Best small 4x4s to buy 2022
Need 4x4 capability without big SUV fuel bills? Take a look our top 10 small 4x4s instead
Small 4x4s deliver a great mix of talents for drivers needing practicality, off-road ability and rugged style in a single package. These cars deliver all of the above to varying degrees, and here we've listed 10 of the best that cover a range of styles, sizes and fuels.
The small 4x4 class has changed beyond recognition in recent years and, if you're after a small 4x4, there are plenty of alternatives out there. If it's off-road ability you need, then the Range Rover Evoque remains a star turn - it’s a capable mud-plugger, but also offers decent levels of comfort and modern driving manners and technology, too.
Elsewhere, the small crossover class has its own share of 4x4 models including the Suzuki Ignis, Mazda CX-30 and Jeep Renegade. These might not be as capable as the Range Rover off-road, but what they lack in off-road ability, they more than make up for with added practicality.
On the whole, you'll be looking at top-spec variants of these small crossovers if you want 4x4 grip, although some cars don't even offer it – if you're looking at a Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur or the Citroen C3 Aircross, then you'll have to make do with all-season tyres and a switchable traction control system.
The most practical small 4x4s are slightly larger again, and it's crossovers that once again take pride of place here. The Nissan Qashqai set the template for the class, with its raised ride height within hatchback dimensions, and rivals from Peugeot, Renault, SEAT, Hyundai, Kia and more have pushed the boundaries of the class even further. Again if you want AWD, it's the top-spec versions of these that are the ones to go for, as the entry-level cars offer more economical front-wheel drive as standard.
Elsewhere, the Dacia Duster sits in a class of its own, by offering rugged durability, crossover-sized space and outstanding value for money all rolled into one, while the Jeep Renegade can be fitted with a 4WD system that gives it more off-road ability than most owners are likely to ever need, although it's not quite as spacious as its rivals.
Best small 4x4s to buy now
- Skoda Karoq
- Volvo XC40
- SEAT Ateca
- MINI Countryman
- Range Rover Evoque
- BMW X1
- Mercedes EQA
- Jeep Renegade
- Dacia Duster
- Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4
Four-wheel drive versions of the Karoq are offered with a 187bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol or a 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel . Neither of these engines feel sluggish, offering plenty of punch for overtaking.
You can have the Skoda Karoq in two-wheel drive and the benefit of that is greater fuel economy. But the four-wheel-drive 2.0-litre diesel still offers up to 47.9mpg on the combined WLTP cycle.
Skoda has been on a roll with its SUVs lately with the larger Kodiaq gaining plaudits and the new Kamiq looking like a strong contender in the crossover class. The Karoq shouldn’t be forgotten about though and in SE L and Sportline trims, it offers plenty of equipment. Coupled with a tried and tested MQB chassis, the Karoq 4x4 should be on the list of anyone who needs a practical car with off-road capability.
We like the Volvo XC40 so much we named it our Small Premium SUV of the Year in our 2018 New Car Awards.
In such a hotly-contested segment, the XC40 won us over with its combination of a comfortable ride and stylish cabin making it a wonderful car to spend time in. It’s not the most entertaining to drive, but the trade-off is excellent refinement.
As the chunky looks suggest, the XC40 doesn’t fall to bits when it sees a field. You can have the petrol B4 and B5 variants with four-wheel drive, along with the 402bhp P8 pure electric version.
You’re not shackled to the top-end models if you want the largest engines either as the stronger powertrains are available across most of the XC40 range.
The Ateca was SEAT’s first SUV and proved to be a smash hit, winning our Crossover of the Year title in 2016. Following the Ateca’s success, SEAT now has two other SUVs in its arsenal – the larger Tarraco and smaller Arona.
A clean, minimalist interior might seem a bit drab but it’s all ergonomically laid out with typically decent VW Group build quality. The Ateca’s 9.2-inch Full Link infotainment system gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard and it’s simple enough to use, although the graphics aren’t as sharp as a Peugeot 3008’s and only top-spec FR Sport and Xperience Lux trims get a digital dash.
SEAT has worked wonders with the chassis however, giving the Ateca hatchback-levels of poise and handling. There’s a strong range of engines from the punchy and refined 1.0 TSI, to the 187bhp 2.0-litre petrol unit.
If you regularly travel off-road, the Ateca can be had (depending on powertrain) with SEAT’s four-wheel drive ‘4Drive’ system from the base-spec ‘SE’ to the range-topping ‘Xperience Lux’.
The Countryman might be far removed from MINI’s hatchback beginnings in terms of size, but it’s still great to drive. This is because the Countryman shares a platform with the BMW X1 – one of the best handling SUVs you can buy.
The Countryman should be capable off-road thanks to MINI’s ‘ALL4’ all-wheel drive system which is available on the base-spec Cooper, Cooper S and the diesel Cooper D. The plug-in hybrid version and 306bhp John Cooper Works models come with ALL4 as standard. On the road, the Countryman is slightly firm due to the stiff suspension but the off-set of this is little body roll and engaging handling overall.
