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Best used 4x4s 2021 (and one to avoid)
Tempted by the idea of a used 4x4? Then these are the models you should be considering – and one that is best avoided...
Buyers of SUVs expect a lot from their cars: comfort, practicality, a commanding driving position and, in many cases, the added security and off-road potential that comes with four-wheel drive.
All of the models we present here deliver these things, but to varying degrees. Some have seven seats, while others provide incredible ability when conditions get tough. But whatever you're after from your 4x4, you'll find something in this top 10 to meet your needs.
Land Rover Discovery
The incredibly capable Discovery can seat seven in comfort and comes with Land Rover's legendary go-anywhere ability. Its reliability is only average, though, according to our most recent reliability survey, so our advice would be to buy as new a car as you can and take advantage of the transferable three-year warranty you'd get from new, then invest in Land Rover's excellent extended warranty.
We found: 2019 Land Rover Discovery 3.0 SDV6 HSE, 18,000 miles, £43,995
- Fabulously comfortable
- Spacious and practical
- Luxurious interior
- Very poor reliability
- Expensive to buy
- High fuel consumption
The practical and good-value Duster can be a capable on and off-road tool. The four-wheel-drive models are surprisingly competent; you can lock them into four-wheel drive via a dial near the gearlever and let the traction control system prevent the wheels from spinning. Four-wheel-drive cars also have more sophisticated rear suspension, meaning there's a decent ride, too.
We found: 2018 Duster 1.3 TCe 130 Ambience 4x4, 10,000 miles, £9000
- A lot of car for the money
- Big boot
- 4x4 version very capable
- Sparse equipment on lower trims
- Interior feels very cheap
- Disappointing Euro NCAP safety rating
This third-generation BMW X3 is a great buy, being nice to drive, spacious, well equipped and highly desirable. It has surefooted four-wheel-drive handling and a great automatic gearbox, too. Inside, there's a smart interior and room for five. The infotainment system is still one of the best in the business, and our favourite 20d diesel version is impressively refined.
We found: 2018 BMW X3 xDrive20d xLine auto, 32,000 miles, £32,099
- Sharp handling
- Class-leading infotainment
- Strong engines
- Firm ride in M Sport trim
- Popular 20d engine sounds gruff
- High tax costs
Beneath the classy looks of the Volvo XC60 lies a thoroughly spacious, practical and comfortable car. What’s more, the XC60 has a great reputation for safety, especially if you find one with the optional Intellisafe Pro Pack, which features lots of semi-autonomous driving tech. The XC60 is great to drive, too, especially in four-wheel-drive mode, and exceptionally classy.
We found: 2018 Volvo XC60 2.0 D5 R-Design AWD, 29,000 miles, £29,999
- High-quality interior
- Superb driving position
- Well equipped
- Not as quiet as its rivals
- Shallow boot
- Uninspiring handling
The Q5 is smooth, refined and incredibly classy inside and out. It drives superbly, is well equipped and spacious and practical, too. With quattro four-wheel drive there's plenty of traction, and the Q5 is stable and smooth riding. It's so good and so popular that the only stumbling block is its relatively high used price, but it's a car that's definitely worth that premium.
We found: 2018 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport auto, 34,171 miles, £32,500
- Smooth and punchy engines
- High-quality interior
- Relatively modest running costs
- Steering could be more involving
- No seven-seat option
- You need air suspension or non-sport suspension for the best ride
The Skoda Karoq is a fantastic family SUV with a wonderfully practical and versatile interior. Its raised ride height and large window area help to give the driver great all-around visibility too. You'll need a 2.0-litre diesel or the 2.0-litre petrol if you want four-wheel drive, but the diesel is great if you do loads of miles every year, and the torque helps when you’ve got a full complement.
We found: 2020 Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI SE L 4x4, 13,500 miles, £24,995
- Spacious and practical interior
- Comfortable ride
- Punchy engines
- A little bland to drive
- Not as efficient as some
- VarioFlex seats optional on some models
BMW's original X5 was one of the first road-focused 4x4s, and all subsequent models including this latest one stick closely to that car's winning formula, with sharper handling than most rivals. On the inside, there’s plenty of space five and a commanding driving position. Some rivals offer more space in the third row, though.
We found: 2019 BMW X5 30d M Sport xDrive, 14,000 miles, £49,990
- Good to drive
- Classy, well-designed interior
- Class-leading electric-only range of the PHEV version
- Some models are expensive to run
- Boot relatively small
- Rivals have a more spacious third-row
The four-wheel-drive Volvo XC90 can seat seven in comfort and leave enough room behind the third-row seats for some luggage. It's good to drive, nicely finished and wonderfully stylish inside and out. It'll impress the neighbours and it's a used car bargain. Reliability is a mixed bag, but nothing on four wheels appears to be safer.
We found: 2018 Volvo XC90 2.0 D5 AWD Momentum, 51,000 miles, £38,994
- Classy interior
- Seven-seat versatility
- Well equipped
- Ride slightly unsettled
- Road and suspension noise
- Reliability average
The Seat Ateca is a great family SUV and one of the best-handling 4x4s on the market. It's practical, with a big boot, wide-opening rear doors and lots of head and leg room. Even the interior is suitably well made and classy. Four-wheel-drive models are mostly paired with a torquey 2.0-litre diesel that is economical and refined at a motorway cruise.
We found: 2016 Seat Ateca 2.0 TDI SE Technology 4Drive, 28,000 miles, £14,450
- Spacious interior
- Class-leading handling
- Boot space pips rivals
- Some rivals offer more flexible seating
- Interior isn’t that plush
- Rivals offer lower CO2 emissions
The Audi Q7 is also our favourite luxury SUV, and it's a great used buy, especially as the 2019 facelift left it with a more hesitant automatic gearbox and a less user-friendly infotainment system. It's good to drive, comfortable and spacious. The interior is wonderfully classy, while the quattro four-wheel-drive system is formidable. Buy a well-maintained Q7 and you'll be getting a truly sensational 4x4.
We found: 2018 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 218 quattro S line, 25,000 miles, £37,995
- Smooth and powerful engines
- Great ride on air suspension
- Wonderful build quality
- Not as sharp to drive as some rivals
- Plug-in hybrid loses seven-seat option
- Expensive to run
And the used 4x4 to avoid...
There are rivals with better handling, comfort, interior space and infotainment systems available for similar or less money, plus the X-Trail performed poorly in our most recent Reliability Survey. Read our review
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