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The best 4x4 vehicles

Collection of the best 4x4 of 2020

It used to be that 4-wheel drive cars were created with farmers and mountain rescue services in mind; big, tough vehicles with plenty of grip – but few luxuries. Today though, all that’s changed. We take a look at the best 4x4's of 2020 in a range of categories including the new range of electronic SUV's.

The best 4x4s of 2020 are targeted at a huge range of different audiences. Whether you’re a safety-focused parent, someone who’s looking for a large, load-lugging workhorse, or a Premiership footballer with luxury in mind, there’s a 4x4 on the market that’ll suit you perfectly.

Because there are so many different types of 4x4 out there, we’ve broken our list down into a few different sections, so you can jump ahead to find that type of car that’s most suited to your needs.

We’ve included:

Before we get started, there are a couple of technical 4x4 points it’s worth considering…

 

SUV vs 4x4

4x4 style has become the most sought-after look on UK roads – and today, we generally refer to these rugged, slightly-taller vehicles as ‘SUVs’.

It’s important to remember that not all SUVs are 4x4s, even if they look the part.

A true 4x4 has the ability to send power to all 4 wheels. This type of technology is often termed ‘permanent four-wheel-drive (4WD)’ or ‘permanent all-wheel-drive (AWD)’. With these permanent 4WD/AWD systems, sensors will constantly be monitoring the amount of grip each tyre has on the road – and if power needs to be adjusted slightly, they may momentarily adjust the amount of drive going to each wheel.

On the other hand, there are also 4WD vehicles that spend most of their time operating as two-wheel-drive (2WD) vehicles. Like their permanent 4WD relatives, these vehicles also monitor grip on each tyre – but only engage power to all 4 wheels if it’s needed.

For most of us, this type of intelligent 4x4 system is useful – it keeps fuel consumption down when only 2 wheels are needed but has 4WD back-up if things get slippery. That said, there will be people who need maximum grip at all time, and if that sounds like you; it’s worth looking for a vehicle that offers permanent 4x4.

 

The best small 4x4 cars

You don’t need a big vehicle to benefit from 4x4 technology. Here, we’ll take a look at the smallest 4x4 cars on the market, and compare some of the best:

Fiat Panda Cross

If you’re hoping for a great little 4x4 that would look right at home on a glacier, the Fiat Panda Cross might be the best small 4x4 off-road capable vehicle for you.

The Panda Cross genuinely looks like it could take a gang of climbers to the foot of any mountain – and the truth is, it probably could. It’s truly excellent off-road and easily outperforms many more costly alternatives. It’s also equipped with fairly narrow wheels from the factory too – which makes it especially effective at dealing with snow.

Despite the compact exterior, there’s plenty of room inside for passengers – although if you are planning to climb Everest, you might need a roof-box, as there’s not a great deal of room in the boot. The Panda Cross range starts at £14,000 – as cheap 4-wheel drive cars go, that’s hard to beat.

Nissan Juke

Now, the 4x4 system on the Nissan Juke is only available in high-spec cars – so you can expect to pay around £20,000 for a 4WD Juke – but if you do, you’ll get a powerful and well-equipped little vehicle that’s very capable when the going-gets-bumpy.

The Juke feels nice and light to drive – and since the higher-spec will mean a slightly spicier engine than most other Jukes, so your 187bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine will do a good job of keeping up with the likes of Polo GTis and similar sporty superminis.

It’s not the most economical 4x4 in this small category – but it’s capable, powerful, and has plenty of tech onboard.

Mercedes A-Class

There are actually 2 AWD vehicles in the A-Class range – the A250 4MATIC and the A45 AMG. While the A45 AMG is a blisteringly quick and handles outrageously – it’s an out-and-out performance car – so the A250 by far-and-away the most sensible and best 4-wheel drive car in the A-Class range.

In actual fact, the 2 cars share a lot of components – so the 250 is by no means the poor relative of the A45. The 4MATIC system is an intelligent system – so most of the time, you’ll be driving in front-wheel-drive mode – but it’ll quickly change to a 50:50 front and rear split when there’s any slip detected.

The 4WD system is truly superb and inspires endless confidence, whether you’re taking on a muddy track on the way to a festival or tackling your commute after a night of snowfall.

BMW X1

If you fancy a pocket-sized BMW 4x4, the X1 xDrive is just the ticket. It’s not the most capable off-road – but it’s amazingly well-spec’d and feels far more luxurious than many other 4x4s of this size.

Like the Juke and the A-Class, the 4WD system is only available when you climb up the range – so most AWD versions of the X1 will be equipped with the 2.3-litre diesel engine; a twin-turbo unit that’s got tons of power. It’s not the cheapest on the list – but it’s great fun to drive, and there’s plenty of space inside.

