Superior traction, performance and safety; it’s easy to see the benefits of four-wheel-drive models. The good news is that you don’t need to buy a large off-roader or expensive executive saloon to get the benefits, as there are more small 4x4s than ever before.
To begin with, narrowing down your options is pretty straight-forward. For example, do you want a traditional off-roader, a conventional hatchback or a rough and tough supermini? Cost will also play a key role, as it does in any new car purchase – but whatever your budget and whatever your needs, there’s sure to be more than one car that fits the bill.
Here we rank our top 10, to help you find the very best in the business. What separates the best four-wheel drives from the rest of the pack is advanced features that keep CO2 emissions in check. The more CO2 your car produces, the more costly it is to tax (especially if you’re running it as a company car) and the more fuel it will consume, so you’ll be paying more at the pumps.
Four-wheel-drive models typically suffer from inferior fuel economy and higher emissions than their two-wheel-drive counterparts due to the extra complexity and weight of their more advanced drivetrains but transmissions that only employ all four wheels when conditions demand it help to reduce the penalty. Either way, diesel models typically make the most sense here and features like stop-start technology are highly desirable.
Higher running costs are a small price to pay if you live in isolated rural areas because when the snow arrives, four-wheel drive could be the difference between being housebound and business as usual. So while there are trade-offs, the benefits really come into their own when the weather turns sour.