Need a car that can tackle tough off-road terrain, but don’t want a supersized SUV? Here are the best miniature mud masters:
10. MINI Countryman (ground clearance 165 mm)
The Countryman might be far removed from MINI’s hatchback beginnings in terms of size, but it’s still great to drive. This is because the Countryman shares a platform with the BMW X1 – one of the best handling SUVs you can buy.
The Countryman should be capable off-road thanks to MINI’s ‘ALL4’ all-wheel drive system which is available on the base-spec Cooper, Cooper S and the diesel Cooper D. The plug-in hybrid version and 306bhp John Cooper Works models come with ALL4 as standard. On the road, the Countryman is slightly firm due to the stiff suspension but the off-set of this is little body roll and engaging handling overall.
The Volvo XC40 is a strong contender in the market for small premium SUVs. It’s not a revelation on the road, but it strikes a decent blend of comfort and cruising refinement, and offers premium SUV appeal in a small-car package. This allows passengers to enjoy the funky, minimalist cabin and the capable infotainment system.
Introduced in 2017, the Volvo XC40 is a mid-sized premium SUV that majors on practicality and comfort while offering bold styling that helps set it apart from its more conservative rivals. Its great safety rating and suite of available active safety systems will help Volvo get closer to its aim of eliminating all serious injuries and driving deaths in its cars by 2020.
The Lada Niva has been on sale since 1977 without drastic changes in its overall design. The humble off-roader has always relied on small four-cylinder engines and a full-time four-wheel drive, and this won’t change at all for the 2020 model year.
The Suzuki Jimny’s Russian spiritual brother continues to use a 1.7-liter naturally aspirated gasoline engine with 83 horsepower (62 kilowatts), sending power permanently to all four wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. The 0 to 62 miles per hour (0-100 kilometers per hour) acceleration takes – behold! – 17 seconds, while top speed is rated at 88 mph (142 kph).
7. Subaru XV (ground clearance 220mm)
In a world filled with crossovers, the Subaru XV stands roof and rails above the competition. The XV boasts permanent four-wheel drive, so it is ready for the rough-stuff 24/7. While the styling of the XV might seem a little plain, it offers serious ground clearance and a decent four-wheel drive system, making it surprisingly capable off road.
Making it a left-field option, however, is the standard-fit CVT automatic gearbox (which isn’t very good) and the use of its ‘boxer’ engine (which is pretty good) that makes a distinctive sound.
6. Suzuki Ignis (ground clearance 180mm)
Let’s get one thing straight, the Ignis is small. So small in fact there are only two rear seats. But that hasn’t stopped Suzuki giving it four-wheel drive.
Four-wheel drive (known as AllGrip in Suzuki-speak) is only available on top of the range SZ5 models – as is Suzuki’s fuel economy-boosting mild-hybrid system.
The original 1980s Fiat Panda 4×4 is an off-road legend – visit the Alps and you will see that many locals still use them to navigate snow-covered mountain roads. The latest generation continues where its predecessor left off: offering buyers a competent yet compact off-road vehicle that doesn’t cost the Earth – thanks to its light weight and small engines.
The Panda uses a type of four-wheel drive system which runs in two-wheel drive mode until the car registers that a wheel is spinning (helping save fuel). Furthering the frugal credentials of the Panda is the small two-cylinder petrol engine powering it – boasting a claimed fuel consumption of 6.2 L/100 KM. Yes, many cars use less fuel, but very few can go this far off road.
4. Range Rover Evoque (ground clearance 212mm)
The Range Rover Evoque is the baby of the Range Rover range. The first generation Evoque was something of a smash hit, and the recently launched second-generation promises to continue this trend, thanks to improved off-road ability, a posh interior and relaxed driving experience.
All but the entry-level D150 front-wheel drive model come with impressive off-road credentials and an automatic gearbox. There is a mix of petrol and diesel engines on offer, with a plug-in hybrid set to join the range in the near future.
3. Jeep Renegade (ground clearance 150mm)
Jeep is synonymous with producing cars capable of taking on the toughest terrain Mother Nature can throw at them. The Renegade is no exception, despite being Jeep’s most affordable model.
If you can afford the price tag, you’ll be getting some serious off-road technology. The 4×4 system works in two-wheel drive mode until the car senses slippage, at which point it will engage the rear wheels. Cars specced with Jeep’s Active Drive Low, will also be treated to a very short ‘crawler’ gear, which is shorter than first gear – perfect for scrambling up and down steep hills.
Dacia pitched its tent as selling no-frills, low cost, practical cars. Its Duster is arguably at the forefront of this, with this SUV grabbing headlines thanks to its 12.000 Euro starting price. The cheapest models are only two-wheel drive, but four-wheel drive is available on those from 16.000 Euro upwards.
