Top 10: The best used 4x4s

Volvo XC90

Buyers of large SUVs expect a lot from their cars. They’re after something spacious, practical and capable. All the 4x4s on this list meet these criteria but to varying degrees. Some offer seven seats while others offer incredible off-road ability. Whatever you’re after from your 4×4, you’ll find something to meet your needs.

Here are our 10 favourite used 4x4s:

1. Volvo XC90

Volvo’s venerable XC90 has only just been replaced by a new model. The previous generation car had been on sale since 2002 making a great used buy because there are so many to choose from on the market and it offers great value for money. It’s got the go-anywhere ability offered by four-wheel drive, it can tow an impressive 2250kg and it offers an exceptional level of practicality. Seven seats come as standard and it’s the only SUV that can accommodate three child seats in the middle row; all three seats slide and adjust independently, too. Check the electric mirrors work as they should and if the diesel engine has trouble starting, walk away; it could indicate an issue with the injectors that’s very expensive to fix.

Our pick: Volvo XC90 2.4 D5 SE Lux

2. Toyota RAV4

The Mk3 Toyota RAV4 makes its way onto this list for two keys reasons. First, it handles well – it feels like you’re driving a normal car, thanks to the comfortable ride which is free from the body roll that can plague some SUVs. Second, the RAV4 is up to Toyota’s usual reliability standards; it should give you miles of trouble-free, comfortable motoring. What do you need to look out for? On higher-mileage cars, check the gear change is smooth – if it’s notchy it could be a sign that a hefty repair bill is coming your way.

Our pick: Toyota RAV4 2.2 D-4D XT-R

3. Hyundai Santa Fe

The current-generation Hyundai Santa Fe is starting to appear in decent numbers on the used market, and a lot of them come with seven seats. The two rearmost seats are cramped for six-footers but good for small adults and children. They also fold into the floor when not in use. Elsewhere in the cabin, the Santa Fe is classy and well equipped, and it comes with four-wheel drive as standard. Problems with the infotainment system have been reported but otherwise there isn’t much to look out for. It’s also worth noting that used buyers will benefit from any of the Santa Fe’s remaining five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

Our pick: Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium

4. Honda CR-V

The current Honda CR-V is designed primarily for on- rather than off-road use, so it’s as comfortable and easy to drive as a family hatchback but it also comes with four-wheel drive should you need it. There’s lots of interior space and the boot is huge. It also comes with Honda‘s great reputation for reliability. The manufacturer has been named the most reliable used car manufacturer nine years in a row.

Our pick: 2.2 i-DTEC SE

5. Land Rover Discovery

The Land Rover Discovery is an incredibly capable car. Not only can it seat seven adults in comfort, it also comes with Land Rover’s ‘go-anywhere’ ability. However, one of the key downsides is that the Discovery costs more than rivals to keep on the road, but if you need four-wheel drive and seven seats, the Discovery is a good way to go. Problems with the air suspension are expensive to fix; look out for warning lights on the dashboard.

Our pick: Land Rover Discovery 4 3.0 SDV6 GS

6. Nissan X-trail

Rugged and dependable, the second-generation X-trail is worth considering if you’re looking for something that’s practical, refined and decent value. All are well-specced with climate control and alloy wheels as standard. Owners report issues with the diesel particulate filter clogging (a run on the motorway for a few miles on a regular basis should prevent this) and it’s also worth checking all the electricals.

Our pick: 2.0dCi 148 Sport

7. BMW X5

The BMW X5 is great to drive, spacious, well equipped and highly desirable. In the battle of the big 4x4s, the BMW X5 is one of the best, it’s sure-footed on the road and competent off it. Inside, there’s room for five adults and everything is well laid out. It’s worth noting that running costs are high and that despite the premium image there have been some complaints about the build quality of the interior.

Our pick: xDrive30d SE

8. Audi Q5

Audi’s mid-size SUV is comfortable, refined and built to last. The strong diesel engines are particularly good and surprisingly economical. Inside, there’s lots of room up front, a cabin made from premium materials and a large boot. Rear passengers aren’t quite as well catered for, but a sliding rear seat does improve legroom. The majority of complaints are down to problems with the electricals – look out for any warning lights on a test drive.

Our pick: 2.0 TDI SE

9. Lexus RX

The Lexus RX is the only 4×4 on this list that isn’t powered by a diesel engine. The combination of the petrol engine and electric motor mean this hybrid has low emissions and cheap tax costs. All models are also generously equipped. Another bonus is Lexus’s reputation for reliability. Most owners are very happy with their cars and little goes wrong with them. However, if you’re looking for a more serious off-roader, the RX is probably not for you.

Our pick: RX450h SE

10. Mercedes-Benz M-Class

The final 4×4 to make the top 10 is the Mercedes M-Class. It’s great to drive, very refined and impressively spacious – there’s more rear legroom than in the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90. Standard specification is generous and there’s a decent number of good examples to choose from on the used market.

Our pick: ML 320 CDI

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