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After a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a bit more off-road clout than the average SUV? Our top 10 best 4x4s list is the place to go…
So, you want to buy a 4×4. Here we’ll answer the key questions you might be asking yourself right now, including the big one about which are the 10 best 4x4s and off-roaders currently on sale in the UK. Our selection covers the whole 4×4 market from the smallest SUVs built to tackle off-road driving to big 4×4 models with up to seven seats that come with more off-road ability than you’ll probably ever need.
If you do require a tough vehicle with extra grip for slippery road conditions or serious off-road forays, but also something that’s well set up for normal road driving, the best 4x4s will cover both bases. We’ve also prioritised durability and practicality in making our selection, paying particular attention to low running costs, safety kit and value-for-money prices. If that sounds like your perfect new car, you’ve come to the right place.
Best Small 4 Wheel Drive Cars Uk
1. Land Rover Defender
It was an unenviable job, but Land Rover has succeeded in bringing the Defender firmly into the modern age with new levels of luxury and refinement, while crucially not losing any of the ‘go anywhere’ ability it had become renowned for.
The Defender remains as practical as ever, available in three-door (90) and five-door (110) guises, with a range of capable petrol and diesel engines on offer. The 398bhp P400e plug-in hybrid model delivers low emissions and is capable of travelling up to 26-27 miles on electric power alone while sprinting performance is also impressive: 0-62mph taking just 5.6 seconds.
Although the Defender is relatively pricey to buy, it is supremely accomplished with a stylish image that will appeal to urban families and an all-conquering practical quality that stays true to its heritage.
2. Dacia Duster
Dacia’s Duster 4×4 sticks to the budget brand’s established formula as a no-nonsense, low-cost family vehicle. There’s more to the Duster than its attractive up-front price, however, as it’s adept off-road and has a spacious interior. The cheapest Dacia Dusters are front-wheel drive, but the 4×4 models further up the range still undercut equivalent rival cars by a significant amount. While it’s not the last word in cutting-edge design, either inside or out, the latest model looks smart enough and build quality seems well up to scratch. In terms of value, the little Dacia can’t really be beaten.
3. Land Rover Discovery
The Discovery from Land Rover is a big SUV that can do it all. Its sizeable 7-seat body offers prodigious practicality and there’s outstanding off-road ability from a high-tech chassis marshalled by Land Rover’s Terrain Response system. Yet the Disco is still comfortable and relaxing to drive on the road. As far as the qualities you want from a big SUV go, there are precious few weak spots, but prices are on the high side.
4. Mercedes G-Class
If you want to stand out from the 4×4 crowd, then opting for a Mercedes G-Class might just do the trick. It’s been around for donkey’s years as the G-Wagen, but more recently has been thoroughly updated with a new moniker to fit the Mercedes family tree and a host of driving and tech upgrades to keep it (just about) relevant.
If you can afford the £100,000-plus starting price, then you might as well go all in and stretch to the rather entertaining 4.0-litre V8 G 63 model. With 577bhp and 850Nm of torque, it has enough grunt to haul itself from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, while towing anything short of your own house shouldn’t prove to be too much an issue.
5. SsangYong Rexto
There are plenty of big, capable 4x4s, but not many can match the SsangYong Rexton when it comes to value for money. The big SsangYong has smartened up its act considerably in its latest generation, adding sharp looks and improved build quality to its arsenal. If you’re after a spacious family 4×4 that can cope well in the rough, the Rexton is an often overlooked but extremely competent choice.
6. Mitsubishi L200
The pick-up truck is a great option for buyers seeking a large, affordable and tough 4×4 vehicle, and the Mitsubishi L200 is the best of the current crop. Classed as a commercial vehicle for tax purposes, the L200 can save company car users a tidy sum and comes close to matching the family-friendly practicality of an SUV when a load bay cover is fitted. The L200 is a little more rough and ready than most SUVs of a similar size, both in terms of the materials used inside and the overall driving experience, but it does have a strong engine, plenty of standard equipment and impressive off-road ability.
7. Jeep Renegade
Jeep is famed for its 4×4 expertise and the Renegade is probably the best-judged all-rounder in the brand’s current range. It’s the smallest Jeep, too, a rival for small SUVs like the Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V, but it trumps all of those models for off-road ability.AdvertisementAdvertisement – Article continues below
The Renegade is practical and well equipped with tough looks that help it stand out from the vast selection of models elsewhere in the segment. It is at the upper end of the small SUV market price-wise and isn’t the best for road driving, but with its mix of style and off-road ability it’s an excellent choice.
