Best 4x4s and SUVs

Last updated: Dec 10, 2014

With summer a distant memory, a number of new and used car buyers may be considering a 4x4 or SUV for added grip in the inevitably slippery conditions to come during the winter.

Buying an SUV or a 4x4 used to mean huge compromises - the design required to make a car perform well off-road usually flew in the face of what was needed to make the car feel stable at speed. But the latest models, also referred to as crossovers or sports utility vehicles, use technology that means one needn't sacrifice refinement and comfort for that high driving position and rugged ability.

The growing market means there are lots of models to choose from, including small SUVs and family 4x4s right through to large 4x4s and seven-seat SUVs. Models include the more road-biased Nissan Qashqai to the rugged Land Rover Discovery. It can handle the tough off-road conditions you would expect only the utilitarian Land Rover Defender to be at home in.

SUVs cover all budgets, too, so our list of the UK's top 10 SUVs includes everything from the affordable Dacia Duster to the pricey, but luxurious Range Rover. So keep reading on for our rundown of the best 4x4s on sale today.

Nissan Qashqai SUV

The second generation Nissan Qashqai has successfully built on the reputation the original forged. Although it looks like a small SUV, it's far more family-friendly. In fact, it's one of the best family cars on the market, with a well-built and practical interior. There's a very efficient range of petrol of diesel engines, which make the Qashqai a very cost-effective family 4x4 to run and refined on the motorway. There's no longer a seven seat version available though (the Nissan faithful will have to turn to the Nissan X-Trail for that). But that aside, it's a model that really deserves its place as the best 4x4 or SUV on sale. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£18,265 - £28,500

Dacia Duster compact SUV

The Dacia Duster is one of the cheapest ways into SUV ownership. For less than £10,000, you can have a brand new small 4x4 with a full warranty and a surprising depth of talent. That utilitarian exterior hides a machine that is tremendously able off road, but one that's also very spacious for both passengers and luggage. There is, predictably, a price to pay for all this though. The interior plastics look cheap and dated - although it seems well built - and this isn't a car that is particularly adept at cornering with any real sophistication. And while the Duster's old Renault diesel engines are reasonably efficient, they're not very powerful and quite noisy. It scored a below par three stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests - most of its rivals are five star cars. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£9,495 - £15,495

Mazda CX-5 SUV

In many ways, the Mazda CX-5 embodies the best of breed delivering what's expected of a family 4x4. It delivers the high driving position and the rugged look that mid-size SUV buyers demand, but uses clever engine technology and a lightweight structure to provide exceptional fuel economy figures. The most economical models can return more than 61mpg and emits such a small amount of CO2 that road tax is as low as £20 a year. It's all the more impressive then, that the Mazda CX-5 is a fun SUV that combines the smooth and composed drive you'd find in a smaller hatchback with moderate ability off road. There are a few downsides, chief of which is the downmarket feel of some of the interior plastics. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£21,895 - £29,895

Skoda Yeti SUV

The Skoda Yeti has been around for a while, but it's still one of our favourite small family SUVs. Unlike most of the models here, the Yeti looks more like a normal car that's been stretched upwards, rather than a rugged SUV. That said, there's a Yeti Outdoor version for those looking for a rough and tough look. It's compact SUV dimensions means it's small enough not to intimidate drivers in the same way a big SUV might. Four-wheel drive models are available, but it's the two-wheel drive versions that are the most fuel-efficient SUV versions - you'll get more than 60mpg in some. Best of all is the Yeti consistently tops our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£16,915 - £28,170

Range Rover Sport SUV

It's easy to dismiss the Range Rover Sport as a model aimed squarely at the school run. But while there's truth in that - it's a spacious and practical family 4x4 - it's also comfortable on the road and extremely capable off the road. It also delivers the goods claimed by it's name; the first Range Rover Sport was one of the first in a new breed of sports SUVs, and the second-generation model is even better. That sleek styling hides an upmarket interior featuring swathes of leather and wood. Although space up front is good, rear passengers will find legroom a little cramped. The most popular Range Rover Sport models feature a diesel engine capable of 37mpg, but there are also high-performance models which provide sports car-like performance, with running costs to match. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£61,250 - £93,450

Range Rover SUV

As good as the Range Rover Sport is, there's no shortage of buyers willing to spend more than £20,000 extra on the full-sized Range Rover. It's not hard to see why, because it is the first proper luxury SUV, with many buyers considering it an alternative to the opulent Mercedes S-Class. Although it's not as sporty as the Range Rover Sport, it is far more comfortable and few cars are more capable off road. Despite its size - it is huge, especially in its long wheelbase form - it is a surprisingly fuel efficient 4x4, capable of more than 37mpg in its greenest guise. Supercharged versions can reach 60mph in just over five seconds. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£73,950 - £181,145

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SUV

Expensive SUVs major on styling, but the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross couldn't be more different. Although it can drive off road with reasonable aplomb, it's more of a family 4x4. There's plenty of space inside, and it is well-equipped. It's also quite good fun to drive, with plenty of grip provided by that four-wheel drive system, responsive steering and relatively little body lean when cornering. It's not perfect though - the optional panoramic sunroof eats into the car's headroom, and the suspension is quite firm meaning bumps can be felt on the move. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£15,499 - £23,549

Land Rover Discovery 4 SUV

The Land Rover Discovery offers an intriguing mix of abilities. Not only is it the Land Rover of choice for many remote expeditions, it's also an exceptionally practical family car with five seats as standard, but the option of seven seats. Although it's not as luxurious as the Range Rover, or as fun to drive on-road as the Range Rover Sport, the Discovery is very comfortable and feels as upmarket as its £40,000-plus price tag suggests. There are some nice touches too, like the bootlid which opens in two parts - the lower half doubles as a useful seat. Read more.

Key points

4.3 / 5
Price 
£41,595 - £59,965

Nissan X-Trail SUV

The Nissan X-Trail might not look like a rugged SUV anymore, but the second-generation model is more of a family SUV. It partially replaced the Nissan Qashqai+2, meaning it's now the only seven seat Nissan available. It's a stylish SUV inside and out, and there's an efficient 1.6-litre diesel engine that claims more than 57mpg. Two- and four-wheel drive versions are available, and there's a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes too. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
Price 
£23,195 - £31,345

Volkswagen Touareg SUV

The Volkswagen Touareg is a big full fat SUV that is very comfortable on the road, despite being ferociously capable off it. Those elegant looks hide a rugged four-wheel drive system that can handle any terrain thrown at it. Yet for its size, it's reasonably economical - with light use of the accelerator, you'll see 43mpg, but road tax will still cost more than £200 a year. One of it's biggest failings is that there's no seven seat version offered, but at least there's plenty of room in the remaining five seats. Read more.

Key points

3.8 / 5
Price 
£43,415 - £48,215

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