The X1 is slightly narrower than the 3 Series vehicles too – so it’s nice and compact for negotiating city streets. The ride quality is fantastic through the X1 range – and the xDrive is no exception – it’s one of the best 4WD cars on the market if you’re looking for a smaller vehicle.

 

The best family 4x4s and SUVs

Looking for the best 4-wheel-drive cars made with families in mind? We’ve lined up what we think are the very best blend of price, performance, and practicality:

Mazda CX-5

Mazda has really made a splash into the SUV market with both the CX-3 and the CX-5. They’re both amazingly well-equipped, superbly put-together, and glorious to drive – it’s only the increased legroom in the back that means the CX-5 pips its smaller sibling to appear on this list of the best all-wheel drive cars.

Again, adding the AWD option means buying a top-spec, £30,000 car – but that means a superb diesel engine, a crisp auto transmission, and plenty of driving assistance and tech.

Inside, the CX-5 is spacious, modern, and seriously comfortable – you’ll have no problem carrying 3 passengers in the back with no grumbles about space.

Kia Sportage

Kia offers AWD drive on a variety of Sportage models – so you can work your way up from a modestly trimmed ‘2’ car with a 6-speed manual gearbox, to a luxury ‘GT-Line S’ with a 7-speed auto transmission and a tasty 174bhp – with a host of spec levels in-between.

The beauty of all Kia vehicle is how generously equipped they are throughout the range – so in reality, even the more basic AWD Sportage is never lacking. Capable off-road, comfortable on-road, and practical enough to easily carry a full family.

Kia’s transferrable 7-year/100,000 mile warranty also makes the Kia SUV one of the best used 4x4s on the market too – so if you’re looking for a pre-owned car, you’ll get a lot of Sportage for your money.

Skoda Karoq

Skoda can’t put a foot wrong when it comes to their SUV range. As well as being one of the most reliable 4x4s, the Karoq also tops most industry lists as being the best 4x4 on the market – thanks to a superb combination of comfort, equipment, and practicality.

The first 4x4 in the Karoq range weighs in at around £30,000 – a 150bhp 2.0 TDI SE DSG spec vehicle. At that price, you’ll get a lot of car – nice looking alloy wheels, the excellent Skoda VarioFlex seats, part-leather, auto lights and wipers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a host of onboard tech.

The Karoq is also supremely practical – in fact, it’s probably one of the most practical cars on the road. The Skoda design team seems to have made use of every spare inch, so whether you’re bundling the kids in for a school run – or taking 3 rear-seat adult passengers on a motorway journey, you’ll all be comfortable.

 

The best cheap 4x4s

You don’t need to pay a fortune for AWD. Here, we’ve listed what we consider to be the best value 4x4 vehicles on the road in the UK:

Dacia Duster

The 4x4 system on a Dacia Duster is a £2,000 extra on any spec level – but when you consider that the car starts at just £9,995, you can put together a capable AWD vehicle for a bargain price.

Truthfully, if you’re looking for a no-frills, rugged 4x4, there’s nothing that comes close to the Duster. It’s amazing value for money – and although it’s not especially quick, it’s more than capable of tackling muddy tracks and snowy B-roads.

The Duster will mostly run in 2WD mode – but can be locked into 4WD mode if things are getting really slippy. The 4x4 monitor is a nice touch too – it’ll give you a real-time indication of the slope that the car’s tackling – so you can confidently keep driving, even if you can’t see much more than dirt or sky!

SsangYong Korando

As long as you’re not looking for blistering performance, the SsangYong Korando is definitely worth taking for a test drive. As with the Korean manufacturer’s other vehicles, it’s built with price in mind – but comes with an incredible 7 year/150,000 mile warranty – so no corners have been cut putting this budget SUV together.

It’s not the most plush vehicle inside – but on a list of cheap 4 wheel drive cars, it stands out as being the largest and most practical by a longshot. It’s a matter of opinion, but it’s not unattractive either – some of SsangYong’s previous SUVs haven’t been so pretty – but from the front at least, the Korando takes a leaf out of the VW Tiguan styling book.

4WDs tend to be more costly to run than their 2WD relatives – but impressively, the Korando still manages to be the cheapest 4x4 to run at this size, even when lined up next to more premium vehicles like the Skoda Karoq and the Nissan Qashqai.

Suzuki Jimny

You might be surprised to hear that one of the best small 4x4 off-road vehicles in the UK is also one of the cheapest. Say hello to the very attractive Suzuki Jimny – a snip at just £15,500.

Now, the Jimny might not have the road presence of some of its larger SUV/4x4 competitors – but it more than makes up for its small stature with off-road capabilities that put virtually anything else to shame. As an added bonus, it’s also likely to be one of the cheapest 4x4s to insure.

