Small four wheel drive cars

Easy to live with + added off-road ability = small four wheel drive car. Read why they make a great deal of sense

BuyaCar team
Feb 27, 2020

The fact small 4x4s exist at all is both very strange and very obvious. When you think of a four-wheel-drive car you think of something that can scale harsh mountains and ford raging rivers, something like a Land Rover Discovery that looks like it would hold its own in a one-on-one fight with a tank - not a tiny Fiat Panda with that cute little face and those diddy wheels.

But then you think of the kind of obstacles most drivers face on a daily basis. Even the most adventurous are unlikely to tackle more than a muddy field or a mildly flooded road and then, once they're done adventuring, they'll want to head home, or nip to the shops to pick up some frozen peas.

While the Land Rover and others like it will laugh in the face of daily life, it is big, and isn't always perfectly suited to the humdrum of the weekly shop. They can be hard manoeuvre in tight spaces and difficult to park, not mention thirsty when it comes to fuel economy.

In many cases, the four-wheel-drive Panda will prove itself perfectly capable as an off-roading vehicle, but also far better suited to the requirements of daily life. It, along with all the other small four-wheel-drive cars we've picked out on this list, is the definition of the best of both worlds.

Best small 4x4s

1. Suzuki Swift 4x4

Used deals Limited stock

Suzuki has carved itself out a nice niche within the small car market by offering the little Swift with four-wheel-drive.

The styling is modern, with an almost playful-looking front end, plus it’s a fair bit cheaper than rivals (that don’t offer four-wheel-drive) like the Toyota Yaris and Hyundai i20.

Suzuki’s four-wheel-drive system is only available with the 1.2-litre engine. While it’s not bad, it’s important to remember that adding the 4x4 system to it adds 0.7 seconds to the 0-62mph time.

SUZUKI SWIFT BUYERS' GUIDE

2. BMW X1 xDrive

Used deals from £8,990
Monthly finance from £171

The BMW X1 is the smallest car within BMW’s X range of SUVs. It’s well equipped, and surprisingly good to drive, while the ride is comfortable and smooth. In other words, a solid car, and a good all-rounder.

Not all models have four-wheel-drive, so keep an eye out for models with xDrive in the name.

BMW X1 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Fiat Panda 4x4

Used deals from £7,000
Monthly finance from £137

Amazingly, there are actually two derivations of Fiat’s little city car that send power to all four wheels. The Panda 4x4, obviously, has four-wheel-drive, but the Panda Cross is our choice because it's the most rugged.

It has a special off-road mode for greater performance, as well as plates to protect parts underneath the car from scrapes, and front tow hooks. Although, it is significantly pricier than the 4x4.

The Trekking edition is worthy of a mention here too - it lacks four-wheel-drive but it does have raised suspension as well as electronic traction control.

FIAT PANDA BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Nissan Juke

Used deals from £8,995
Monthly finance from £145

The Juke’s looks are a bit Marmite-esque in that you either love it or hate it, but if you can stomach the exterior you’ll also enjoy a car that’s quiet and comfortable, with efficient diesel engines, and a lofty driving position.

And while it looks a bit like a Jeep that’s been shrunk in the wash, the majority of them will be in front-wheel-drive only.

So keep a look out for models with the 4WD badge tacked onto the rear end. Incidentally, the Juke is only available with a 4x4 system when specified with the potent 1.6-litre DiG-T engine.

NISSAN JUKE BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Audi A3 Quattro

Used deals from £12,999
Monthly finance from £204

A high quality interior, a smooth changing automatic gearbox, and a badge with serious street credit. You’ll find all of these attributes with the Audi A3, plus Audi’s famous Quattro four-wheel-drive system, which should aid things when the weather gets bad.

You won’t find it on base-spec cars though; you'll have to extend your horizons to the 190hp 2.0-litre petrol engine if you want an A3 with 4x4 capability. But this is only four-wheel drive in the sense that all four wheels are powered. Don't expect to be roaming over any harsh terrain in your A3, because it remains far too close to the ground to be clearing anything other than a fizzy drinks can lying in the road. You'll get more grip, but that's about it.

AUDI A3 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Mercedes A-Class A45 AMG

Mercedes A45 AMG

Used deals from £17,498
Monthly finance from £280

The Mercedes A-Class has made a name for itself by being a posh Ford Focus. We’re speaking about the old-model A-Class here, as the new model has only just been released, with very few variations in place yet.

If you want power going to all four of your A-Class’ wheels, you’ll need to opt for the mega-fast A45 AMG version.

A 376bhp power output sees it get from 0-62mph in a supercar-like 4.2 seconds. Handling is good, aided by that four-wheel-drive system too, and its sporty body kit and spoiler are guaranteed to turn heads. In terms of actual off-roading ability, refer to the Audi A3 above - the Mercedes A-Class won't get far off-road.

MERCEDES A-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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