All-wheel drive vehicles are usually more expensive to buy and run than your average family hatchback. However, these soft-roaders deliver economical running coupled with light rough terrain capability. If you need to negotiate the occasional muddy track or snowy road but don't want sky high running costs, then these are the vehicles for you.
The C-Crosser is a Mitsubishi Outlander with a new face. Together with its sister car the Peugeot 4007, they're assembled in Japan. All are a great choice but used prices on the Citroen are marginally better. With seven seats you get the flexibility to carry two more children on the school run, and with the seats folded flat there is 1700 litres of load space. Performance from the 2.2 HDI diesel is healthy and 40 MPG is easily achievable.
Prices start from £5,000
The Panda 4x4 is the bargain rural runaround. Enthusiasts swear by its basic utilitarian design and usable soft-road competence. The cabin is surprisingly spacious for a small car but the interior design and cheap plastics will not be to everyone's taste. The two-cylinder petrol twin-air engine delivers nippy eager performance but perhaps not the best economy for its size. Still, expect mid 40 MPG figures. The multi-jet diesel engine, while more efficient, feels lethargic by comparison and takes much of the fun out of the drive.
Prices start from £3,500
The Skoda Yeti Outdoor is the 4x4 version of the popular chunky looking crossover. The Yeti's trim and build quality are excellent. Load space can be increased by removing the rear seats but they regrettably don't fold flat. The Volkswagen derived 2.0 TDI delivers great performance and MPG figures in the 40s. The Haldex all-wheel drive system is the most sophisticated here, and hill descent is a welcome bonus in this class. The most expensive here, too. Nevertheless, its popularity ensures low depreciation.
Prices start from £11,000
The Swift is the small AWD car for those that want a bit more car than the Panda. It makes no hint of its 4x4 ability besides the 25mm increased ride height. Its cabin is better trimmed than its counterpart, and overall feels less basic. The 1.2 VVT petrol engine is more refined than the Panda and better suited to the highway. It's happy to be revved and delivers MPG in the mid 40s. Because the ground clearance is almost unaltered, it's best kept out of anything but the flattest of fields or dirt-tracks.
Prices start from £7,000
Do you have a favourite bargain 4x4? Let me know in the comments below.