The interior is very basic, and there’s little room to transport more than big kids in the back, but if you’re going to spend most of your time alone or with just one other adult in the car, then it’s perfect. There’s plenty of equipment onboard too – but don’t expect to fit much in if you’re taking it to the supermarket; more than a couple of bags and you’ll need to put the rear seat down!

 

The best hybrid and electric 4x4s

The way electric and hybrid vehicles are powered means it’s fairly easy for manufacturers to have a motor powering the front and rear axles (or even all 4 wheels) independently. As such, there are plenty of great 4x4 EVs and hybrids on the market – and we’ve picked our favourites:

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is one of the most popular hybrid SUVs on the road at the moment – and even though it’s been around for a few years, it’s still considered to be one of the best 4 wheels drive SUVs if you’re looking for a hybrid.

There’s bags of space inside the Outlander, which makes it ideal for families. It’s also very economical – but you will need somewhere to charge it regularly as it really only manages 30 miles on electric alone.

That said, even when the Outlander runs on just its petrol engine, it’s still economical – and it floats around town silently. If you’re looking for a hybrid SUV with plenty of visibility, the Outlander’s a winner too – there’s a great all-round view with plenty of cameras to make negotiating city streets and tight spaces a piece of cake.

Audi e-Tron

Some electric vehicles try to stand out as electric – but the e-Tron is quite happy to blend in with its other great-looking Audi SUV traditional-fuel stablemates. This is no bad thing – it’s a stunning looking SUV that just happens to be electric.

Inside the e-Tron, there’s a gorgeous interior that even stands out against Audi’s consistently well-designed trim. There are no wing-mirrors – instead, you get cameras that feed a live picture into an oblong screen that follows the door’s contours – and you’re surrounded by digital instrument panels and touch control pads.

There’s a motor on each axle – offering the car 402bhp overall – and a mighty 490lb ft of torque. If you’re looking for the best large 4x4 in the UK and don’t mind dipping into electric technology, the e-Tron should be near the top of your list.

Jaguar I-Pace

The fact that the I-Pace is electric comes second to the fact that it’s a downright stunning-looking SUV that looks fast even when it’s charging on your drive.

Jaguar’s flagship electric SUV channels all of the firm’s racing heritage to make a car that handles superbly, despite its obvious weight. There’s 394bhp available to all four wheels – and it’ll manage almost 300 miles of range from a single charge.

If you’re looking for the best SUV for off-road, you’ll want to side-step this one – but if you’d like a 4x4 that oozes style and performance, the I-Pace will be a dream come true.

Mercedes EQC

Between the I-Pace, the e-Tron, and the EQC, you’re really spoiled for choice if you want a handsome electric SUV. Like the Audi, the Mercedes EQC doesn’t stand out as being a radically different electric vehicle – instead, it just looks like a sleeker and smoother GLC.

Inside, there’s plenty of room – so even if you’re a rear-seat passenger, you’ll get to your destination feeling relaxed and comfortable. Combine the stunning interior with the fact that the EQC glides along silently, and you genuinely feel like you’re sitting in the future of transport.

Like the others on this list, charging the EQC from empty costs somewhere in the region of £12 – and from that, you’ll get the mileage you’d expect from around £30 of diesel. As such, the EVs here all win if you’re looking for the best MPG from a 4x4.

 

The best luxury four-wheel-drive vehicles

For a long time, 4x4 technology was heavy and expensive – so it made sense to build a large, how-powered vehicle around the AWD system. These vehicles were often luxurious – so today, the best 4WD drive cars are often stacked to the rafters with luxurious trim and innovative tech.

If you’re looking for the best 4x4 in the UK and your budget is flexible, these are some of our favourite options:

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Don’t let that ‘Sport’ name put you off; there’s no firm suspension or neck-jolting acceleration here – instead, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is a huge, extremely practical, luxury SUV that’s much cheaper than the plain old Land Rover Discovery.

There are bundles of passenger space in the Discovery Sport, and there’s a seemingly never-ending list of equipment to keep everyone comfortable, safe, and entertained.

Land Rover has traditionally had so-so results when it comes to reliability tests – but if that worries you, the firm provides a 3-year, unlimited mileage warranty that includes roadside assistance – so you’re well looked after too.

Audi A4 Allroad

The Audi A4 Allroad stands out on this list as not really looking a lot like a typical 4x4. Style-wise, it’s a lot like a standard A4 Avant (estate) with slightly more rugged looking wheel arches and a touch more ride-height – but it does have some off-road ability.

The beauty of the A4 Allroad is the fact that you get the grip and ability of a capable off-road 4x4 SUV with none of the handling drawbacks. If you need a car that can handle getting muddy as well as it can handle bends on a country road, the Allroad’s well worth a look.

