Best used 4x4s for off-roading

Get a car that doesn't just look the part: the best used 4x4s can handle a range of slippery situations

John Evans
Oct 29, 2019

If you’re looking for a car that can tackle off-road driving with relative ease, then you’ll need a 4x4 that's designed to negotiate deep gullies, steep inclines and rough ground.

Most tall and rugged-looking cars are designed for optimum performance on tarmac - where they are most commonly used. This includes crossovers, which have a high driving position but use the same mechanical parts as a conventional car. Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) tend to be tougher, but often have low bumpers and other parts of bodywork that can get caught during off-roading.

Confusingly, many 4x4s are also labelled as SUVs, but you can normally identify a proper off-road car by its high ground clearance - a large gap between the ground and the bottom of the car - making it less likely to catch on jagged terrain. The bodywork and bumpers ahead of the front wheels and behind the back wheels is usually short too, allowing them to climb steeper hills.

Underneath the muscular-looking metal, you’ll usually find sophisticated four-wheel drive systems that often have low-range gears, which boost performance in steep or tricky situations.


Some of the best cars, such as the Range Rover are luxury cars and off-roaders in one. Others, such as the Jeep Wrangler, are no-nonsense, minimalist vehicles you can take anywhere. Then you have the tiny Fiat Panda and Suzuki Jimny, which punch far above their weight and will surprise you with their ability to out-perform larger and more expensive models.

Best used 4x4s

1. Toyota Land Cruiser

Our pick Toyota Land Cruiser 2.8 TD Invincible

There’s a reason the United Nations runs fleets of these in Third World countries: the Toyota Land Cruiser's ability to keep going, long after others have thrown in the towel. The Land Cruiser is not the most luxurious nor sophisticated 4x4 on the road but, off it, the car is utterly dependable.

Toyota Land Cruiser buyers' guide

2. Land Rover Discovery

Our pick Land Rover Discovery 3.0 SDV6 SE Tech auto
Latest Land Rover Discovery deals from £23,880
Monthly finance from £425

There’s a new version of the Land Rover Discovery on sale but it’s nowhere near as cheap as the previous-generation model that’s still popular for its boxy design. It gives the larger Range Rover a run for its money in its ability to blend luxury and go-anywhere capability but at considerably less cost.

Land Rover Discovery buyers' guide

3. Jeep Renegade

Our pick Jeep Renegade 2.0 Multijet Trailhawk
Latest Jeep Renegade deals from £7,990
Monthly finance from £127

Entry-level Jeep Renegades won’t do if you’re looking to really test the car off road, as they only have four-wheel drive. However, the range-topping Trailhawk cars are so capable off road that they'll follow the Land rover Discovery, above, deep into rough and boggy territory.

There’s selectable four-wheel drive offering a choice of high and low ranges, skid plates, which protect vulnerable parts underneath the car from bumps and scrapes, plus an armoury of electronics offering different modes. All this and it’s pretty good on-road, too. 

Jeep Renegade buyers' guide

4. Range Rover

Our pick Range Rover SDV8 Vogue
Latest Range Rover deals from £31,899
Monthly finance from £496

The Range Rover offers an unbeatable combination of luxury and off-road prowess. A car that really can be used as a limousine one day and for exploration the next. The SDV8 diesel engine is the one to choose for its power and economy, and Vogue trim the optimum specification.

Range Rover buyers' guide

5. Fiat Panda 4x4

Our pick Fiat Panda Cross 4x4 0.9 Twinair
Latest Fiat Panda 4x4 deals from £8,990
Monthly finance from £163

At the opposite end of the scale to the Range Rover, the Fiat Panda proves you don't need a big diesel engine, hefty mechanical underpinnings and acres of steel to have fun off-road. In fact, its tiny dimensions, short overhangs and light weight are exactly why it can scramble up and down the steepest muddy slopes that would leave reputedly more capable rivals struggling.

Fiat Panda buyers' guide

6. Jeep Wrangler

Our pick Jeep Wrangler 2.8 CRD Sahara
Latest Jeep Wrangler deals from £23,541
Monthly finance from £367

Here’s another back-to-basics 4x4, only the Wrangler offers a bit of ‘alternative cool’ in the mix, too. On-road it bounces along Britain’s jagged roads, accompanied by tyre roar, wind noise and the engine’s din. But for many people, that’s its charm. Take it off-road and it comes into its own as a go-anywhere accessory.

Jeep Wrangler buyers' guide

7. Land Rover Discovery Sport

Our pick Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.2 SD4 SE Tech auto
Latest Land Rover Discovery Sport deals from £16,495
Monthly finance from £241

Land Rover’s reputation is built on designing cars that function well on the road, without losing their off-road ability and here’s another. The Discovery Sport is a seven-seat family car one moment and a serious mud-plugger the next. On the road it has an uncannily smooth ride and corners steadily, with plenty of grip. Off-road, it can plough through rough terrain with the best of them.

Land Rover Discovery Sport buyers' guide

8. Suzuki Jimny

Our pick Suzuki Jimny SZ3
Latest Suzuki Jimny deals from £11,922
Monthly finance from £207

On-road, the Suzuki Jimny is slow, noisy and uncomfortable. It is off-road, too, but here its short length and shorter overhangs plus its capable 4x4 system with high and low gear ratios come into their own. 

Anyone who’s hired a Jimny on a Greek holiday will testify to the little car’s astonishing ability to negotiate steep, boulder-strewn tracks. And remember, that’s a hire car that has had multiple users who wouldn’t give its wellbeing a second thought.

Suzuki Jimny buyers' guide

9. Mercedes G-Class

Our pick Mercedes G-class G350d auto
Latest Mercedes-Benz G-Class deals from £59,895
Monthly finance from £905

The Mercedes G-class, or G-Wagen as it was once known, began life as a military vehicle. So it’s incredibly tough but feels quite crude and basic. There’s a bonkers AMG C63 version but for the real world you won't do better than our pick, the G350d.

Although it looks ludicrously expensive, it’s a car that’s in high demand, so it should keep much of its value, keeping the cost of ownership a little lower than the price suggests.

10. Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Our pick Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 D
Latest Alfa Romeo Stelvio deals from £27,480
Monthly finance from £325

This is Alfa Romeo’s first attempt at a high riding SUV with four-wheel-drive, and as first efforts go, it’s stunning.

It’s one of the best handling cars in this segment, and has a range of punchy engines, right from a ballistic twin-turbo 2.9-litre petrol, to a 2.2-litre diesel.

You can forgive it for its slightly smaller than average interior, because of the money you can save yourself by buying used. Italian cars tend to depreciate faster than German ones, and the Stelvio is no exception. While the data hasn’t come to fruition yet as the Stelvio is so new, depreciation is expected to be significant.

Figures suggest that the 2.0-litre 280hp version of the Stelvio will crash from a new price of £45,000 to a value of £13,875 after three years.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio buyers' guide


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