As with others on this list, you can motor about in two-wheel drive mode to improve your fuel economy, with the option to lock your Duster into four-wheel drive as and when you need it. In keeping with the times, 4×4 Dusters are available with petrol and diesel power, the latter being slightly more expensive but better suited to those who do higher annual mileage.
The Suzuki Jimny is the quintessential tiny off-road SUV. Go to any agricultural show, look through all the tweed and in the car park you will see a herd of Jimnys parked alongside much bigger and more expensive Land Rover Defenders and Toyota Land Cruisers – both famed for their all-terrain skills.
Suzuki recently updated the Jimny, creating one of the most charming small off-road vehicles on sale but still ensuring it packs some serious off-roading talent. With new prices starting under 18,000 Euro – and strong value PCP finance offers – the Jimny is affordable and even entry-level models come with air-conditioning and cruise control.
Here are the best classic off-road vehicles of all time:
10. Hummer H1 (1992-2006)
Based on the M998 Humvee — which was originally a strictly military-only vehicle — the Hummer H1 was one of the largest and most-capable stock off-road SUVs of its time. The first street-legal civilian version was also famously purchased by none other than the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Over the course of its production, five different engines were included as stock options, none of which were smaller than a 5.7L V8 — the other four options were all over the 6.0L mark. And while having some seriously burly powertrains definitely made these vehicles formidable on and off the road, they also had a number of other features that upped the ante even further. They include inherent stability (thank to their extremely wide stance), the ability to ford waters up to 30 inches deep, the ability to climb steps of up to 22 inches in height, and a good deal more.
The first mass-produced civilian version of probably the most legendary American 4×4 vehicle of all time, the Willys Jeep CJ-2A was largely the same as its military counterparts — offering very little in the way of comforts with a heavy focus on capability, instead.
Where they did differ, however, was in that the civilian version came with a rear tailgate, a side-mounted spare tire, and bigger, bulgier headlights. Still, the CJ-2A was built with utility in mind, especially for use in farming practices — meaning it came standard with only a driver’s seat and driver’s side view mirror but was offered with the option to upgrade it with passenger seating, a simple canvas top, and a good deal more.
8. Ford Bronco (1965-1977)
Few vehicles in the history of the automotive industry have had the staying power of the first generation Ford Bronco. With a production run that lasted twelve years, this 4×4 SUV is still in high demand today, with restored and beefed-up examples selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on their condition.
Of course, the Ford Bronco was also an immediate hit when it came out — despite the fact that the industry had already produced a number of similar vehicles.
Clearly most well-known for building over-the-top luxury supercars, Lamborghini less-famously also created a line of military-ready SUVs. Based on two prototype vehicles called the LM001 and Cheetah, the LM002 was the first of these SUVs to actually go into production, starting in the late 1980s.
Interestingly, despite its similar styling, the LM002 was actually a completely unique build that swapped its predecessor’s rear-mounted V8 engine for a front-mounted V12 — the same one found in the Countach. Playfully dubbed the Rambo-Lambo, the LM002 — while featuring an all-wheel-drive system and a good amount of ground clearance for off-road activities — was a different beast entirely on the inside.
While Land Rover’s first vehicles were utilitarian 4x4s used for agricultural and exploratory endeavors, by the 1960s there had been a burgeoning trend of manufacturers developing more city-friendly off-roaders that could function both as adventure vehicles and also daily drivers.
Almost as a reactionary measure, the brand decided that it was time to produce their own. Thus, the Range Rover was born. Interestingly, while it was designed to be a more urban vehicle, it was still one of the most capable off-roaders of its time.
5. Jeep Wagoneer (1963-1991)
After the success of their military-vehicles-turned-civilian-workhorses, Jeep looked to expand its range with offerings that were a bit more comfortable. That resulted in the production of their first luxury 4×4, the Wagoneer.
Originally intended as a replacement for the Willys Jeep Station Wagon — another legendary offering in its own right — the Wagoneer was an improvement in many ways, especially in regards to off-road capabilities. This is because the Wagoneer, with its standard 4×4 drivetrain, had a significantly better standard ground clearance that paired beautifully with its burlier, up-to-date engine.
Depending upon who you ask, there are two off-roaders that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest when it comes to how legendary they are: the Jeep CJ and the Land Rover Defender. Though they have seen similar applications throughout their production history, they also have vastly different individual stories.
To clarify, the Defender name was applied to this vehicle class starting in 1983, but its history dates back a good deal further — to 1947 when the Series I Land Rover was first conceived in the aftermath of WWII. Made specifically to meet agricultural and utilitarian needs, the vehicle would see two subsequent generations (with a number of different trims) produced before the vehicle took on the Defender name.
Although the Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV is a German automobile through and through, it came into existence at the behest of the Shah of Iran — a significant shareholder at the time. Originally designed for military use, the 250GD saw its first civilian version unveiled in 1979.
