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4x4s, part one

  • The best upcoming cars
  • Includes BMW X1
  • Citroen C3 Picasso

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BMW X1
Price from 24,000 (est)
On sale Late winter/early 2010
Whats great? BMW quality and off-road style; affordable price

Think the X1 looks similar to the X3? Well, thats because its just 139mm lower, 108mm shorter and 64mm narrower.

Does this mean youre paying less for almost the same car? Yes, but not for long, because the next-generation X3 will grow in size and price to create space in the range between it and the X1. In turn, the X5 is also likely to expand to ensure it remains bigger than the X3.

Rather than be confused, its probably easiest to think of the X1 as a 3 Series Touring thats bulked up a bit to attract buyers who want a higher driving position. The concept car shown here and at last autumns Paris Motor Show was close to how the production car will look.

However, despite its off-road styling, its tipped to be offered as a rear-wheel-drive model as well as with a 4x4 system.

The rear-wheel-drive models will form the entry level, with potential engines including BMWs 2.0-litre 170bhp petrol and 177bhp diesel units. Prices will compete directly with the likes of well-specified versions of the Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Bigger engines will be reserved for cars equipped with BMWs xDrive four-wheel-drive system, which shifts power between the front and rear wheels as required: the 272bhp 3.0 petrol and new 245bhp 3.0 diesel are possibilities.

In the longer term, hybrids could be added to the range. The X6 hybrid that is expected to go on sale later this year shows that BMW is pressing ahead with this technology, and while theres no confirmation yet that a system like this will be offered on the X1, its certainly a possibility.

BMW X6 hybrid
Price from 60,000 (est)
On sale Late winter
Whats great? Efficient hybrid system makes X6 more palatable

With its stocky styling and powerful engines, the X6 went on sale at just the wrong time. It was launched just as many motorists started to downsize, either to save cash or to be a bit less conspicuous on the roads.

Its not a huge surprise, then, that of two hybrid concepts shown at the recent Paris Motor Show, the first to be turned into a production reality will be the X6.

BMW promises its ActiveHybrid set-up will offer a better drive than other systems, as well as a performance boost over a broad speed range, thanks to its use of two electric motors rather than just one.

Fuel consumption and emissions are down by 20%, so the X6 could offer powerful V8 performance for around 30mpg on average. The companys foray into hybrid technology is eagerly anticipated.

Infiniti EX37
Price from 33,000 (est)
On sale Summer
Whats great? Styling, power, equipment levels

The EX is a rival for the BMW X3 and is likely to become the biggest-selling model of the Infiniti brand in the UK.

Weve driven the EX already and like its ride and handling. The interior is nicely finished and, as it should be at the price, its packed with equipment. Given that sales are likely to take time to pick up, it will have an air of exclusivity for quite a while, too.

When the EX is launched, it will be available with only a 316bhp 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine that will make the compact 4x4 very nippy indeed. It will be matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission. This will all mean the EX can reach 60mph in just under 6.5sec and go on to almost 150mph.

The V6 powerplant isnt exactly frugal, however. Average fuel consumption of 25.2mpg and high emissions will have you reaching deep into your wallet to pay costly road tax and company car bills.

From 2010, a V6 diesel will arrive to give the car more widespread appeal, while theres also the possibility of hybrid powertrains being introduced next year.

Infiniti FX37, FX50
Price from 38,000 (est)
On sale Summer
Whats great? Outstanding looks, rarity value

Its no good buying an FX if you like to travel discreetly: these 4x4s make no apology for themselves, and modest sales predictions guarantee youll stand out from the crowd.

Youll also be buying something that provides plenty of power: the FX37 has a 3.7-litre V6 with 316bhp of punch, while the 5.0 V8 petrol in the FX50 delivers a huge 385bhp.

Performance, as you might expect, is impressive, even for a car thats similar in size to a BMW X5. The less powerful of the two manages the sprint to 60mph in 6.8sec, while the 5.0 brushes it off in just 5.8sec.

Unsurprisingly, the engines have quite a thirst, with average consumption as low as 21.7mpg for the V8. Still, work is well under way on a V6 diesel that will arrive early in 2010. A hybrid system is also being considered for that year, but an on-sale date is yet to be confirmed.