Best cars with four-wheel drive

Cars with four-wheel drive don’t have to be huge, expensive SUVs or off-roaders. Here are our favourites for all types of drivers

Sam Naylor
Oct 29, 2021

Four-wheel drive is available on all kinds of cars these days. Once it was reserved for large off-roaders and SUVs, but now you'll frequently find sports cars and family saloons sending power to all four wheels, too. Some cars are fitted with four-wheel drive with the intention of heading off-road, while others have it for all-weather grip when accelerating on slippery roads. Some performance-focused models use it to prevent wheel spin and provide more grip around corners to help you go faster. You can find of the best examples of four-wheel-drive cars listed below.

Four-wheel drive refers to systems that use all four wheels to power the car along. This contrasts with front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive cars, where only two of the wheels transmit the car's power to road. With all four wheels driving the car forward, there’s twice as much traction.

It’s traditionally used on off-road cars because when you’re not driving on a grippy tarmac road, you need as much help as you can get to get the car moving and keep it going. Yet even on road, four-wheel drive can be really useful, as in the wet and snow, there’s not always a perfect surface to drive on.

This is why manufacturers have been using four-wheel drive on all kinds of cars more recently. It’s become more cost-effective to add it on everyday cars and many people want the extra security it brings in harsh weather. However, it’s worth remembering that four-wheel drive only helps you to accelerate, not to slow down again.

That means that if you want a four-wheel drive car to be able to drive in snow, you may be better off getting a two-wheel drive car plus a set of winter tyres instead, as these offer greater grip on cold and snowy roads. As a result, winter tyres not only help you to get moving but also help you to stop more safely in snow than a four-wheel drive car with standard tyres can. Of course, for the greatest ability to pull off and stop in snow, you'll want a four-wheel drive car with winter tyres fitted. 

A four-wheel drive car isn’t for everyone, so think carefully about choosing one when a two-wheel drive model may suit you better. For example, four-wheel drive cars weigh more because of the extra parts needed, which reduces fuel economy, and they often cost more to purchase in the first place as well.

Then there’s the fact that with more parts, there’s more to go wrong or simply maintain. In most driving scenarios you won’t notice the difference between a two- and four-wheel drive car, so it's worth thinking about whether you're willing to pay a little extra for the grip benefits.

In this article we’ll look at all kinds of four-wheel drive cars, so there’s bound to be a model that suits you. Whether you want a four-wheel drive car that’s perfect for off-roading, a family car or even a sports car with extra grip, look below to find a great option.

Best 4x4 cars

1. Suzuki Ignis

Best 4x4 for city driving

Our pick Suzuki Ignis 1.2 Dualjet SHVS SZ5 ALLGRIP
Used deals Limited stock

It seems a bit of a contradiction to have a 4x4 that’s good for city life, but the Suzuki Ignis is exactly that. It’s a great-value small car that has enough ride height and four-wheel drive for some light off-roading, which could fit some people’s needs.

If you live in town but sometimes visit family in rural areas with tough-to-traverse farm tracks, the Ignis could be a great choice, for example. The small engine and light weight mean that it’s really cheap to run as well as buy second-hand, and it’s roomier than you might expect inside the cabin.

It’s also fun to drive to match its charming looks, with a pleasant manual gearbox, peppy engine and even a comfortable ride over potholes and bumps found on typical city streets. It’s not as high-tech as some other small SUVs of a similar age but it’s bound to be reliable, which counts for double when you’re getting a used car.


2. Land Rover Discovery Sport

Best 4x4 for off-road style and ability

Our pick Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 TD4 HSE
Used deals Limited stock

Ask anyone to think of a four-wheel drive car and most would probably mention Land Rover. We’ve picked out the Discovery Sport here, because it offers just what most SUV drivers want in a more affordable package than most other Land Rover models.

For a start it has the stylish SUV looks that many modern car buyers are after - but it’s not just for show, as the Discovery Sport is a genuinely good off-roader should you need it. In HSE form it’s packed with modern high-tech kit, too.

The 'TD4' diesel is economical, powerful and great for towing, and we’d pick a model with the automatic gearbox as it suits the car’s comfortable, relaxed drive. It’s roomy inside, so it’s perfect for families and the high driving position will be a selling point for many as well. There are some versions with seven seats, which makes it a good choice for larger families, too.


3. BMW 3 Series

Best 4x4 for everyday driving

Our pick BMW 320d xDrive SE
Used deals Limited stock

The BMW 3 Series is one of the best all-round family cars you can get, and the fact that it’s available with four-wheel drive means it’s an easy inclusion on this list. All BMW models that have ‘xDrive’ in the name are four-wheel drive, and we’d pick a 320d model for daily use.

The diesel engine in this car is really economical but also powerful and adds to the sense of fun you get from behind the wheel. The 3 Series is better to drive than some sports cars, so the fact that this is a family saloon with plenty of room inside is a huge bonus.

