Best 4x4 vans

The best 4x4 vans offer four-wheel drive and plenty of carrying capacity for heavy-duty use. Here are our picks of the best models

Sam Naylor
May 17, 2022

What happens if you need the practicality of a commercial vehicle, but are expecting to tackle some rough terrain on your travels? This is where the value of the 4x4 van comes in, as these bring the load space of a van but with four-wheel drive for improved traction.

Perhaps you’re expecting to use your van on construction sites with poor surfaces, or often head down farm tracks on deliveries. Maybe you’re a private buyer who takes surfboards or bikes to the beach or into the woods - no matter what your reason for needing one, a four-wheel drive van makes sense for quite a few reasons.

Four-wheel drive is exactly what it says on the tin - all four wheels drive the van forward, which means there’s twice as much grip to push the vehicle along. This means 4x4 vans are excellent when the surface below you isn’t perfect tarmac - whether it’s snow, mud, sand or even grass.

There are very few proper vans that have four-wheel drive, but they do exist. We’ve picked out the best ones below. These models are based on the normal versions but have extra differentials and a transfer box to send power to all four wheels. Some have selectable drive modes too, so you can run in two-wheel drive to save fuel if you want, when you don't need the extra grip.

Volkswagen’s four-wheel-drive vans use a 'Haldex' setup that sends power to the wheels with the most grip automatically, if any of them start to slip, rather than being a fully manual setup. You can manually lock the 4x4 system, though, which is good for certain situations.

Many of the other models you’ll see on the list below are actually cars that have been converted by the manufacturers to be taxed as commercial vehicles. These are for serious off-road work, as they have better four-wheel-drive systems and lower centres of gravity than vans, although load space suffers as a result.

Then there are pick-up trucks - which are a different proposition, offering much more off-road ability, but with less secure load space and a more specialised appeal. You can read more about those here.

Which type works for you really depends on what you have planned - and how important maximum load volume and maximum off-road ability are to you - but we’ll look at each model in more detail below, so read on to find out more about each of our picks. We’ll start with the four-wheel-drive vans and move on to the 4x4 commercial vehicles.

Best four-wheel-drive vans

1. Volkswagen Transporter

Best 4x4 van for private buyers

Our pick Volkswagen Transporter 2.0 TDI 4Motion DSG
Used deals from £26,999

The Volkswagen Transporter is the smallest proper van that is available with four-wheel drive. It uses a 'Haldex' setup with a mechanical locking differential for excellent off-road traction, plus it’s very good to drive on the road as well.

It’s available with a 'DSG' automatic gearbox too, which means it’s easy to drive. The Transporter is popular with private buyers as well as businesses, because it drives a lot like a large car rather than a van. It has excellent visibility plus loads of space in the back, but is small enough to be usable as an everyday transport (unlike the huge Crafter, for example).

The Transporter is comfortable, comes with plenty of tech in the cabin and even looks smart if you go for one of the higher-spec models. There are also Combi versions that have windows and are fully kitted-out with seats, making them more suited to carrying people as well as cargo.

2. Volkswagen Crafter

Best 4x4 van for technology

Our pick Volkswagen Crafter 2.0 TDI 4Motion
Used deals Limited stock

The Volkswagen Crafter is Volkswagen’s largest van, and is an alternative to the Transporter if you need the maximum carrying capacity but don’t want to sacrifice comfort and technology. The latest Crafter is one of the most advanced large panel vans around, and is available with four-wheel drive.

Safety equipment such as steering assist, autonomous emergency braking and parking aids are included on some models, so that’s something to look for in a used model. The 4x4 model gets a punchy but economical 2.0-litre diesel engine and is good for long trips.

The Crafter comes in various forms including crew cab if you need more passenger space. It’s a smart and high-quality four-wheel drive van that’s good if you mostly drive on the road and want a car-like driving experience as far as is possible in a big van.

3. Ford Transit

Best 4x4 van for driving

Our pick Ford Transit 2.0 EcoBlue 4x4
Used deals Limited stock

The Ford Transit is one of the most recognisable vehicles in the UK, and there is a 4x4 version available. It’s not all that common, as most are two-wheel drive. It uses a manually switchable setup, so it mostly runs in rear-wheel drive mode - but use a button in the cab and it brings the front wheels into play.

This system varies the amount of power sent to the wheels, with up to 100% available for the rears, which is useful for getting the most traction possible on loose surfaces. You can get four-wheel drive in L2 and L3 body lengths and H2 and H3 roof heights, which all use a strong diesel engine.