8. Land Rover Range Rover
The Range Rover is the flagship model in the Land Rover range and remains the go-to 4×4 for those seeking the perfect blend of capability and luxury. While luxury SUV rivals in a similar price bracket often prioritise roadgoing performance, the Range Rover stands out with its cosseting ride, high driving position (even by big SUV standards) and remarkable off-road ability. The interior is beautifully designed and brings a real air of luxury, while the classy exterior lines make the Range Rover stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
9. Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser is an off-road icon that’s as popular in some parts of the world as the Land Rover Defender is in the UK. These days, the Toyota leaves something to be desired in terms of driving dynamics on the road when compared with leading family SUV rivals, but it’s still up with the very best in terms of toughness and that unerring talent for not getting stuck. Toyota has a fantastic reputation for reliability that cars like the Land Cruiser have played a significant role in establishing. There’s now a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel in the nose so fuel economy has improved and you still get the cavernous interior with room for seven occupants. It all contributes to making the Land Cruiser look like a huge amount of car for the money.
10. BMW X5
A polished on-road performer, the BMW X5 is arguably better suited to smoother tarmac than navigating its way through muddy fields or wading through troughs of standing water. Launched in 1999, the X5 has evolved into a modern, luxurious SUV, that although isn’t quite able to mix it with the very best 4x4s in this list, still offers decent off-road ability.
If you are buying an X5 and think you’ll be covering some rough terrain, then you might want to tick the xOffroad Pack on the options list. It’ll cost around £2,500, but adds four selectable driving modes (xSand, xRocks, xGravel, xSnow), an electronically-controlled locking differential and underbody protection.
What is a 4×4?
In recent times, the huge expansion in what we like to term ‘the SUV market’ has brought a big increase in the number of cars on sale with four-wheel drive. It’s probably safe to say that a car with four-wheel drive isn’t quite what most people are envisaging when they talk about ‘4x4s’, though.
The term ‘4×4’ is more usually transposed with ‘SUV’ (Sports Utility Vehicle), referring to the style of car – tall, tough-looking, designed to be driven off road – rather than its drivetrain. Although you can have 4×4 sports cars, hot hatches and estates, it’s the all-wheel-drive SUVs that are most often associated with the term 4×4. While some cars referred to as SUVs are front-wheel drive and potentially no more adept in the rough stuff than a standard hatchback or crossover, the definition we apply to 4x4s is that they’re 4WD SUVs designed with off-road driving as a more central consideration. These are the kind of cars you’d be looking to buy if you needed to regularly or occasionally use the added traction and protection from rough terrain that 4×4 vehicles are built to provide.
While our best SUVs round-up focuses more on the cars that excel in the kind of everyday driving to which SUVs are usually exposed – namely on the road with the occasional snowfall or gravel driveway to contend with – 4x4s can go the extra mile when rough terrain is more regularly encountered.
Choosing the best 4×4
A big part of the decision-making process here will be working out how much off-road ability you actually need. As 4×4 cars get more capable over rough terrain, they tend to become less comfortable and composed on the tarmac. While 4x4s that are brilliantly comfortable on the road and capable off it do exist, you’ll need to pay a premium to buy one. More extreme off-road driving is ultimately about not getting stuck and, at a basic level, that means good tyres and lots of ground clearance. 4x4s designed to be driven off-road will have lots of ground clearance and suspension travel, plus protection underneath for when either runs out. There are numerous 4×4 systems available, too. For off-road 4x4s, being able to fix the transmission in all-wheel-drive mode is useful and many models will also offer locking differentials and low-range gearboxes for really difficult terrain.
You will find all manner of electronic aids for off-roading fitted to various models. Advanced traction control systems that adjust the car’s settings for different types of terrain are common in higher-end cars, as are air suspension systems that can adjust the ride height to suit the conditions. More commonplace are extras like hill descent control that will lower a car down a steep descent automatically using the ABS braking system. Many 4×4 models also come with 360-degree camera systems to give you a better view of obstacles around the car.
The 4×4 market
These days almost every car brand builds an SUV of some kind, but if you want a 4×4 with genuine off-road ability, there are certain marques that have a strong reputation, and deservedly so. Land Rover is an obvious choice for UK buyers, although the US has Jeep and many of the Japanese marques are renowned 4×4 specialists with dominant positions in different markets around the world.
Size is very important, but it’s not necessarily a reliable indicator of off-road ability. Small 4x4s like the Suzuki Jimny and Jeep Renegade deliver a lot of rough-terrain prowess for not a lot of money. Pick-up trucks are also a value-for-money choice that happen to be very tax efficient for businesses and company car users, while models at the upper end of the scale like the mighty Range Rover can give you genuine luxury.
