Car hunter: Cheap-to-run 4x4s

18 Oct, 2012 11:00am

Our reader has £15,000 to spend on a good value off-roader

Dear Chris,
I’m after a small 4x4 that can handle a little bit of off-roading, but I want to keep running costs low. What can you suggest for my £15,000 budget?
Michael Duffy, E-mail 

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The best buys:

Low running costs: Hyundai ix35

Hyundai ix35 front tracking

For: Long warranty, stylish, lots of kit
Against: Off-road ability, cabin quality

The ix35 was key to Hyundai’s model range revamp and it’s a stylish-looking small SUV.

While the main focus is comfort on tarmac, a four-wheel-drive version will be able to deal with gentle off-road terrain. All four-wheel-drive versions come with the punchy 2.0-litre diesel engine, capable of 49mpg, and emissions of 149g/km mean you’ll pay £149 a year in road tax.

We found a 2010 2.0-litre diesel Style model with 30,000 miles on the clock. It’s within budget, too, at £14,488. Buying at this age means you’ll also still be covered by the company’s five-year warranty, plus the Hyundai comes loaded with kit such as heated front seats and reverse parking sensors.

The ix35 isn’t brilliant off-road, and the car’s cabin materials can feel a little cheap in places, especially compared to the other models here.

The reliable choice: Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V front tracking

For: Reliability, strong diesel engines
Against: Fairly small boot, firm ride

Although Toyota made one of the first tarmac-biased ‘soft-roaders’ with the RAV4, Honda has been at it with the CR-V for almost as long.

The high roofline means the car offers plenty of space for passengers, while the diesel engines are particularly impressive.

Another trump card is Honda’s reliability record – the CR-V finished a very strong 12th in the Auto Express Driver Power 2012 satisfaction survey.

A 2009 59-plate 2.2-litre diesel EX, with 41,000 miles on the clock, will come in just under your budget, at £14,995.

It’s not quite as efficient – or clean – as the Hyundai, so will cost more to run. However, the quality of materials in the cabin is marginally better, and the CR-V should depreciate less and hold more of its value. It will also provide stronger off-road ability than the ix35.

Great all-rounder: Skoda Yeti

Skoda Yeti front cornering

For: Practical, impressive off-road
Against: Looks divide opinion, costs

The Yeti came top in our Driver Power survey this year, and it’s easy to see why it did so well.

It performs admirably off-road, while there are plenty of practical touches – including removable rear seats – and all models come with plenty of standard equipment.

The diesel engines are strong, although they will cost a little more to run than the ix35.

For £14,990, you can pick up a top-of-the-range 59-plate Elegance model with the 2.0-litre TDI 140 engine. For this, you can expect average mileage – although the example we found had a stiff 49,000 miles on the clock.

While the Yeti’s styling isn’t to everyone’s liking, the interior is well finished and rugged details make it look more chunky than the other cars. Plus, Skoda’s network came third in our Driver Power 2012 dealer survey.