The massive choice of 4×4 vehicles now available to the general public is staggering. And while having that wide choice is certainly great news if you’re looking for a 4×4, if you’re buying your very first four-wheel drive vehicle then picking the right model could be very tricky indeed.
No-one has witnessed the growth in 4×4 popularity more than Sureterm Direct – the UK’s largest specialist 4×4 insurance companies. The number of 4x4s being insured by the company is increasing by 20% every year, and to help first-time buyers pick their ideal `4×4, here’s their guide to 5 of the most popular groups currently on the market.
1. Soft-roaders/ SUVs
This group is one of the fastest-growing in the UK, incredibly popular with ‘school-run mums’ and seen as the prefect family vehicle. Off-road ability might not be top of the list of requirements for buyers, but if comfort, practicality and capacity are important then these vehicles certainly warrant attention.
This is a hugely competitive group and 4×4 insurance premiums often come into play when making the final decision on what to buy.
At the cheaper end of the range, we like the Kia Sportage – which offers loads of features for under £20,000. In the mid-price range, the Nissan X-Trail is a class performer, but overall the new Land Rover Freelander 2 is our pick of the crop.
It’s a huge improvement on the previous model with a significantly more impressive off-road performance.
The thought of driving an obvious 4×4 SUV is just too much for some drivers, and the more sensible option of an estate car with 4×4 functionality is instantly appealing. Known as ‘Crossovers’ these vehicles are liked because they give all the comfort of a car with the extra rugged performance of a 4×4.
Subaru long led the way in this group with their Forester and the Legacy-based Outback – and to be honest it is really hard to see past them even with much more competition around – Jaguar have even joined the market.
Skoda’s image improvement has been nothing short of miraculous in recent years and for under £20,000 the Skoda Octavia Scout takes some beating. But in our opinion, Volvo are the kings of the crossover road. OK the XC70 is priced at the top end of the group at £30,000 plus, but for sheer comfort, space, performance and styling it’s our clear number one.
3. Family 4×4
Arguably, this is the most competitive group – and one every manufacturer wants to crack. If a family is looking for its main car to be a 4×4, then they’ll likely buy a model in this category. The big guns like Jeep, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Nissan are all shooting out for top spot – and it’s a tough call to pick a favourite among some truly exceptional performers.
The Land Rover Discovery 3, long the 4×4 of choice for the horsey set, has become extremely popular with families on a decent budget – and its off-road pedigree is second-to-none. Volvo’s XC90 offers incredible safety features and load-space, but for us the Nissan Pathfinder sneaks into top spot.
It’s very well-equipped, has rugged off-road looks, is great on-road and starts at sensible prices from £23,000.
4. Luxury 4×4
Gas guzzlers. Chelsea tractors. Call them hat you will, but the top-of-the-range luxury 4×4 has become a serious status symbol with many drivers. This is the group that even Porsche targeted with their stunning Cayenne, while Land Rover continues to dominate proceedings with their classic Range Rover and new-classic Range Rover Sport models.
But for us, Audi have found a winner with the Q7. The company seems to have been chucking designers like confetti at the 4×4 market, and taking VW’s Touareg platform and giving it seven seats, Audi styling and Quattro 4WD has created a great luxury 4×4.
5. Extreme 4×4
Going properly off-road might not be top of every 4×4 purchaser’s list, but if it is, you need to be looking at the most extreme models on the market. The Jeep Wrangler leads the American charge, the Nissan Patrol has been around for half a century – but Land Rover have completely dominated British interests in this sector and show no signs off slipping away. The new Land Rover Defender 90 is simply unbeatable in our opinion. Somehow, LR has taken its off-road performance to even greater heights while managing to improve its on-road capability too. Legend.