If you’re after traction rather than ultimate off-road ability, there are lots of 4×4 estate cars that don’t quite have the same raised ride height of an SUV but do provide the same kind of practicality and all-weather grip. They can be a good bet in areas that get regular snow and with a good set of winter tyres fitted they can prove extremely capable.
Best cars with four-wheel drive
Cars with four-wheel drive don’t have to be huge, expensive SUVs or off-roaders. Here are our favourites for all types of drivers
SAM NAYLOROct 29, 2021
Four-wheel drive is available on all kinds of cars these days. Once it was reserved for large off-roaders and SUVs, but now you’ll frequently find sports cars and family saloons sending power to all four wheels, too. Some cars are fitted with four-wheel drive with the intention of heading off-road, while others have it for all-weather grip when accelerating on slippery roads. Some performance-focused models use it to prevent wheel spin and provide more grip around corners to help you go faster. You can find of the best examples of four-wheel-drive cars listed below.
It’s traditionally used on off-road cars because when you’re not driving on a grippy tarmac road, you need as much help as you can get to get the car moving and keep it going. Yet even on road, four-wheel drive can be really useful, as in the wet and snow, there’s not always a perfect surface to drive on.
This is why manufacturers have been using four-wheel drive on all kinds of cars more recently. It’s become more cost-effective to add it on everyday cars and many people want the extra security it brings in harsh weather. However, it’s worth remembering that four-wheel drive only helps you to accelerate, not to slow down again.
That means that if you want a four-wheel drive car to be able to drive in snow, you may be better off getting a two-wheel drive car plus a set of winter tyres instead, as these offer greater grip on cold and snowy roads. As a result, winter tyres not only help you to get moving but also help you to stop more safely in snow than a four-wheel drive car with standard tyres can. Of course, for the greatest ability to pull off and stop in snow, you’ll want a four-wheel drive car with winter tyres fitted.
A four-wheel drive car isn’t for everyone, so think carefully about choosing one when a two-wheel drive model may suit you better. For example, four-wheel drive cars weigh more because of the extra parts needed, which reduces fuel economy, and they often cost more to purchase in the first place as well.
Then there’s the fact that with more parts, there’s more to go wrong or simply maintain. In most driving scenarios you won’t notice the difference between a two- and four-wheel drive car, so it’s worth thinking about whether you’re willing to pay a little extra for the grip benefits.
In this article we’ll look at all kinds of four-wheel drive cars, so there’s bound to be a model that suits you. Whether you want a four-wheel drive car that’s perfect for off-roading, a family car or even a sports car with extra grip, look below to find a great option.
Best 4×4 cars
Best 4×4 for city driving
It seems a bit of a contradiction to have a 4×4 that’s good for city life, but the Suzuki Ignis is exactly that. It’s a great-value small car that has enough ride height and four-wheel drive for some light off-roading, which could fit some people’s needs.
If you live in town but sometimes visit family in rural areas with tough-to-traverse farm tracks, the Ignis could be a great choice, for example. The small engine and light weight mean that it’s really cheap to run as well as buy second-hand, and it’s roomier than you might expect inside the cabin.
It’s also fun to drive to match its charming looks, with a pleasant manual gearbox, peppy engine and even a comfortable ride over potholes and bumps found on typical city streets. It’s not as high-tech as some other small SUVs of a similar age but it’s bound to be reliable, which counts for double when you’re getting a used car.
Best 4×4 for off-road style and ability
Ask anyone to think of a four-wheel drive car and most would probably mention Land Rover. We’ve picked out the Discovery Sport here, because it offers just what most SUV drivers want in a more affordable package than most other Land Rover models.
For a start it has the stylish SUV looks that many modern car buyers are after – but it’s not just for show, as the Discovery Sport is a genuinely good off-roader should you need it. In HSE form it’s packed with modern high-tech kit, too.
The ‘TD4’ diesel is economical, powerful and great for towing, and we’d pick a model with the automatic gearbox as it suits the car’s comfortable, relaxed drive. It’s roomy inside, so it’s perfect for families and the high driving position will be a selling point for many as well. There are some versions with seven seats, which makes it a good choice for larger families, too.
Best 4×4 for everyday driving
The BMW 3 Series is one of the best all-round family cars you can get, and the fact that it’s available with four-wheel drive means it’s an easy inclusion on this list. All BMW models that have ‘xDrive’ in the name are four-wheel drive, and we’d pick a 320d model for daily use.
The diesel engine in this car is really economical but also powerful and adds to the sense of fun you get from behind the wheel. The 3 Series is better to drive than some sports cars, so the fact that this is a family saloon with plenty of room inside is a huge bonus.