The Transit is dependable, spacious and highly capable, but it’s also really good to drive. It’s great for those who spend a lot of time on the road, because it’s comfortable and enjoyable to spend a lot of time in.

4. Mercedes Sprinter

Best 4x4 van for off-roading

Our pick Mercedes Sprinter 2.1 CDI 4x4
Used deals Limited stock

The Mercedes Sprinter is a great van in any form, but it’s one of the best options for those who need a vehicle capable of tackling proper off-road terrain but with the carrying capacity of a large panel van.

The four-wheel-drive model has permanent four-wheel drive with low-ratio gears, ideal for really rough tracks, plus the ride height is raised as well. You can have it in panel van, crew van and chassis cab forms, plus there’s a choice of wheelbases and differential locks.

The Sprinter is the most serious off-roader of the panel vans with four-wheel drive, but it’s still a very capable and smart van for on-road use. It’s a bit harder to load up because of the high ride height but if you need a tough 4x4 van then the Sprinter is probably what you’re looking for.

5. Land Rover Discovery Commercial

Best 4x4 van for luxury

Our pick Land Rover Discovery Commercial 2.0 SD4
Used deals from £40,000

Let’s move on to the commercial vehicles that aren’t really vans but do have four-wheel drive and dedicated cargo areas, starting with the Land Rover Discovery Commercial. It’s basically a Discovery that doesn’t come with rear seats, so is taxed as a van.

This means it’s one of the most luxurious, comfortable and high-tech ‘vans’ you can get, and it also happens to have a very clever four-wheel drive system complemented by all sorts of tech to make it better off-road, including self-levelling suspension, 360-degree cameras and traction control settings.

The Discovery Commercial should work well for businesses making deliveries of smaller items to hard-to-reach places, or as a personal vehicle for those who don’t need rear seats. However, since it’s based on a luxury car, it’s rather expensive compared with other four-wheel drive commercial vehicles.

6. Land Rover Defender Commercial

Best 4x4 van for toughness

Our pick Land Rover Defender Commercial D250
Used deals from £53,999

The Land Rover Defender is another option from the British brand, offering incredible off-road ability and a decent amount of carrying capacity with the tax rates of a van. You could argue that the Defender is more of a rival for a pick-up, as it brings the same kind of all-terrain appeal, but its fixed roof and boot space makes it more secure.

It’s a brilliant off-roader with all the same tech as the Discovery plus more, and a more rugged construction to deal with rocks, branches or anything else that might want to take a chunk out of the vehicle on a difficult trail.

The Defender is very new, so like the Discovery it’s quite expensive, but it’s available with three seats in ‘van’ form and there are two wheelbases - 90 and 110 - to choose from, in case you need more room in the back or even greater off-road ability, with the 90's shorter wheelbase enabling it to cross even tougher terrain.

7. Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial

Best 4x4 van for low emissions

Our pick Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Commercial
Used deals Limited stock

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Commercial offers something unique - it’s a four-wheel drive plug-in hybrid ‘van’ that has an electric motor and a battery that allows an electric driving range of around 30 miles from a full charge, without the combustion engine even turning on.

It’s an interesting option for those who need a four-wheel drive vehicle sometimes, but at other times find themselves doing city deliveries and the like. The motor means you can save on fuel costs by plugging in regularly and using electric power to drive smoothly, quietly and cleanly on short journeys.

The Outlander PHEV Commercial is not hugely spacious, as a small panel van has a lot more room in the back, but the Outlander does have more space than a supermini-based van and has some amount of off-road ability thanks to the four-wheel drive system and high ride height.

8. Toyota Land Cruiser Utility

Best 4x4 van for reliability

Our pick Toyota Land Cruiser Utility 2.8 D-4D
Used deals Limited stock

The Toyota Land Cruiser Utility is the ultimate choice for those needing a commercial vehicle that could take them reliably through deserts, jungles and swamps - just about anywhere, in fact. It’s known for being hugely reliable and in commercial form, there are no rear seats, just like in the Land Rover and Mitsubishi models above.

There are different wheelbase lengths, so in the longer model there’s a decent amount of carrying space - about the same as the Discovery. It’s brilliant off-road, is powerful, and although the 2.7-litre diesel isn’t all that quiet or economical, it’s as tough as old boots.

If you need a 4x4 van that you could trust to take you anywhere, the Land Cruiser is it. However, its high price new and rarity mean it’s not going to suit everyone. It makes more sense in countries with more extreme terrain and weather than the UK.

*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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