Home » Probably Really Dumb Ideas: 2003 Land Rover Freelander vs 2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Probably Really Dumb Ideas: 2003 Land Rover Freelander vs 2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Sbsd 7 1 2024
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Good morning! It’s a new week, and a new month, which means a whole new chance to make terrible automotive decisions. And boy oh boy, do we have a couple of bad decisions today. You think dating that actress back in college was a bad move? She’s got nothing on these two.

On Friday, we looked at two cars that were equally dull, and as I expected, you preferred the one that’s easier to make less dull. Because of the Mustang connection and its Lego-like parts availability, that fleet-special Fairmont could be as wild as you’d like it to be. Lots of you mentioned a 302/5-speed swap, and I like that idea – especially if you leave the outside exactly as it is.

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But I know me, and modifying cars just isn’t something I do. I like to think about it, but I rarely have the gumption to actually get around to doing it. As they sit, both of these cars are as dull as a PowerPoint presentation about laundry detergent, but the Mazda is a much better put-together car. So I’d probably take that one, and plan – but never actually do – a manual swap.

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Life is full of uncertainty, and you can never really tell how something is going to turn out. But sometimes you can look at something and you just know, no matter how appealing it may seem, that it’s a bad idea: Giving a tiger an unsolicited nose boop, for instance, or going to that $4.99 all-you-can-eat seafood buffet at the casino. Think seriously about doing something like that, and if you have any sanity at all, alarms start going off in your head.

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But we’re talking about cars here, and when it comes to cars, a lot of us just plain don’t have any sanity. We can convince ourselves that anything is a good idea, with enough circular logic and wishful thinking. So with that in mind, here are two truly terrible ideas, and I’m going to make you pick one.

2003 Land Rover Freelander – $3,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter dual overhead cam V6, five-speed automatic, 4WD

Location: Carbondale, CO

Odometer reading: 77,000 miles

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Operational status: Runs and drives, but check-engine light is on

What is it with brands famous for four-wheel-drive vehicles changing ownership? Much like Jeep, Land Rover as a company has had more parents than Jim Holden. (C’mon, don’t leave me hanging; I can’t be the only Expanse fan here.) The Freelander was introduced under BMW’s stewardship, but by the time this 2003 model was built, Land Rover was owned by Ford.

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The engine, however, comes from neither of those companies – it dates all the way back to the Rover days, a 2.5 liter V6, driving all four wheels through a five-speed automatic. The Freelander got a lot of grief on introduction for not being a “real Land Rover,” lacking a dual-range transfer case and solid axles, but it wasn’t really meant to be, either. It’s more of a “soft-roader,” like Ford’s Bronco Sport. But the Freelander comes from an earlier, cooler time, when small crossover SUVs were still available with two doors and a removable top.

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It runs and drives, the seller says, but the Check Engine light is currently on. The seller also says they’ve spent a lot of money and had a lot of work done. It sounds like maybe they’re just done with it, which unfortunately happens a lot to Land Rovers of all shapes and sizes. Anecdotes aren’t data, of course, but the reviews of 2003 Freelanders on Carsurvey are eye-opening. A nice reliable RAV4, this is not.

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It is, however, orders of magnitude cooler than a RAV4 of the same year. The back of the top comes off, leaving only that exoskeletal roll cage (which may or may not do any good in an actual rollover). And split three-spoke wheels need to make a comeback. They just do.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST – $3,400

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 1.6 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, six-speed manual, FWD

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Location: A ways east of El Cajon, CA

Odometer reading: 26,000 miles

Operational status: Started and ran when purchased, not sure about now

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are dangerous to browse. I don’t care who you are or what your preferred vehicle type is, if you look hard enough, you will find something that calls to you – usually just outside your price range. That’s where Copart comes in. There you will find much cheaper, slightly damaged cars up for auction, ready for you to fix up and enjoy. Or, sometimes, start to fix up, realize they’re in worse shape than you thought, give up, and sell on.