The 320d is excellent at motorway commuting, because it’s very comfortable and smooth even on rough roads like the M25. Yet it’s also fun to drive on twisty country roads and comes with plenty of modern kit including an excellent sat-nav system and cruise control.


4. Audi TT

Best 4x4 for all-weather performance

Our pick Audi TT 2.0 TFSI quattro S Line
Used deals Limited stock

The Audi TT looks a little out of place on a list of four-wheel drive cars but it features Audi’s 'quattro' four-wheel drive system on certain models, and it’s used to make the car more fun to drive on twisty roads rather than for off-roading.

With all four wheels driving the car, you have more traction coming out of corners, so you can put your foot down earlier than you would be able to otherwise. There are convertible versions for the wind-in-your-hair thrills but we’ve picked out a hard-top version as it’s better value and has two small rear seats, plus a surprisingly practical hatchback boot.

The TT has one of the best cabins of any car for this kind of price, with high-quality materials and lots of tech, and the seats are comfortable, too. There are two tiny rear seats but they’re only really useful for short trips or small children, but that’s more than you can say of most sports cars, which typically only have two seats.


5. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Best 4x4 for short family trips

Our pick Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2.5 VVTI Hybrid
Used deals from £18,900
Monthly finance from £0*

The Toyota RAV4 makes a huge amount of sense for drivers who tend to do shorter trips rather than a lot of motorway miles, but need lots of room inside for the family. There’s plenty of space in the RAV4 and a big boot, and its four-wheel drive system means it’s good for harsh weather.

Yet the hybrid setup means that it’s really efficient where an ordinary petrol or diesel would be poor. The battery pack doesn’t need to be plugged in, as the on-board petrol engine charges it automatically, but it enables the car to deliver strong fuel economy in stop-start traffic.

The RAV4 is also comfortable, good to drive and has plenty of equipment including sat-nav, heated seats and cruise control. Make sure you go for the newer model with the flat nose and squared-off wheel arches, as it’s much better than previous versions in terms of comfort and interior usability.


6. Mazda CX-30

Best 4x4 for all-round family car appeal

Our pick Mazda CX-30 2.0 SkyActiv-X GT Sport AWD
Used deals Limited stock

If you’re not sure what you need in your next car, the Mazda CX-30 offers just about everything. For a start it’s designed to sit somewhere in between a family hatchback and a proper SUV in terms of looks, so it has a stylish look without the running costs and size of a bigger model.

Then there’s the engine - it’s a clever Mazda-designed motor that works like a diesel most of the time, but has the smoothness of a petrol engine and the power of one when you put your foot down too. It’s not the most punchy engine but it delivers good fuel economy and it makes the CX-30 great fun to drive with the manual gearbox option.

There’s four-wheel drive - naturally - and even a mild hybrid system that helps to save a bit of fuel. This isn’t like a full hybrid, as the electric motor can’t drive the wheels, it just boosts the engine output a little. This Mazda is enjoyable to drive, comfortable, practical and while it could have more rear-seat head and legroom, it’s an appealing family car option.


7. Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet

Best 4x4 for convertible thrills

Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet side view

Our pick Mercedes-AMG C43 4MATIC Premium Plus
Used deals Limited stock

Here’s a left-field choice of 4x4 - a Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet with the fantastic petrol engine and four-wheel drive system from the high-performance AMG C43 model. This version is really fast, sounds great and brings lots of driving thrills with the roof down, so it’s unlike any other car on this list.

The fact this car loses value quickly from new means that it is far more affordable as a second-hand car than you might expect and therefore makes a whole lot more sense now than it did when new. For a car with under 25,000 miles, it’s around the same price as a new family SUV. That's not bad for a seriously powerful and upmarket convertible.

With four seats it’s actually usable as a family car on occasion, and with the roof up there’s a reasonably useful boot, so it’s more practical than a typical sports car. Yet the powerful petrol engine and four-wheel drive system mean that this stylish convertible is fun to drive as well and able to deal with all kinds of weather - although it’s more of a cruiser than a circuit racer.


8. Ford Focus RS

Best 4x4 for fun driving

Our pick Ford Focus RS 2.3 EcoBoost
Used deals Limited stock
Hot hatchbacks are usually front-wheel drive - reflecting the ordinary hatchbacks they're based upon - but there’s a new trend for the most exciting models to have four-wheel drive. The VW Golf R is one example, but we reckon the Ford Focus RS is more fun - despite its divisive looks.

The Focus drives as sweetly as a sports car, and can easily match one for performance as well, thanks to its potent 2.3-litre petrol engine. It’s a riot to drive and although the suspension is stiff, the Focus grips incredibly well in corners.

Yet it’s also practical enough for family life, with good rear seats and a big boot. The four-wheel drive system means it has loads of traction when pulling away and the sports seats in the front are comfortable and hold you in place really well. If you want a fun four-wheel drive hot hatchback, therefore, a Focus RS is a great choice.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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