What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - 4x4 contenders

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  • 16 categories of awards
  • All the winning models featured here
  • What Car? Car of the Year 2010 revealed
Best buy less than £30,000
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style 7st
List Price £22,728
Target Price £21,851

Things have changed big time over the past 12 months in what we used to call the SUV sector. The lower end is now dominated by the two-wheel-drive cars we now call crossovers, with tough looks but low running costs – so is there still a place for big 4x4s at this price?

We think so, especially when they’re such brilliant all-rounders as the refreshed Hyundai Santa Fe. Although it costs less than before, the Santa Fe has a new 194bhp diesel engine that’s stronger than most rivals’ and gives the car a useful 2500kg towing limit.

The Santa Fe is more practical than most of the competition, too. Opt for the seven-seat version and it’s as practical as some MPVs. A smooth ride and excellent refinement add to the civilised ambience and, although it’s not as nimble as some, the Santa Fe inspires plenty of confidence on slippery country roads.

Our preferred Style trim brings all the kit you’re likely to need, including reversing sensors, six airbags and a USB socket. Even if you upgrade to Premium trim for all the toys, the Santa Fe is still comparatively cheap.

The Land Rover Freelander ran the Hyundai close. As ever, we’re big fans of the Freelander’s classy image, smooth ride and genuine off-road ability, but the Santa Fe has it soundly beaten when it comes to value.

Hyundai Santa Fe performance
0-62mph 9.8 seconds Top speed 118mph
Running costs
Economy 47.9mpg CO2 176gkm Insurance group 29

What the testers thought...
The Santa Fe was perfect for a November weekend in Devon. There were leaves, branches and puddles everywhere, but the Santa Fe was totally unflappable. Leo.Wilkinson@whatcar.com


Best buy £30,000 – £50,000
Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TDV6 XS
List Price £41,375
Target Price £38,866

The Land Rover Discovery is quite possibly the supreme family car, with a huge, comfortable cabin and the ability to go wherever you want. That makes it a great all-rounder, perfect for zipping to a meeting or driving the family to France on holiday.

Back in 2005, the Discovery won our overall Car of the Year award. We’ve loved it ever since, although its few minor faults have been brought into sharper relief by newer rivals over the years. Land Rover has given the Discovery a thorough update this year, however, which goes more than skin deep and puts right all of those defects.

Thanks to its new 3.0-litre diesel engine, the updated Discovery now has the pace to match its superb refinement, while the suspension and steering have been tweaked to make it even better to drive. It’s classier inside and the exterior also has a more sophisticated look. All of this has made the Discovery better than ever, so deciding the winner of this price point was one of the easiest decisions we had to make.

Admittedly, the Discovery still isn’t as nimble as some rivals. If handling is a bigger priority to you, then the Audi Q7 or BMW X5 are worth a look, but neither is as practical as the Discovery and, if you intend to venture into the rough, the Discovery will go a lot farther than either.

Land Rover Discovery performance
0-60mph 9.0 seconds Top speed 112mph
Running costs
Economy 30.4mpg CO2 244g/km Insurance group 39

What the testers thought...
Think the latest Discovery is just a glorified face-lifted model? Think again. The new engines and chassis mods have revolutionised the driving experience. Roger.Stansfield@whatcar.com


Best buy more than £50,000
Lexus RX450h SE-L
List Price £51,556
Target Price £50,520

This price category opens up all kinds of possibilities, giving you access to 4x4s with outrageous performance and handling that make a mockery of their size.

How about Audi’s Q7 V12 TDI, or the thrilling Range Rover Sport Supercharged? If comfort is what you’re after, the Mercedes M-Class or the massive GL provide loads of class and refinement. All of these are impressive, but none is kind on your wallet or the environment. You don’t need to break the bank or harm the planet to own a luxurious, powerful 4x4, though, as our winner here proves.

The Lexus RX450h ticks all the usual big 4x4 boxes: a well-built cabin; lots of space; a desirable image – but thanks to its hybrid powertrain, it has the carbon dioxide emissions and fuel economy of a small family car. Whether it’s the London Congestion Charge, company car tax bills or – in some places – your resident’s parking permit, the RX450h will cost you far less than many flashy 4x4s.

Even if it’s not quite as polished or as good to drive as some, the RX450h is super-desirable and benefits from Lexus’s consistently excellent results in JD Power’s customer satisfaction surveys.

Our favourite SE-L version isn’t the cheapest, but its standard air suspension gives it a much better ride, and that makes it worth the extra in our book.

Lexus RX450h performance
0-62mph 7.8 seconds Top speed 124mph
Running costs
Economy 44.8mpg CO2 148g/km Insurance group 41

What the testers thought...
The SE-I model comes very well equipped, but it’s still worth spending an extra £5000 to get this SE-L: it has air suspension and a much more settled ride. Will.Nightingale@whatcar.com


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What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - 4x4 winner


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