Currently reading: The best 10 used off-roaders
Looking for a cross-country hero? We take a look at some of your options

SUVs get a bit of a bad rap these days, given that every other new car revealed seems to be a heavy high-rider with only one driven axle. But go back a few years and it’s easy to find a variety of properly capable 4x4s that can accommodate a crowd and tackle the most punishing tracks in the country.

Land Rover Discovery, 2004-2009

98 Land rover discovery

£2500-£20,000: One of the best-looking cars in the world, by your author’s reckoning. The Geoff Upex-designed Discovery 3 still looks the part today because it was designed entirely for its purpose as an adventure vehicle. It’s also beautifully relaxing to drive and on its way to being a great classic. Not always costless to run, but wonderful when on form.

One we found: 2009 Land Rover Discovery 2.7 TDV6 SE, 55k miles, £13,975

Suzuki SJ, 1981-2005

97 Suzuki sj

£3000-£10,000: The Suzuki SJ 410/413/Samurai is a Jimny by another name, and it’s becoming hard to find today, but it’s well worth the effort. They’re small, light and low geared, and thus will probably go as far off road as any other car you can think of – particularly if modified, like a lot of UK cars have been, and which you’ll most likely spot caked in mud and grime at the end of a weekend. They’re mechanically simple and very durable, too, but knowing how to weld could be an ownership advantage.

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They are old cars, built simply, so may want some looking after. But, hey, they’re classics, right? And as classics go, there are few better ways to head out for a picnic on a sunny Sunday with the roof down than in a SJ, taking in a few green lanes on the way, being small and innocuous enough not to annoy anybody. A car to smile at and from.

One we found: 1987 Suzuki SJ413, 82k miles, £3700

Volkswagen Touareg, 2002-2010

96 Volkswagen touraeg

£3000-£28,000: The car that spawned half a dozen Volkswagen alternatives based off of its platform has always had a good reputation around the car industry, making it a must-have benchmark for engineers from other manufacturers. It’s attractive and reliable in its first-generation form. Sensible, too. Unless you want the V10 diesel or W12 petrol. Which you do, right?

One we found: 2007 Volkswagen Touareg 6.0 W12, 31k miles, £27,995

Toyota Hilux, 1988-2004

95 Toyota hilux

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£5000-£7000: Why is a pick-up truck here? Because it’s the Toyota Hilux, the original go-anywhere, haul-anything and last-forever wagon. In this instance, we’re looking at a fifth- or sixth-generation model. (Newer ones are great but they’re not classic territory yet.) You can still get parts for them easily enough and they’ll do whatever you ask of them.

One we found: 1998 Toyota Hilux 2.4 2dr, 280k miles, £5700

Toyota Land Cruiser, 1984-now

94 Toyota land cruiser

£5000-£40,000: A wicked alternative to an early Land Rover 90/110, the J70-series Land Cruiser entered production in 1984 and is still made today, largely for sale in Africa. That there was a troop carrier variant gives an idea of its dependability but it comes in myriad versions. Most likely here, though, in a cool period colour and nicely looked after. A rare and real niche but lovely choice.

One we found: 1993 Toyota Land Cruiser 2.5 TD 3dr, 131k miles, £39,911

Jeep Cherokee, 1993-2000

93 Jeep cherokee

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£6000-£22,000: Exceptionally trusty cars, these. The XJ-series Cherokee was made in the US from 1983 but didn’t arrive here until much later and didn’t sell in big numbers. Owners love them, though, and there are always a few around to choose from. Thirsty engines but they will do a million miles.

One we found: 2000 Jeep Cherokee 4.0 Orvis, 21k miles, £21,995

Land Rover Defender 110, 1990-2016

92 Land rover defender 0

£6000-£265,000: No UK 4x4 guide would be complete without one. The Defender name was adopted a long way into the Land Rover’s life. Immediately preceding it was the 90/110. But if you want one, the year/ name is less relevant. Updates were gradual and the late 2.2 diesel was only a little more refined than earlier models. They can be expensive to run but there are lots around and they hold their value.

One we found: 2011 Land Rover Defender 110 SVX Spectre, 2K MILES, £265,000

Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon, 1998-2007

91 Toyota land cruiser amazon

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£8500-£30,000: The Land Cruiser is a brilliant 4x4. But there aren’t many around, and at the ‘modern classic’ time we’re thinking of here, there were two J100-series models: the Colorado and bigger, full-fat Amazon. Many have been modded but it’s a hobbyist’s car so don’t let that put you off. It should hold its value. And if the apocalypse comes, it’s the place to be.

One we found: 2001 Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon 4.7 VX, 159k miles, £10,950

Volkswagen T3 Syncro, 1984-1992

90 Volkswagen t3 syncro

£15,000-£25,000: For a proper battle bus with kerb appeal and go-anywhere credentials, look absolutely no further than this raised and rugged take on VW’s microbus. It’s rare now, and expensive, but the variety of bodystyles – van, camper, microbus and pick-ups with single and dual cabs – make it a real do-it-all workhorse. Best keep the MIG welder on standby, mind.

One we found: 1987 Volkswagen T3 Syncro 1.6 Turbo Diesel, 189k miles, £16,000

Land Rover Forward Control 101, 1972-1978

89 Land rover forward control

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£15,000-£100,000: There are never more than a handful of 101 Forward Control Land Rovers for sale in the UK so this is a bit niche, but as one of your author’s current fascinations, here it is.

The 101, or the ‘one tonne’ (after its supposed payload), was designed as a gun carrier for the British army in the late 1960s, produced in the 1970s and decommissioned by the 1990s. They were never sold new to the public, but they’ve made their way into private hands since.

Most of them seem to still keep their original 3.5-litre V8s; and while they’re pretty agricultural to drive, there’s a thriving ownership scene to help keep them on the road.

Originals were canvas roofed but later came with ambulance or radio truck bodies, too, and there’s a real diverse mix of them around today. They make great overland campervans, if you can tolerate the driving experience.

One we found: 1976 Land Rover 101, 10k miles, £16,000

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Bob Cholmondeley 5 June 2022

"One of the best-looking cars in the world, by your author’s reckoning. The Geoff Upex-designed Discovery 3 still looks the part today"


To my eyes, it looks like a breeze block on wheels.

sabre 5 June 2022

"wonderful when on form" describes Land Rover products. Therefore a Land Cruiser is highly preferred.