As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Australia’s Best New Car News, Reviews and Buying Advice

What Are the Most Frugal 4WDs?

There’s nothing quite like exploring a new track or even
getting down and dirty and tackling a real bit of off-roading terrain.  Heading down to the beach or getting up to
where the track really ends requires the services of a 4WD vehicle.  These are vehicles that offer premium
traction and plenty of comfortable space for occupants and luggage.  If you find yourself dreaming of the wild
yonder, and you would really like the right vehicle to get you there, then what
are some of the best new 4WD vehicles that deliver the goods off-road while
remaining frugal on the gas?  I’ve
considered a number of vehicles that you might like to think about.  These vehicles promise reasonable-to-excellent
go-anywhere ability while remaining reasonably cost effective on the fuel.

Priced at $62,200, Audi offers the Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro with a
bit of AWD ability.  Very classy, seating
for five, reasonable luggage space, 350 Nm and a combined fuel economy figure
of just 6.8 litres/100 km gives this vehicle the nod.  Also an Audi, the $88,614 Q7 3.0 TDI offers
seven seats, more space, 550 Nm of torque, a capable bit of traction off-road,
plenty of luxury and a combined fuel economy figure of 7.8 litres/100 km.




Sticking with the Germans, but looking at BMW.  We have spied the BMW X1.  Now the X1 hasn’t got loads of space, but it
will do the small family picnic with ease.
Off-road, the X1 has some useful traction, although ground clearance and
wheel articulation is a bit limited.  Flat
greasy paddocks and the odd forest track, the beach and the like, is no
problems for the BMW X1 line-up.  The
most frugal BMW X1s are the diesel models, with all diesels boasting a combined
fuel economy figure of below 6.3 litres/100 km – which is very good,
indeed.  Even the petrol X1 sDrive18i
manages 8.2 litres/100 km.





Then there is the BMW X3.
Space expands a bit over the X1 models, so that’s a real asset.  A nice drive, and comfortable, the BMW X3 is
similar off-road to the X1.  Economy is
very good in a BMW X3 xDrive20d and xDrive30d.
Like the BMW X1 there is no lack of traction, however wheel articulation
and ground clearance is left wanting.

Roomier and very powerful, the BMW X5 xDrive30d commendably manages
plenty of off-road terrain.  This will be
a great vehicle that is comfortable, roomy and quick.  An X5 looks great, and the 30d manages a very
good combined fuel economy figure of 7.4 litres/100 km – and that’s with 540 Nm
of torque!



Next is Ford.  You’ll
find the Ford Territory is handy for light off-road duties.  It has AWD which gives a degree of traction,
but the underpinnings are not seriously designed for bush bashing so it’s best
for a picnic across the paddock rather than an overnight at the hut at the back
of the farm across the creek, up the muddy goat track…  if you get my
drift.  Room and a nicely laid out
interior make this SUV very easy to live with.
The AWD Territory TDCI models have a combined fuel economy figure of a
bit over 8 litres/100 km.  So all in all
it’s a nice roomy drive for around $45k.





Similar to a Ford Territory, the Holden Captiva can offer up
to seven seats and is great for a run over flat sand, or down to the swimming
hole – as long as there is nothing too strenuous for the light AWD
chassis.  It’s very much a
soft-roader.  Combined fuel economy
figures of 8.5 litres/100 km for the 2.2-litre Turbo-diesel isn’t too bad,
either.  All in all a nice drive for
around $35 to $40k.





Hyundai has two well priced vehicles that are surprisingly
handy off the road.  Their traction is
good, and the drive is pleasant.  The
stylish Hyundai ix35 has a six-speed auto AWD, a very smart and comfortable
cabin and a combined fuel economy figure of 7.5 litres/100 km.  With 2.0 litre turbo-diesel technology, the
$34,990 price tag for the Elite model is a great buy.




Looking now at the Hyundai Santa Fe models – and all of them
boast a very grunty 2.2-litre diesel with a combined fuel economy figure of 6.7
or 7.5 litres/100 km.  The six-speed
manual boasts the lower economy figure.
With over 420 Nm of torque this is a class-leader.  There is plenty of room inside for seven, and
there is loads of luxury kit.  The price
for a new one is between $37 – $49k, depending on the model of choice.  It’s surprising where you can get to in one
of these.  Reasonable ground clearance,
some mud suitable tyres and, hey presto, you’ll get a few places in a Hyundai Santa





The Jeep Patriot 2.4 Sport
five-speed manual is priced at under $30k.
This is a highly recommended machine for going some serious places
off-road.  So if the great outdoors
beckons the Jeep Patriot is a must see.
Nicely planted on the road, and very capable off it, the Jeep Patriot
2.4 Sport is a petrol fed model that returns a combined fuel economy figure of
8.4 litres/100 km.





A Jeep Wrangler is well priced, too.  And with the 2.8 turbo-diesel versions, the
average fuel economy figure is an excellent 8.2 litres/100 km for the six-speed
manual Sport model.  It’s a little rugged
on-road, however few can match it off the road.
You pay around $36k for one of these.
Jeep Cherokee models are a bit thirsty, but they are a nice drive and
highly capable on the rough stuff – as well as off it.  All Jeeps are great adventure packed





This takes us to Kia.
And Kia has two models that will impress with their level of refinement
and style.  The new Kia Sportage has
plenty of room in the rear for adults.
It’s a five seater, and has a good wallop of space in the boot,
too.  AWD and ready for light-off-road
duties sees the $38k Platinum model boast a 7.5 litres/100 km average fuel
economy run.