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This Ford Fiesta ST – the very definition of a “hot hatch” – came from a Copart auction five years ago. The seller got all the parts to fix it, started disassembling it, and discovered the frame is bent. It apparently ran and moved under its own power when purchased, and the damage seemed cosmetic, but as it turns out it’s a bit more serious than that. From the sound of it, it’s still fixable, but it’s outside the seller’s skills.

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Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, the ST was the fast version of Ford’s little Fiesta, equipped with a 1.6 liter EcoBoost four-cylinder and a six-speed manual. It also has stiffer suspension, fatter tires, and these sweet Recaro seats. In other words, it’s a desirable car – if not for the crunched nose.

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It’s hard to say what it would take to put this car back on the road. I’ve seen some skilled body folks perform minor miracles on cars way worse than this, but is it worth it? It looks like average Fiesta STs are changing hands for around eight grand, so if you can do the frame work and paint it yourself, this car is a bargain. If you don’t work at a body shop, maybe not so much.

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Logic isn’t always the motivating factor when it comes to car purchases, and thank goodness – if it were, we’d all be driving Camry hybrids. But there are times when you have to put the brakes on a truly ill-advised purchase, like a catastrophically unreliable British SUV or a crunched fast Ford. You, however, for the purposes of this exercise, don’t have the luxury of walking away from both of these; you must choose. Which will it be?

(Image credits: Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace sellers)

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Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
20 days ago

The Freelander will always be a moneypit. I’d take a chance on the Fiesta and try straightening that front steel bit by wrapping one end of a strap around the bent in part and the other end around a big tree… and then backing up.

Or do it this way:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsDoQ93ztIE

Then slap it together and have a cheap/fun beater.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
22 days ago

I’ll take the Freelander since it’s blue and way better than a junky ugly Fix Or Repair Daily. I’ve never seen a Freelander or a even a photo, but I kinda like it…wouldn’t actually buy one in real life because LR of course

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
22 days ago

Buy both, start a betting pool to see which one blows up first.

Rhymes With Bronco
Rhymes With Bronco
22 days ago

If I had the Protomolecule technology necessary to make it reliable, I’d go with the Freelander.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
22 days ago

That Landie is garbage, but the roof config means it’s FUN garbage, right?

Yes, the Fiesta’s the better car, and might be more lucrative to part out, but I’m not spending my fake money to become an auto parts store.

We’ll take the (not-so-)Freelander, set to clearing that CEL, and drive it as long as we can.

Scaled29
Scaled29
22 days ago

Freelander hands down. It might even be the safer choice here, and just more appealing overall. Whatever happens, the Land Rover is an adventure; you just have to wait and see whether it’s good or bad.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
22 days ago

Nope, Nah Gah Dah. Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.

Myk El
Myk El
22 days ago

I wouldn’t spend my money on either. But the FiST is the only one I would be willing to own were it in good running order.

JDE
JDE
22 days ago

oof, this is definitely a lesser of two evils pick today. I believe I would just say no to both and go buy a decent running Isuzu Amigo or even a 4 cylinder Jeep Wrangler over either of these. and even then I would be regretting my decision.

ReverendDC
ReverendDC
22 days ago

FiST. The parts alone are worth it, and anything Land Rover leaks and breaks. Just is what it is.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
22 days ago

I went with the FIST because in the event that the frame cannot be rectified at a reasonable cost, then the car could be parted out at a profit.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
22 days ago

That Fiesta is a ticking bomb waiting to ruin your day,and your savings account. I don’t really care for Land Rovers either but it’s kind of cool and I have a feeling that it’s not as bad as everyone says it is if you just drive it and don’t worry too much about it.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
22 days ago

Note to self: pick up a hoe for my hood.

Last edited 22 days ago by Andy Individual
Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
22 days ago

Sorry, I ran out of Internet money over the weekend. I can’t get either of them until my next Internet check, which should come in tomorrow.

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