Off-Roader of the Year 2021: Land Rover Defender

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In a car market that’s increasingly crowded with lifestyle SUVs that aren’t always what they seem, working out which cars can go off-road properly can sometimes be confusing. All three cars on our shortlist are brilliant at going far, far off the beaten track – but the winner, the Land Rover Defender, stands above the rest with a unique combination of impressive on-road performance and off-road prowess.

Best off-roader - Land Rover Defender

LAND ROVER DEFENDER

The Land Rover Defender has taken home the award for the Best Off-Roader. Replacing the classic Defender was always going to be one of the toughest gigs in the business, but Land Rover has done it in some style. This all-new car is bristling with the latest technology, and has a style that pays homage to the original, rather than slavishly following it. As befitting a car wearing the Defender badge, it's hugely capable off-road, but unlike its predecessors, it's also great to drive on them. Add in a roomy, rugged interior, and a range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engine choices, and the Defender covers a huge number of options.

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RUNNERS-UP

Best off-roader - Dacia Duster

DACIA DUSTER

The Dacia Duster has established itself as a great-value off-roader that can handle the rough stuff anywhere in the world. It's as happy tackling the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert or the rocky roads of the Atlas Mountains as it is on the school run in Surbiton. The Duster is based on rugged Renault technology, is available with petrol or diesel engines, and the unusual option of LPG dual-fuel, too. You get all of this, plus a clever and effective four-wheel drive system, for a starting price of less than £19,000 - and you can get the style from £12,000. What's not to like?

Best off-roader - Jeep Wrangler

JEEP WRANGLER

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The Jeep Wrangler is an enduring icon – those round headlights flanking the instantly-recognisable seven-slot grille are known the world over. For the latest model, the Wrangler’s lost none of its historic prowess off-road, but has been re-engineered from the ground up to be much better to drive on tarmac, with interior refinement, technology and safety all taking a massive leap. You also get a sense of fun in the Jeep that’s missing in many of its rivals – the ability to remove its roof and doors means this is as much a convertible as it is an off-roader.