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The winter months experience a boom in sales of 4 by 4 cars as drivers seek the benefits of higher seating positions, sophisticated safety technology and all-wheel drive for the snow and icy road conditions.
In the past few years, the SUV and crossover market has vastly increased and there is now a huge amount of 4x4s for sale to choose from. If you’re thinking about purchasing a 4 by 4 car, it’s hard to know where to start. Trusted Dealers has put together some top tips and factors to consider below.
What do you need one for?
Many buyers are attracted to 4×4 cars for the wrong reasons. Despite their good looks and commanding status on the road, it is well worth asking yourself if you really need a four wheel drive car or not? If you regularly travel across muddy fields or unsurfaced roads, or you need to tow a caravan, the answer will probably be yes, but if the main bulk of your journeys are to pick the kids up from school or commute to the office, you may wish to consider a more cost-effective option for the winter months. Winter tyres provide an alternative solution for colder conditions, or you could consider a 4×4 version of an unconventional family car such as the Audi A4 Allroad or Skoda Octavia Scout to save on running costs.
Consider the cost
Four wheel drive cars can be costly to buy and even more costly to run over long periods of time. Factors such as higher fuel consumption, higher car insurance and more expensive servicing and parts need to be taken into consideration. However, depreciation on 4 by 4 cars tends to be far less severe than on conventional cars such as saloons, especially on premium brands or highly sought-after models. Make sure you do your sums carefully to avoid being stung later down the line. Or choose a compact SUV to save some cash such as a Vauxhall Mokka or a Fiat Panda Cross.
Most 4×4 cars sold in the UK come with diesel engines, particularly on larger models. The reason for this is that fuel costs are cheaper overall. Modern diesel cars are more refined and offer better torque for towing. The latest trend is hybrid 4x4s such as the popular Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV capable of delivering a high 156mpg and 40g/km CO2 emissions, making it exempt from road tax and phenomenally cheap to run.
4x4s can break down
Despite the fact buyers opt for four wheel drive cars in the winter months in the hope of avoiding an accident or breaking down, it is a known fact that due to the sheer complexity of off-road cars, they often have far worse reliability records than hatchbacks or saloons. For this reason, its well worth choosing a brand that offers a better warranty than the standard 3 years/60,000 miles. Kia offers an industry leading 7 year warranty or 100,000 miles whilst Hyundai and Toyota offer 5 year warranties with unlimited mileage and 100,000 miles cover respectively.
Consider the space available
Not all 4×4 cars are spacious and practical inside. Housing four wheel drive kit can take up some of a car’s valuable boot space or compromise on interior space for occupants. Luggage will normally have to be lifted higher into the boot when loading or unloading due to the higher seating position of the car, however some 4x4s do offer a good substitute for an MPV including 7 seats and plenty of room for luggage. Some of the best large MPVs on the market include the Audi Q7, the BMW X5, the Kia Sorrento and the Volvo XC90.
Consider fuel consumption
Four wheel drive cars have built up a reputation for being “gaz guzzlers” over the years, but this isn’t necessarily the case. With more compact SUVs and 4×4 cars available and better technology, fuel comsumption and CO2 emissons figures have improved vastly – there’s even hybrid 4×4 cars on the market now. For example, the Skoda Yeti Greenline II offers claimed fuel economy of 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km, meaning car tax will be just £30 a year whilst the Mitsubish Outlander PHEV is exempt from road tax altogether.
If you’re really serious about off-roading and need a car that will do it effectively, make sure you do your homework thoroughly before you buy. Many cars that offer four wheel drive components are better left tackling the odd bump on a country road as opposed to a hardcore muddy track. Land Rover cars are well known for their superb off-road capability. Choose the Land Discovery 4 if you’re looking for a roomy workhorse, or for even more luxury, why not try a Land Rover Range Rover Sport? For a cheaper off roader with excellent credentials, we’d recommend a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota Land Cruiser.
Soft-roaders versus 4x4s
There is a growing demand for 4×2 cars or ‘soft-roaders’ at present – off-road style cars which also offer two-wheel drive. Crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti can be bought with front wheel drive, whilst off-roaders such as the Land Rover Freelander or Kia Sorento can be bought as 4×2 cars. The advantage of purchasing a 4×2 car is that you’ll usually pay less for the privilege whilst fuel economy is often significantly better and you’ll still benefit from common 4×4 features such as a high seating position and better ground clearance. The disadvantage is that you won’t benefit from the extra traction of a proper 4×4 car.
Which 4×4 car should I buy?
Most people will spend the best part of their time on tarmac so it’s important to make sure that whichever 4 by 4 car you choose, it performs well on this type of ground as well as off-road. Crossovers will almost always perform better as everyday transport than traditional 4x4s. If you’ve got the cash to spend, we’d recommend opting for one of the many premium brands on the market to ensure you get the best performance possible. All the Audi, BMW and VW 4×4 cars are great to drive whilst on road performance in the Ford Kuga, Mazda Cx-5, Range Rover Sport and Volvo XC60 have also been highly commended.