- Our pick of the best small 4x4s on the market
- Practical town runabouts to serious off-roaders
- Real bargains to be had at the lower end of the market
There was a time when opting for a four-wheel drive vehicle meant heavy penalties in fuel economy, performance and drivability. But not any more – the latest crop of 4x4s can be great to drive and surprisingly cheap to run.
Best of all, there’s loads of different small 4x4s to choose from, so you’re not limited to a large, bulky SUV or old-fashioned off-roader. Buying a true 4x4 means you'll get more off-road ability than your standard SUV, meaning you can cope with all the mud and slippery stuff those off-road tracks can throw at you - but these cars are also super capable when driving on normal roads too. These cars need to be practical, sturdy, and solid - for whatever your lifestyle brings.
We’ve rounded up some of the best small 4x4s, which offer all-wheel drive but are compact, cheap to buy and will return great fuel economy. They won't give you the massive running costs that a large SUV would, while still being practical and capable. Make sure you check out our Cars for Sale section too, and get a free valuation of your car. If you're thinking about financing your new car rather than buying outright, then check out the information in our finance advice section.
Scroll down to find out more about all our favourites, or click on the quick links below to jump to yours:
It’s a bit of a hidden gem, the Suzuki Vitara. The brand actually has a lot of experience when it comes to making small SUVs – it started way back in 1970. The Vitara is a world away from those early models, but it’s a tempting proposition, with a roomy interior, brilliant petrol engines and tidy handling thanks to its light weight. All models get Bluetooth, climate control and 16-inch alloy wheels, but stepping up further will bring sat-nav, a parking camera and privacy glass in the rear.
Opting for the cheapest SUV on sale in the UK today doesn’t have to be a compromise any more. Sure, the Dacia Duster isn’t as plush as some of its rivals, but it’s just as capable, and offers absolutely brilliant value. The ultra-efficient diesel engine commands a premium over the petrols, so think carefully which you choose – but opting for four-wheel drive is a no-brainer if you intend to use the Duster off-road. If you do, you’ll find it as capable as many machines costing two or three times as much.
Keen drivers ought to think about choosing the Mazda CX-3. The Japanese firm is one of the best at making mainstream vehicles feel really great to drive, and its compact SUV is no exception. The CX-3 is grippy, well-balanced and has nicely weighted and direct steering. The 1.8-litre diesel is a new engine, and offers decent economy – but consider opting for the wonderfully smooth 2.0-litre petrol unless you do lots of annual miles.
Translating the handling of the MINI hatch into a bulkier SUV body was no doubt a tough job, but the British brand has managed it with the MINI Countryman. Four-wheel drive is available on all models, but even front-wheel drive brings fantastic handling. And those who like to stand out will be overjoyed by the sheer level of personalisation on offer – there’s no reason your Countryman has to look like anybody else’s.
The first-generation BMW X1 sold very well, but the current model is a far superior car. It’s based on the same underpinnings as the MINI Countryman but has more mature styling. It’s tuned for more comfort than the MINI, but still handles well. We recommend the four-wheel-drive 18d model, which manages to offer fuel economy in excess of 60mpg.
New price: £28,795 - £37,025
Used price: £13,735 - £29,220
Fuel economy: 45 – 61 mpg
The Suzuki Jimny is a proper old-school off-roader, but on a miniature scale. The end result is a small 4x4 that can outclass almost anything when it comes to the rough stuff. The Jimny is packed with charm, too, and surprisingly good to drive around town. Admittedly, you won’t want to take it on too many long journeys, but stick to slower roads and muddy tracks and this dinky 4x4 will do you very well indeed.
Mitsubishi’s line-up of SUVs can, at times, be confusing , but the Eclipse Cross is the newest and probably the best of the bunch. It’s offered with a single engine – a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol – that offers good performance. Equipment levels are strong too, and Mitsubishi’s taken the bold step of eschewing a factory sat-nav system – assuming instead that most drivers will use smartphone connectivity such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
New price: £21,930 - £31,040
Used price: £12,375 - £24,135
Fuel economy: 36 – 42 mpg
Chunky retro styling really marks the Jeep Renegade out from the crowd, while also ensuring it looks cohesive next to its larger SUV peers. It’s more rugged than some so-called ‘soft-roaders’, and there’s even a bespoke off-road trim level, named Trailhawk. Mechanicals are shared with Fiat, so there’s an excellent 1.3-litre petrol engine on offer as well as an efficient diesel option.
Hyundai offers its smallest SUV as the brilliant Kona Electric, but petrol and diesel-powered models are worth a look, too. The Kona offers striking styling and a practical interior, plus Hyundai’s straightforward trim structure means it’s easy as pie to pick the right model. Four-wheel drive is offered with the powerful 1.6-litre petrol, too – so you might surprise some people with your turn of pace.
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