OFF-ROAD HEAVEN: THE 4x4 MARKET KEEPS ON GETTING BIGGER AND BETTER
THE 4x4 segment just keeps on growing – and so does the range and quality of vehicles that qualify as 4x4s, or SUVS as many people call them.
From large, proper off-roaders to ‘crossover’ saloons to compact SUVS (Sports Utility Vehicle), there is almost literally a car to suit everyone these days: whether that be new, approved or used.
It can seem strange, but it is often the very features that 4x4s evolved to help them out of muddy tracks that have endeared them to family buyers in our towns and cities.
Particularly appealing is the high driving position, loads of interior space and ingenious cubby holes, and other design features that make them very usable.
Then, for the ones with proper grunt, there’s also the added benefits of large towing capacities, and significant off- road abilities.
There has been significant evolution in the sophistication of this market. Once, for example, fuel economy was fairly far down the list of manufacturers’ priorities.
However, these days, mpg and emissions are never far from mind, and consequently 4x4s are much cheaper to run these days.
Back in the day, the 4x4 segment was dominated by lumbering giants – the Range Rovers, Toyota
Land Cruisers and Mitsubishi Shoguns of this world.
And while they are still standard bearers of the genre, the market has grown significantly more complex since. Not only has it headed downwards in terms of size – it even goes right down to smaller crossovers like the Fiat Panda Cross.
But there’s been an explosion in terms of the numbers of mid-sized cars, and at the top end, too, since BMW’S X5 blazed its trail.
For instance, Porsche now makes two SUVS – the Cayenne and its little sister, the Macan– and even manufacturers who once shunned the sector until recently have now piled in: including Bentley, Maserati and Jaguar.
It’s worth nothing that many 4x4s or SUVS are more comfortable on tarmac than with any serious mud-plugging, but generally they do have at least some off-road ability particularly if they are four-wheel or all-wheel drive rather than 2WD.
Big players in this sector include Nissan’s X-trail, Honda’s CR-V and Land Rover’s Freelander. SEAT and Skoda have made determined plays into the market of late, too, with the Ateca and Kodiaq.
Many 4x4 enthusiasts of a more
practical nature have started to consider popular 4x4 pickup models like the Mitsubishi L200 and the Isuzu Rodeo. These are tougher, with their roots in the more manly end of the genre.
Many 4X4/SUV models have stretched to accommodate seven passengers. Many feature an additional row of seating in the rear, boosting capacity to as many as seven persons.
Increasingly, they also incorporate Mpv-style seating systems where the individual chairs slide, fold or lift out altogether to give greater flexibility to the cabin space. Legroom in the middle row tends to be quite adequate but the rear seating in most models is best reserved for smaller children.
So comfortable have many pick-up trucks become that they are now starting to nestle in the 4x4 sector.
SIX OF THE BEST
The choice is almost endless for 4x4 drivers these days. There are of course some serious mud-pluggers, but most modern 4x4s are more comfortable on the road.
Residual values hold up well, so 4x4s make a great second hand purchase as well.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of our favourites. The list is not exhaustive as there is so much choice these days and other manufacturers also build great vehicles.
As always, the best advice is to shop around for what suits you and your lifestyle:
4x4 action: Subaru Forester