It was so successful in that initial release, it was rebadged as a Peugot P4 for the French market — albeit with a Peugeot powerplant under the hood. Known colloquially and referred to lovingly as the “Wolf,” the 250GD version of the 4×4 off-roader would quickly become one of the pillars of Mercedes-Benz’s business, spawning an entire range of SUVs that are still produced to this day.
Much to the chagrin of off-road enthusiasts and fans of Japanese automobiles, the Nissan Patrol wasn’t available in the United States until 2016 — when it was rebadged and modified to be sold as the Armada, a version not exactly held in high-esteem compared to many of its historical brethren.
In spite of its availability (or lack thereof), there’s no arguing that the Y60 — sold from the late 1980s to the late 1990s — was likely the best to emerge from the line and remains a fan favorite to this day. This is due largely to the fact that the Nissan Patrol Y60 was the first in the range to be offered with a coil sprung suspension — a huge departure from versions that came before it.
1. Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 (1960-1984)
Known as the J40, FJ40, or simply Land Cruiser, this Toyota 4×4 is actually a Japanese-built version of the Willys Jeep used during WWII. And that makes a lot of sense if you look at their styling side-by-side. Of course, while the initial versions of Toyota’s FJ40 were nearly identical to the Jeep CJ, they didn’t stay that way for long.
This is because the folks who were building it saw room for significant improvement. Widely considered the best Land Cruiser ever to be built — and with an insanely long production run of 24 years — the FJ40 was a body-on-frame SUV with slightly larger dimensions than the Jeep CJ and came with the option for a hard or soft top, gasoline or diesel power plants, low-range gearing for better torque response, and more.
Here is another SUV offroad comparison, this time between my Duster and a Mitsubishi Shogun Sport.
The plan was to film some ramps and hill ascending runs with these two cars but thing went a little unexpected and we ended up on a muddy trail that gave us some headaches. But before we got there, we tested the vehicles on some rocky uphill trails and a steep ramp.
In the rocky hill runs both cars performed almost the same, I couldn’t see any difference. The Shogun made it up easier on the steep hill than the Duster (I struggled near the top because I lifted my foot from the acceleration pedal.
Then it was time for a hill race to the top, like those in the videos against Toyota Rav4 and Land Rover Freelander 2. This time my Duster was quicker but the main reason it did was because the trail used by the Shogun had bigger rocks that made its ascending harder and could gain enough speed. We should have tried another time and switch the lanes.
Actually, the hill race happened after the muddy part, even if I left the mud part for the second half of the video. Both cars had AT tires. Mine had Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S and the Shogun was equiped with BF Goodrich T/A KO, Keep in mind that the condition of the my Coopers was better than that of the BFGs.
The Shogun had the weight disadvantage and the tires didn’t help that much but the power of the engine and the ground clearance made it perform ok. On the other hand, I managed to bend the aluminium shield on the right front side and gathered alot of mud under the car and into the rims, but didn’t force the car like in the previous mud videos.
The only way I could get all the mud out from the rims was by taking it of from the Duster and pressure wash it.
Enjoy the video. The next one is all about how both cars got stuck in the mud and how we got them out. Cheers!
Romanians registered 12,523 new cars in October, up 17.6 percent compared to the same period in 2019. In the first ten months, the local market reached a volume of over 97,000 units, according to ACAROM data.
Registrations of new cars on the Romanian market increased in October by 17.6 percent. It was the second consecutive month in 2020 that the local market grew during the pandemic.
According to the report published by the Romanian Automobile Manufacturers Association, Romanians have registered 12,523 new cars in October.
After the first ten months of the year, a total of 97,124 new cars were registered on the Romanian market, down 27.9 percent compared to the same period in 2019.
Dacia is the most popular brand in the country, with 30,175 units registered from January to the end of October.
Renault comes second with 7,600 units, while Skoda completes the podium with 7,528 units. At the same time, 37,449 used cars were registered on the Romanian market, decreasing by 10.31 percent compared to the same period in 2019. From the beginning of the year until the end of October, the second-hand vehicle market registered a decrease of 10.13 percent (333,422 units).
Hill Descent Control is a feature all the SUVs have for some time now. Some of the car companies implemented the system earlier, some later. Dacia made this option available starting with the second generation Dacia Duster and it turns out to be a very important help in offroad situations.
As I’ve already said in the When I Almost Crashed My Duster article, it’s very easy to make a mistake with very bad consequences. The same thing happened in that offroad drive I talk about and because I didn’t know all about the Hill Descend Control feature, we were so close to crash the Duster on a steep hill. At that time I started wondering if the HDC could work while the car is descending backwards.
So on a rainy day, I found a suitable hill where I could test my theory. And even if in the video is hard to see the difference on both runs (with HDC On and HDC Off), I can tell you for sure that going backwards downhill with HDC On is much safer and works very well. When the car starts to go down, the HDC activates the brakes after 2 seconds from th moment the wheels started moving.