How to Choose a Reliable and Safe 4x4

Despite environmentalists conditioning us to believe we should hang our heads in shame if we want to drive a 4x4, that doesn’t seem to have halted their ever-rising popularity. In 2012 alone, sales of SUVs rose by 10 per cent in the UK, and today pretty much every popular manufacturer has at least one tucked away on their stock list. Whether vehicles are being bought to tow something, to cope in poor weather conditions or simply as a style statement doesn’t seem to matter.

The fact remains that the 4x4 market is incredibly buoyant and the desirability of these types of vehicles is on the up. If you are considering introducing a 4x4 to your family, here are some tips to help you choose the right one. What do you want your vehicle to do?

The first thing to establish is whether you need your new 4x4 to perform like an actual, full-blooded off-roader, whether you would like some of the features to be useful or whether you just want to get the look. For example:
  • If you are planning to tow a horsebox, explore the highlands or go shooting in your new car, then you’ll probably want to go for a ‘proper’ off-roader, such as a Range Rover, Land Rover Defender, Mitsubishi Shogun or Jeep Cherokee. Don’t forget to check the weight of the vehicle is at least as much as your horse box or caravan if you are planning to tow. 

  • If you want the looks with the benefits of a working four-wheel drive, but without the industrial finish and poor fuel consumption of their workhorse competitors, then a good midpoint vehicle would include the BMW X1 and X5, the Nissan X-Trail, the VW Tiguan and the all-new 4x4 family SUV from Honda, the impressive CR-V.

  • Finally, if you want the looks, height and space that comes with a 4x4 but actually have no need for four-wheel drive, there are a number of two-wheel drive look-a-likes which offer all the style without the additional fuel consumption. These include the Kia Sportage, the Nissan Quashqai, the Suzuki Jimny and the RAV4.


Buying tips for 4x4 vehicles

Before you rush out and buy the first big, shiny vehicle that catches your eye, take a moment to check it is going to provide you and your family with the space, reliability and safety you need. Ask yourself:

1. Do you need four wheel drive?

If you spend more time on the school run than crossing a muddy field, then you will be better off with a 4x4 version of a more conventional car, rather than a car designed for a farm.

2. Is it reliable?

Breaking down in a 4 x 4 can be significantly more expensive in terms of repair than a regular car. Parts, labour costs and recovery can all be more costly overall, so check the manufacturer’s reputation for reliability before making a purchase.

3. Can you afford it?

Aside of the higher repair bills, 4x4 vehicles typically have more stringent, more expensive servicing regimes, and the running costs can be staggering. Modern SUVs such as the Honda CR-V are designed for road use, and actually achieve a good MPG thanks to modern technology. Watch out for older ‘Chelsea Tractors’ though, as they could end up costing a bomb to run.

4. Is it as spacious as you think?

It is easy to think that a big 4 x 4 will have lots of space for kids’ stuff, hobby paraphernalia and more, but in reality many have less storage space than a normal family hatchback. Check the size of the storage and whether seating is flexible to ensure you are getting as much as you hoped.

5. Is it safe?

Most modern SUVs should have the standard airbags, ABS, ESP or equivalent and SIPS. Check how they performed in NCAP tests as well though, particularly in terms of pedestrian safety as well as that of the occupants.


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