range of heavy duty 4x4s on the market that aims to take things back to basics.
The name Santana may be new to many, but at first glance the shape of the vehicle will be very familiar. But don’t just discount this as a Land Rover Defender clone – it is a very different beast.
Metalurgica de Santa Ana, now Santana Motor, is a Spanish company that in 1958 signed a deal with Rover to build knock-down kits of the early series Land Rovers in Spain. As the venture went on the vehicles became increasingly independent, until eventually they were 100% local content.
In 1985, Land Rover sold its share of the firm to Suzuki and Santana started building the SJ410. Santana continued to build its own version of the Land Rover alongside the compact Suzuki. As SJ410 sales grew, Santana eventually stopped building the heavy duty 4x4 in 1992, but in 1999 the Spanish firm decided the time was right to re-enter the rugged 4x4 market with the introduction of the PS10.
UK importer Fourtec, of Dereham in Norfolk, has been pushing the Santana PS10 here for some time, but had to wait until May this year for right-hand drive to start filtering through.
With a range of five-door station wagons, double-cab vans and two-seat vans available now, a single-cab pick-up later this year and double-cab pick-ups next year, Fourtec now has a full line-up to offer potential dealers and customers.
Let’s get those looks out of the way first. Yes, there is definitely a Defender resemblance in there, but the Santana uses steel body panels with tough plastic mouldings to create the shape.
And Fourtec managing director Jon Crocker says that, although similar on the outside, Santana has liberated far more room for the driver and passengers inside.
A Defender driver can feel that they are jammed up against the door and window, and larger drivers find it more comfortable to drive with the window open. Santana has moved the driver’s seat and the steering column inboard by about 100mm.
Fourtec has enlisted 15 dealers so far, with 25 outlets around the country. There are still some areas of the UK that aren’t fully covered, but the firm took on three dealers just last week.
Perhaps most telling is the fact that one of its dealers also holds a Land Rover franchise, figuring that if it is going to lose Defender sales, it may as well be to a dealer outlet that it owns.
Service intervals for the Iveco-sourced 2.8-litre Unijet engine are 9,000 miles and the Santanas come with a two-year/60,000-mile warranty, which can be upgraded to a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty for £470. Roadside breakdown and recovery is included, even for a trailer.
Which brings us to the vehicle’s abilities. All PS10s can pull a 3,500kg load, something that is increasingly rare unless you are prepared to spend considerably more. Maximum payload inside the vehicle is one tonne.
Crocker says base models are around 10% less than the equivalent Defender, with the difference rising as you go up the specification scale. The double-cab van starts at £18,206 including VAT and delivery, while it’ll cost you £17,619 on-the- road including VAT for the two-seater van. Opt for the station wagon, with up to nine seats, and prices start at £18,794 on-the-road.
Model: Santana PS10
Engine size (cc): 2,800
Power (bhp/rpm): 125/3,600
Torque (lb-ft): 202
Towing weight (kg): 3,500
Prices (inc VAT and delivery): £17,619 – £18,794
BEHIND THE WHEEL
CERTAINLY the Santana, for anyone who has driven a Defender, will feel much more spacious, with elbow room to spare. It’s a similar story in the back, with the rear seats set further back on station wagon and five-seat van versions to provide far more leg room
Under the bonnet of the PS10, the 2.8-litre diesel offers 125bhp at 3,600rpm and 202 lb-ft of torque. Off-roading is made easy with that much torque, as the Santana will keep pulling on tick-over well after some competitors have stalled.
The vehicles use a five-speed manual gearbox and offer two and four-wheel drive, the rear wheels taking the strain when in two-wheel-drive. Low range is also on offer for real hard work. There’s another shock under the body too. Where many now use coil springs, Santana has opted for parabolic leaf springs and double-acting shock absorbers.
These springs offer surprisingly long travel, and it would take a fairly impressive lump of ground to get the PS10 to lift a wheel in the air, which means, of course, that traction is maintained through all but the roughest of terrain.
The interior really has been built for work – you could hose it out without fear of damage, with rubber mats everywhere and hard wearing cloth on the seats.
A twin-skinned composite roof material means there is no need to have a roof lining and luxuries such as electric windows and air conditioning are only available on higher specification Plus and Extra Plus trim levels.
AS long as all you want is a basic vehicle that will do a sound job in the rough, the Santana PS10 is certainly worth more than a second look.