The 320d is excellent at motorway commuting, because it’s very comfortable and smooth even on rough roads like the M25. Yet it’s also fun to drive on twisty country roads and comes with plenty of modern kit including an excellent sat-nav system and cruise control.
Best 4×4 for all-weather performance
The Audi TT looks a little out of place on a list of four-wheel drive cars but it features Audi’s ‘quattro’ four-wheel drive system on certain models, and it’s used to make the car more fun to drive on twisty roads rather than for off-roading.
With all four wheels driving the car, you have more traction coming out of corners, so you can put your foot down earlier than you would be able to otherwise. There are convertible versions for the wind-in-your-hair thrills but we’ve picked out a hard-top version as it’s better value and has two small rear seats, plus a surprisingly practical hatchback boot.
The TT has one of the best cabins of any car for this kind of price, with high-quality materials and lots of tech, and the seats are comfortable, too. There are two tiny rear seats but they’re only really useful for short trips or small children, but that’s more than you can say of most sports cars, which typically only have two seats.
Best 4×4 for short family trips
The Toyota RAV4 makes a huge amount of sense for drivers who tend to do shorter trips rather than a lot of motorway miles, but need lots of room inside for the family. There’s plenty of space in the RAV4 and a big boot, and its four-wheel drive system means it’s good for harsh weather.
Yet the hybrid setup means that it’s really efficient where an ordinary petrol or diesel would be poor. The battery pack doesn’t need to be plugged in, as the onboard petrol engine charges it automatically, but it enables the car to deliver strong fuel economy in stop-start traffic.
The RAV4 is also comfortable, good to drive and has plenty of equipment including sat-nav, heated seats and cruise control. Make sure you go for the newer model with the flat nose and squared-off wheel arches, as it’s much better than previous versions in terms of comfort and interior usability.
Best 4×4 for all-round family car appeal
If you’re not sure what you need in your next car, the Mazda CX-30 offers just about everything. For a start it’s designed to sit somewhere in between a family hatchback and a proper SUV in terms of looks, so it has a stylish look without the running costs and size of a bigger model.
Then there’s the engine – it’s a clever Mazda-designed motor that works like a diesel most of the time, but has the smoothness of a petrol engine and the power of one when you put your foot down too. It’s not the most punchy engine but it delivers good fuel economy and it makes the CX-30 great fun to drive with the manual gearbox option.
There’s four-wheel drive – naturally – and even a mild hybrid system that helps to save a bit of fuel. This isn’t like a full hybrid, as the electric motor can’t drive the wheels, it just boosts the engine output a little. This Mazda is enjoyable to drive, comfortable, practical and while it could have more rear-seat head and legroom, it’s an appealing family car option.
Best 4×4 for convertible thrills
Here’s a left-field choice of 4×4 – a Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet with the fantastic petrol engine and four-wheel drive system from the high-performance AMG C43 model. This version is really fast, sounds great and brings lots of driving thrills with the roof down, so it’s unlike any other car on this list.
The fact this car loses value quickly from new means that it is far more affordable as a second-hand car than you might expect and therefore makes a whole lot more sense now than it did when new. For a car with under 25,000 miles, it’s around the same price as a new family SUV. That’s not bad for a seriously powerful and upmarket convertible.
With four seats it’s actually usable as a family car on occasion, and with the roof up there’s a reasonably useful boot, so it’s more practical than a typical sports car. Yet the powerful petrol engine and four-wheel drive system mean that this stylish convertible is fun to drive as well and able to deal with all kinds of weather – although it’s more of a cruiser than a circuit racer.
Best 4×4 for fun driving
Our pick Ford Focus RS 2.3 EcoBoost
Used deals from £25,999
Monthly finance from £439*
Hot hatchbacks are usually front-wheel drive – reflecting the ordinary hatchbacks they’re based upon – but there’s a new trend for the most exciting models to have four-wheel drive. The VW Golf R is one example, but we reckon the Ford Focus RS is more fun – despite its divisive looks.
The Focus drives as sweetly as a sports car, and can easily match one for performance as well, thanks to its potent 2.3-litre petrol engine. It’s a riot to drive and although the suspension is stiff, the Focus grips incredibly well in corners.
Yet it’s also practical enough for family life, with good rear seats and a big boot. The four-wheel drive system means it has loads of traction when pulling away and the sports seats in the front are comfortable and hold you in place really well. If you want a fun four-wheel drive hot hatchback, therefore, a Focus RS is a great choice.
*Representative PCP finance – Ford Fiesta:
48 monthly payments of £192
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500