The SUV and crossover segment is one of the hottest around, as manufacturers find new and ever-more desirable ways to spice up their 4x4s. In fact, SUVs and 4x4s account for more sales than any other sector of the European market, and the segment seems destined to grow still more as style-conscious drivers continue to tire of traditional hatchbacks and saloons. But with so much choice on offer, which are best SUVs and 4x4s on sale?
While 4x4s used to be practical but rugged and unrefined, these days nothing could be further than the truth. ‘Proper’ SUVs like the Range Rover line-up prove formidable off-road ability can come with limo-like refinement, while the new crossover class has changed the face of the sector, offering car-like driving dynamics, practicality and ease of use to for families in more road-focused packages.
Nowadays, many two-wheel-drive variants of modern SUVs and crossovers outsell their 4x4 sister cars, but buyers aren’t attracted to the segment simply because they’re slavish followers of fashion. It’s true that many SUV drivers like to be ‘on trend’, but the 4x4 segment wouldn’t be half as popular if owners didn’t appreciate some of their other attributes. High-up seating positions give SUV drivers and passengers excellent visibility, they also provide a great sense of safety, and increasingly creative design means they have lots of family-friendly features too.
With generally eye-catching looks and road presence, and the added security of great road-holding in wintry conditions from 4x4 versions, it's not surprising the segment is so popular. But which are the best SUVs and 4x4s on sale today? You've come to the right place to find out...
There are all kinds of SUVs on the market - from cheap and cheerful cars to luxury models boasting limousine comfort. All shapes and sizes are catered for, with small cars like the Nissan Juke vying for position alongside the large Kia Sorento or Volvo XC90. Efficient hybrid models are becoming popular too, with great mpg figures from their high-tech drivetrains. Yet despite being known as 4x4s, many of these cars are only two-wheel-drive.
Some models - like the excellent Range Rover Sport - are still fantastic off-roaders, though. Something like a Land Rover Discovery is a good choice if you really need to go off-road, but poor fuel economy and a high price mean it's not the best idea if you're planning to stick to tarmac. For most people, though, an SUV will remain firmly on tarmac - so it's good news that most of the latest cars are just as good to drive as their hatchback and saloon cousins.
The Dacia Duster is one of the UK's cheapest new cars - and it happens to be an SUV, so it's great for anyone who can't afford a Land Rover model. The 4x4 version isn't too bad off-road, though it's suited more to rough tracks than anything too challenging.
Having a car with four-wheel drive is useful when you need to get going on a slippery surface - you have twice as much grip, after all. Winter tyres are a still must, though - you might be able to speed up faster, but only winter tyres can help you stop faster (thanks to the increased traction they provide).
In the models that like going off-road the most, there is often a computer-controlled driving mode that improves grip on certain surfaces, and sets up the suspension to work better in adverse conditions. This can be turned off when you get back on the road.
If you're looking for a 7-seater car then a large 4x4 might be something you'll be interested in: they tend to be more desirable than MPVs and can offer a great deal of practicality. With their huge boot space, roof racks and towing capacity they make great cars for going on holiday, too.
Towing a caravan or trailer is a common use for these cars as well - and if that's your plan, the high torque of a large diesel engine is the best choice for load-lugging. Check out our review of the best tow cars in Britain to find out more.
To help you choose which 4x4 is right for you, we've rounded up 10 of the best. Click the links on the left or the next page link below to find out more.