Price and performance inform our choice of mud-pluggers
10. Mercedes M-Class
The sleek Mercedes M-Class has long been one of the most popular executive off-roaders on the market. With good looks and road manners to match, it’s little wonder that it remains a favourite. Providing a rival for the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5, the M-Class Mercedes has one of the best interiors on the market. There are three engines to choose from: a 2.1 and 3-litre diesel units, and a 5.5-litre turbocharged V8 petrol engine. But M-Class motoring doesn’t come cheap, with the entry level ML 250 BlueTEC SE hitting the road at £48,190. At the top of the range is the mighty ML 63 AMG, which will set you back £86,920.
9. Nissan X-Trail
The Nissan X-Trail represents a cost effective alternative for 4x4 motoring but engine options are very limited. In fact, there’s only one: the 1.6 dCi 130. Another choice is whether you want that engine driving all four wheels or only the front two, which will save you fuel but add very little when it comes to ploughing through the rough stuff. One thing that the X-Trail does have is a reasonable price, starting at £24,795 on the road for the 1.6 dCi 130 Acenta 2WD version. Both five- and seven-seat versions of the X-Trail are available.
8. BMW X5
The most obvious competition for the Mercedes M-Class remains the BMW X5, which carried on the good work done by its predecessor by delivering outstanding performance in an SUV package. New diesel engines promise more refinement and economy than previous versions, and will keep company car tax rates at a lower level than was previously available. As good looking as it is capable on and off road, the X5 is another vehicle which comes at a price. The range starts at £42,945 for the sDrive25d SE version and tops out at £64,290 for the xDrive50i M Sport.
7. Honda CR-V
Honda is preparing to unveil its new small SUV for the European market, the HR-V. Until then, there‘s the larger CR-V, a car which has been around in one form or since 1995. It’s not the sportiest looking but does its job by being practical and reliable. The fourth generation was released in 2012 and is just as competitive as the Toyota Rav4 and Nissan X-Trail. Priced from £22,000 for the 2.0 i-VTEC S 2WD, it’s worth bearing in mind that better equipped CR-Vs can start to get costly, although a bonus is that they don’t depreciate too quickly.
6. Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Land Rover Discovery Sport will be one of THE 4x4s to be seen in next year. A replacement for the popular Freelander, the stunning new Disco Sport is a seven-seat SUV that will kick-start an entirely new range of cars bearing the Discovery name. The only engine available from launch is the 2.2-litre diesel badged as the Discovery Sport SD4. However, that is likely to followed fairly soon in the car’s life by a range of engine options offering much better mpg and emissions than has traditionally been the case from the 4x4 market. Discovery Sport ownership will start from £32,395.
5. Ford Kuga
The new Titanium X Sport model recently joined the Ford Kuga range, giving another option alongside the Zetec, Titanium X launch line-up. The Kuga is a car that keeps on getting cleverer too - t he Ford Kuga range also features Active Park Assist , Active City Stop , and All-Wheel Drive that pre-emptively reassesses conditions 20 times faster than it takes to blink an eye, readjusting the power split to give the driver the best blend of handling and traction. The Kuga is a fine example of Ford being second to market, but then doing a better job than its competitors. Vauxhall launched the Antara much earlier than the Kuga, but a dull drive and looks failed to capture the imagination. Glamorous, better-behaved and ultimately a much better choice, the Kuga sold by the thousands and the Antara didn’t. Starting at £21,000, the Kuga continues to be an appealing option.
4. Lexus NX
Designed to build on the success of the larger RX SUV from Lexus, the Lexus NX provides the manufacturer with a rival for the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque. The NX is well priced from £29,495 and the Luxury trim equivalent from a rival would cost you over £2,000 extra. Although it has the looks, the interior could date quickly and the clustered centre console does let it down slightly. But order books opened in May and 750 were snapped up before buyers had the chance to even drive it, so that says something about its attraction and we reckon Lexus have another hit on their hands.
3. Land Rover Discovery
Ten years old in 2014, the fourth generation Land Rover Discovery remains a benchmark of the 4x4 world, offering stylish good looks and genuine off-road credentials. Those trademark square sides might not be in keeping with the rest of the Land Rover range’s increasingly sculpted looks, but they contain a car which is as rewarding to drive along a motorway as it is through a muddy field.
2. Dacia Duster
Priced at only £9,995, the entry level Dacia Duster is one of the cheapest ways into a 4x4. At that price, it’s not surprising that it lacks the refinement of rival models. There are two engines to choose from – the 1.6 litre petrol and 1.5 dCi diesel. The top of the range is the Laureate special edition, which is priced at £15,495.
1. Hyundai ix35
Offering great value for money and far and better equipped than many other 4x4s on offer, the Hyundai ix35 is yet another vehicle which is helping to further the brand’s appeal. Not only is it one of the best value cars in its class, but the ix35 also comes with a decent range of engine and trim options. Prices start at £17,000 for the ix35 1.6 GDi S with two-wheel drive and top out at £26,550 for the 2.0 CRDi Premium Panorama 4WD.