What we were looking for
Whether you really need four-wheel drive or not, the best cars in this class are rugged, practical and affordable, and will take the whole family from A to B.
Land Rover Freelander 2.2 TD4 GS
List price £23,460
Target Price £22,074
Land Rover has a tough job. On one hand, the brand's reputation is built on producing cars with an off-road ability that makes most 4x4s look weedy. However, most 4x4 buyers value practicality, image, refinement and sensible running costs just as highly.
Which is why, for us, the Freelander is top of the pile. As well as doing the traditional Land Rover stuff brilliantly, it outdoes its less-rugged rivals in almost every other area. In other words, it is an outstanding driving experience.
You want to venture off-road? The Freelander will go further than each of its rivals, thanks to its generous ground clearance and Terrain Response system, allowing you to adjust the settings for different conditions.
You want family car-style refinement? The cabin is the quietest in this class as wind, road and suspension noise barely intrude, and the sound from its 2.2-litre diesel engine is always hushed.
You want a smooth ride? The Freelander's supple suspension gives the kind of comfort that you don't expect from a 4x4, so it's great as family transport.
Keen on back streets and motorways
You want to enjoy the drive? It's no sports car, but the Freelander is assured and grippy when it matters and the steering responds keenly whether you're on a B road, back street or motorway.
The TD4 engine is flexible and willing, with enough mid-range muscle to make overtaking or towing effortless.
You want quality? The Freelander has it in spades. Classy materials and sturdy fittings mean that it feels every inch the baby Range Rover inside.
You want practicality? It's not the biggest car in this category and the high boot floor is frustrating, but there's enough space for a family of four and their luggage, and access to the rear seats is easy.
You don't want to spend too much? You don't have to, because GS trim gives you everything that you're likely to want. As well as essentials like airbags, electric windows and remote central locking, there are useful features that cost extra with some rivals.
Automatic lights and wipers, climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors and electrically folding door mirrors all come as standard.
It's not the most economical car in its class, yet the Freelander won't cost the earth to run and we reckon it's worth paying the small premium over its rivals.
Suzuki SX4 1.6 VVT 4Grip
List price £12,999
Target Price £12,006
£15,000 - £21,000
VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI S
List price £20,500
Target Price £20,500
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