Since we’re in the luxury section of our 4x4 reviews, we can cast budget considerations aside and suggesting loading the A4 Allroad up with the £3,000 Sport trim and adding the 268bhp 3.0-litre V6. It won’t represent the best MPG from a 4x4 – but it’s likely to be the most fun.

Range Rover Velar

It’s not as big as a Range Rover Sport, but there are plenty of people who’ll argue that it’s one of the best-looking 4-wheel drive vehicles on the road. The Velar is a work of art – plus it’s practical and packed with great tech.

The view from the driver’s seat is ultra-futuristic. SE and HSE models come with a triple-screen infotainment system – and the panel that controls air-con and general comfort settings blends seamlessly into the centre console. Even the steering wheel controls look like a cross between an F1 car and a luxury spaceship.

The Velar is extremely practical too. There’s plenty of space for 3 adults in the back and the boot’s spacious and loaded with hooks and tether points. There’s even a button to press that drops the rear of the car when the boot is open – just to make it a touch easier getting heavy items in and out.

Mercedes G-Class

With the G-Class, Mercedes have carefully balanced sublime and ridiculous. It’s got utilitarian looks with fairly obnoxious side-exit exhausts and monster V8 engine options – but inside, it’s clad with plush diamond leather and equipped with cutting edge tech.

In terms of off-road ability, it’s virtually the best in the world. Predecessors to this G-Class have easily managed round-the-world trips – although you’ll need to plan fuel stops fairly frequently if you’re planning on going trans-continental.

The G 63 version of the G-Class will cost you almost £150,000 – but for that price, you’ll get one of the very best large 4x4s in the world – and it’ll keep pace with Ferrari in a straight line. Not bad for a vehicle with all the aerodynamic prowess of a house brick.

 

The best 4WD cars for towing

Whether it’s caravans, trailers, or horseboxes; sometimes you need a bit of 4x4 grunt to tow a load. These are what we consider to be the best all-wheel drive cars for towing – and we’ve even thrown in what we consider to be the best 4x4 pickup for towing too.

Volkswagen Touareg

The Toureg’s £50,000 starting price is easily enough to put it into our best luxury all-wheel-drive cars list – but since it’s such a powerhouse when it comes to towing, it’s a great upmarket choice if you need to pull a load.

As well as being packed with industry-leading tech inside, there’s some pretty neat towing technology too. Firstly, the Toureg can pull 3,500kg – and it’s got a trailer assist mode and trailer parking assist. What’s more, there’s a retractable towing kit available as a £1,200 option if you want to smarten the Toureg up when it’s not lugging a load.

Volkswagen's largest SUV is a real masterclass and probably one of the best all-round 4-wheel drive vehicles on the road right now. It’s pricey – but if you want a vehicle that really can do it all, this is it.

Land Rover Discovery

No list of the best 4-wheel drive SUVs would be complete without the Discovery. It’s been a favourite with farmers since its launch – and with the levels of refinement and luxury that now adorn the big Land Rover, it’s also a family favourite that’s very capable when it comes to off-road and towing duties.

The powerful 3.0-litre diesel engine option makes pulling 3,500kg an absolutely breeze – thanks largely to the 700Nm of torque the engine produces.

The pick of the Discovery bunch is definitely the SE version – which comes with auto headlights and mirrors, a heated windscreen, 19-inch alloys, and Land Rover’s excellent Touch Pro infotainment system.

Skoda Octavia Scout

Skoda’s Octavia has won award after award for practicality, price, reliability, and customer experience – but now, this Scout incarnation adds towing ability to an already superb range of vehicles.

The 150bhp version of the Scout can tow 2,000kgs, and the maximum 750kg unbraked trailer limit – and while it might not have the sheer torque of the Toureg or the Discovery, it’s a far more budget-friendly option starting from just £29,000.

If you’re a caravan owner or occasional trailer user, the Scout is likely to be more than suitable for your requirements. It doesn’t have the same level of tech or refinement inside as some of the high-price rivals, but when you’re paying less than half the price and getting between 55-58mpg, that’s completely forgivable.

Ford Ranger

No list of the best 4x4 vehicles is complete without at least one pickup – and we think the Ford Ranger qualifies at the best 4x4 pickup of 2020.

If you need a truck that’s going to be a workhorse with monster towing ability, the Ranger needs to be at the top of your test-drive list. The new bi-turbo 2.0-litre actually has more power and torque than the 3.2-litre unit it replaces – and Ford showcased its ability by having a single Ranger tow no less than 15 caravans in a row – a 20-tonne convoy on a closed circuit.

We don’t suggest you try that – but it should give you the kind of confidence that allows you to load your Ranger’s bed and still be comfortable pulling a 3,500kg trailer with no problems.