Best used 4x4s 2021 (and the one to avoid)
Tempted by the idea of a used 4x4? Then these are the models you should be considering – and the ones that are 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.
The Land Rover Discovery is an incredibly capable car. Not only can it seat seven adults in comfort, but it also comes with Land Rover's legendary go-anywhere ability. True, the Discovery costs more than many of its rivals to keep on the road, but if you want practicality from your 4x4, it's certainly a good way to go.
Problems with the air suspension could be expensive to fix, so look out for warning lights on the dashboard. It's also worth checking the underside of the Discovery for any damage caused by off-road excursions. If water gets underneath the undercoating or if mud is allowed to sit on the chassis or suspension arms for an extended period of time, corrosion can occur.
Overall, though, the Disco 5 is an exceptional car: smooth, refined, comfortable, and hugely competent. Only its reliability record lets it down.
- Fabulously comfortable
- Spacious and practical
- Luxurious interior
- Poor reliability
- Expensive to buy
- High fuel consumption
A nearly new Duster can be a capable on and off-road tool. The four-wheel-drive models are surprisingly competent if you decide to leave paved roads behind; you can lock them into four-wheel drive via a dial near the gearlever and let the traction control system prevent wheels from spinning, ensuring that power is sent to those wheels that have grip on the terrain. Four-wheel-drive cars also have more sophisticated rear suspension, which is more supple, meaning there's a decent ride, too.
Inside, space is excellent; four adults should have few complaints about longer journeys and you can even take five – at a pinch. Boot capacity is generous, and the depth of it means you’ll need to carry exceptionally long items without having to fold the rear seats down. At around £11,000 for a nearly new example, the Duster is exceptional value.
- A lot of car for the money
- Big boot
- 4x4 version very capable
- Sparse equipment on lower trims
- Interior feels cheap
- Disappointing Euro NCAP safety rating
After the excellent second-generation X3, its successor had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, the third-generation car made sure to up its game even further in terms of technology, improved refinement and greater interior space. In addition, it's good to drive, well equipped and classy.
It does all this while remaining relatively affordable on the used market, with a good selection around for less than £30,000. Up your budget, however, and you'll find everything from fast six-cylinder versions to a fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid.
Overall, its tidy handling and highly practical, high-quality interior makes the X3 one of the best large SUVs you can buy.
- Sharp handling
- Class-leading infotainment
- Strong engines
- Firm ride in M Sport trim
- Popular 20d engine sounds gruff
- High tax costs
If you need a big seven-seater, the Volvo XC90 is a car you can buy with your head as well as your heart. Not only can it seat seven in reasonable comfort, but there’s still enough room behind the third-row seats for a decent amount of luggage.
True, the ride can be unsettled on rougher road surfaces and the tablet-style infotainment system is rather fiddly. However, the XC90 is good to drive, nicely finished and wonderfully stylish inside and out. It'll impress the neighbours and it's a used car bargain.
There have been a number of recalls during its life, including for cracked fuel hoses, airbags that might not deploy in a collision and even problems with the vehicle connectivity module that will prevent your location from being sent to the emergency services. So, make sure any necessary remedial work has been carried out.
- Classy interior
- Seven-seat versatility
- Well equipped
- Ride slightly unsettled
- Road and suspension noise
The original Q5 was a hugely successful car for Audi. It smashed all its sales targets and became the best-selling model in its class – and Audi’s best-seller – for many years in a row. This second-generation version has also proved to be immensely popular and is one of the best SUVs you can buy, new or used.
It's 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 prices, but it's a car that's definitely worth that premium.
- 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 compact dimensions that make it easy to handle around town, as well as a practical and versatile interior that gives it the capability to carry everything you need. Plus, the Karoq's raised ride height and large window area help to give the driver great all-around visibility.
The 1.0-litre petrol engine is fine for those on a budget, but you'll need a 2.0-litre diesel or the 2.0-litre petrol if you want four-wheel drive. In any case, the diesel is great if you do loads of miles every year, and the additional torque helps when you’ve got a full complement of passengers and luggage. Versions with an automatic gearbox can be hesitant when pulling away from a standstill but are smooth once up to speed.
- Spacious and practical interior
- Comfortable ride
- Punchy engines
- A little bland to drive
- Not as efficient as some
- VarioFlex seats optional on some models
The 3008 is a stylish family SUV inside and out. However, it's not all form and no function. It's also very comfortable to drive, with a range of smooth and economical engines to match, and a large boot means it's not short on practicality.
With prices starting at around £14,000, the 3008 offers great value, plus used examples are proving to be good and very solid buys. Our latest reliability data has the 3008, in petrol form, in mid-table (out of 28 models) in its class with a rating of 93.9%.
To get four-wheel drive, you'll have to opt for a plug-in hybrid model, specifically the one packing 296bhp. These models arrived in 2019 and are common on the used market, albeit at higher prices than non-hybrid alternatives. That said, around £30,000 isn't unreasonable for a one or two-year-old SUV that's as excellent as the 3008.
- Upmarket interior
- Standard safety kit
- Vague controls
- Popular, so can be pricier than other used rivals
- Slow infotainment system
Beneath the classy looks of the Volvo XC60 lies a thoroughly spacious, practical and comfortable car. There’s enough room for five adults and the rear is even just about wide enough for three.
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.
Petrol models can be pretty thirsty, but a mid-range diesel is much more affordable to run. The XC60 is great to drive, too, especially in four-wheel-drive mode, and exceptionally classy. All in all, the XC60 is an easygoing and hassle-free car to own.
- High-quality interior
- Superb driving position
- Well equipped
- Not as quiet as its rivals
- Shallow boot
- Uninspiring handling
The Seat Ateca is a great family SUV and one of the best-handling SUVs on the market. A clan of five would have no practicality concerns, because it’s got a really big boot, wide-opening rear doors and lots of head and leg room for all. Even the interior, while not built of the plushest materials, is suitably well made and fairly classy.
There have been a few issues with electric parking brakes disengaging when they shouldn’t, a small number of rear wheel bearing faults, some examples of poor headlight adjustment and problems with the centre rear head restraint, but on the whole reliability is pretty good.
Both the 1.0 and 1.4-litre petrol engines are fine choices, but four-wheel-drive models are mostly found paired with a torquey 2.0-litre diesel engine that is economical and quite refined at a motorway cruise.
- 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 has long been one of our favourite luxury SUVs, and the good news is that it’s perhaps even better as a used buy; a 2019 facelift left it with a more hesitant automatic gearbox and a less user-friendly infotainment system, and opting for an older version sidesteps these issues.
Building on all the good points of the original Q7, the second-generation car is better to drive, more comfortable and noticeably more spacious. It offers a selection of superb diesel engines and a wonderfully classy interior, while the quattro four-wheel drive system is highly effective at maximising traction.
True, the ride can be a little too firm on sporty, S line models, so it’s worth finding an example equipped with air suspension.
There was a recall to reinforce the third-row seats on some earlier versions, and a small number of cars had issues with their dampers. But buy a well-maintained Q7 and you'll be getting a truly sensational 4x4.
Aside from the dubious changes mentioned above, the 2019 update also brought some positive tweaks, including mild hybrid assistance that allows the engine to switch itself off when coasting in order to reduce fuel consumption.
- 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
Best family SUVs 2021
Want practicality, class and an elevated driving position in a relatively small package? Then these are the top 10 cars you should be looking at – and the ones that are best avoided
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