Given how the Countryman’s exterior is bold and divisive, the interior is typical MINI and is full of classy design touches. The quality is among the best in its segment with plenty of customization thanks to a long options list. If you’re looking to take your Countryman into the wilderness, it might be best unticking the ‘Sport’ package box so as not to scrape the 18-inch John Cooper Works ‘Thrill Spoke’ alloy wheels.
Range Rover Evoque
While it looks fairly similar to the original, the second generation Range Rover Evoque has benefitted from some pretty big changes under the skin. Not only does it have the firm’s latest infotainment technology, it has also gained electrified mild- and plug-in hybrid engines.
Of course, it’s the Evoque’s styling inside and out that’s still a major draw – it does just enough to serve up Range Rover’s trademark look and feel, but in a small and relatively affordable package. Walk up the range from Evoque to S, SE or even HSE and Autobiography and the kit levels become truly luxurious, but the price also climbs steeply from affordable to eye-watering.
The engine line-up includes diesels, a petrol and intriguing P300e plug-in hybrid, with an impressive range of up to 40 miles on a single charge. This sees its economy soar to a claimed 197.8mpg, but you’ll only get close to this if you charge the battery religiously.
Versions with four-wheel drive are also immensely capable off-road, with the ability to wade through up to 600mm of standing water. Terrain Response 2 automatically adjusts the car’s settings to help it tackle rough and slippery surfaces with ease, while hill descent control helps the car tiptoe down the steepest slopes.
BMW’s smallest SUV is more expensive than most other small 4x4s, but it’s abilities extend further.
The X1 sits in the growing compact premium crossover sector, duelling with the Mercedes GLA and Volvo XC40 and it’s the BMW’s sharp handling which helps it stand out. Whether you spec a front or four-wheel drive model, the X1 is fun to drive and the range of engines deliver a good mix of fuel efficiency and performance.
A mid-life facelift for the second generation BMW X1 included mild exterior changes, although the interior now sports a larger infotainment screen in higher-spec models – at 10.25 inches.
The plug-in hybrid powertrain from the MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid has expanded the BMW X1’s engine line-up, providing an emissions free range of over 31 miles. Otherwise, there’s the usual mix of frugal yet punchy three-cylinder turbo petrol and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines in 18i, 20i, 18d and 20d guises, plus the 25e plug-in hybrid version
The EQA is Mercedes’ entry-level electric SUV, but that’s not to say it isn’t rather upmarket. Based on the Mercedes GLA, the EQA looks distinctive thanks to its flush grille and full-width rear lights, but it’s underneath the car where the magic happens.
Here there’s a 66.5kWh battery pack, providing a range of up to 264 miles from a single charge. We managed more than 200 miles during cold weather, and found the predictive trip computer reassuringly accurate. Charging speeds of up to 100kW are possible, but this does trail the 150kW of some rivals like the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Even Sport trim is reasonably equipped – as you’d hope for a small SUV costing from around £44,000 – with 18-inch alloy wheels, dual 10.25-inch digital screens and heated seats. AMG Line adds a sporting look, while Premium and Premium Plus packs add more luxuries, wireless smartphone charging and a better stereo.
The Renegade’s squared retro-looks are a nod to the brand’s long four-wheel drive bloodline. But if you want a 4x4 Renegade, you’re stuck with more expensive Limited, Trailhawk and 4xe plug-in hybrid versions.
You do get some interesting features for the price however, the range-topping Trialhawk has skid-plates to protect the engine, suspension and fuel tank along with ‘Selec-Terrain’ which lets you choose between ‘Rock Mode’ and ‘Active Drive Low’ with ‘Hill Descent Control’.
Four-wheel drive models are now limited to the 4xe plug-in hybrid powertrain, which uses a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine up front, and an electric motor to power the rear wheels. This means there’s instant torque to apply a helping shove that can keep the Renegade moving in slippery conditions.
The Dacia Duster is not just one of the cheapest SUVs on sale, it’s also one of the cheapest cars you can buy.
The Duster presents itself as an off-roader capable of shaming 4x4s many times its price thanks to 210mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 350mm. On the road, the Duster is easier and more refined than the old car but still some way off its German and Japanese rivals due to excessive road and wind noise and an inert driving experience.
The interior is functional, which will be music to the ears of 4x4 enthusiasts, but it’s laden with equipment you wouldn’t expect at the Duster’s price-point. Touchscreen, sat-nav and a parking camera are available on the Comfort spec and upwards.
Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4
Although the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 is at the upper-end of what you might call a small 4x4, it's not much bigger than the BMW X1.
The 3008’s plug-in hybrid system uses two electric motors - each driving an axle. The front produces 108bhp, while the rear delivers 111bhp. They combine with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine that makes 197bhp, with the overall output being 296bhp.
Drivers are able to utilise a proper four-wheel-drive setting and can also access a hill descent control system, which means that the 3008 Hybrid4 is able to take on off-road terrain with some confidence - often without the need to call on assistance from the petrol engine.
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