Spend in the high thirties up to $48k, and you could have
yourself one of the excellent Kia Sorento models.  Their top diesel engines provide superior
economy, and the roomy interiors offer luxury aplenty.  Eye-catching on the outside, you’ll get to
your picnic over some reasonably challenging terrain – if you need too.  As with any vehicle, tyre pattern will determine
your level of traction.





Land Rover is the epitome of off-roading ability.  All models will get you out into the back
blocks and beyond.  Economy is best found
in the diesel variants.  A Freelander is
compact and will cost you around the $45k to 50k mark.  And the TD4 boasts 400 Nm and 6.6 to
7.0-litres/100 km.





The Land Rover Discovery is very roomy and brilliant
off-road.  It’s also nice on the road,
too.  The 3.0-litre TDV6 impresses with
as much as 600 Nm and a reasonable 9.6 litres/100 km.  For what you get, it’s quite awesome.





You fork out a bit for a new Range Rover TDV6, however the
ride is awesome, off-road ability incredible, and the fuel economy slightly
better than in the Discovery.  If you can
afford it, the Vogue TDV8 with 9.4 litres/100 km smacks out a huge 700 Nm and
as much again in luxury items!




This takes us to the Lexus marque.  These are top of the range Toyotas, and so
you’ll find the build quality and reliability are stunning.  Do look at the Lexus RX 450h.  Yes, it will cost you close to $90k for the
Prestige model, $97k for the Sports model and $109k for the Sports Luxury model.  You’ll find these hybrid machines are
powerful and quiet.  Sipping, on average,
7.8 litres/100 km of fuel they are refreshingly thrifty on the fuel.  Grunt comes from a V6 3.5-litre petrol motor,
and it feels quick, remaining athletic on the road.  Off-road the Lexus RX does have great ground
clearance and a capable drive train.  If
you are into long holidays, then this is a relaxing vehicle for the task.





AWD SUVs don’t come much smarter than the Mazda CX-7 and
CX-9 models.  I’ll harp on about the
Mazda CX-7 because the fuel economy is much better in this one.  Mazda offer the Mazda CX-7 with the very good
2.2-litre turbo-diesel motor.  Expect a
combined economy run of 7.6 litres/100 km.
Five seats and a big boot make the Mazda CX-7 a comfortable SUV to
travel in.  Surprisingly handy off-road,
you can definitely find yourself a hideaway for a picnic in the sun.  You can’t go nuts in the CX-7, but if you
want a little off-roading for that track off to the side or the run over the
hilly paddock, the Mazda CX-7 will do the job just fine.  As far as on the road handling goes, the
Mazda is probably one of the best SUVs in this area.  It’s a joy to drive and well equipped – and
at $45k it’s a highly recommended.





Mercs are a bit thirsty, so Mitsubishi is next in line.  Two models, in particular, come to mind.  Make sure you have a look at the
Challenger.  You’ll find that the diesel
engine is very smooth and gutsy, and in manual form will return a bit over 8
litres/100 km.  It’s a premium
off-roader.  So if you want to get to the
difficult out-of-the-way places then this is the machine that will get you
there.  The Dual range gearbox and
serious off-roading traction and ground clearance make this a great buy for
between $40k and $50k.  It has a massive
boot space and seats five people comfortably.
Also, the Challenger is a well equipped vehicle with plenty of high tech





Another proper off-roader, the Mitsubishi Pajero, is big,
roomy and luxurious.  Go-anywhere potential
makes the Pajero 3.2-litre diesel versions, linked with a five-speed manual,
the top economy buy.  Like the
Challenger, the diesel version should return a bit over 8 litres/100 km.  Expect to pay around $50k to $60k.





If you’re after something that has some light 4WD appeal,
then you might like to consider the Mitsubishi ASX and Outlander models.  They are not quite as roomy as the bigger,
serious Mitsubishi off-roaders, but they are comfy, pleasing vehicles to
drive.  I reckon my choice would be the
ASX 1.8 TD models, as their small 1.8-litre modern diesel design is impressive.  What you have is a torquey, incredibly
thrifty drive.  On average, the ASX L4TD
motor has a combined economy run of only 5.9 litres/100 km.





Nissan has always had their hand in off-roading models.  Take a look at the X-Trail, the Pathfinder
and the Patrol.  A quick warning though:
the Patrol is phenomenal on and off the road, but it is very thirsty.  A Nissan Pathfinder could well be the good
middle ground.  The 2.5-litre
turbo-diesel provides 8.5 litres/100 km economy, is roomy, can seat up to
seven, costs around $50k to $60k, has superior 450 Nm torque, serious
off-roading potential and is very well equipped with luxury items.  The Nissan X-Trail offers a great economical
2.0-litre turbo-diesel that delivers 7.4 litres/100 km, top off-roading
potential for the adventurer, good boot space, a nice level of equipment and
reliability.  It costs around $35 to $45k













Peugeot offers the very stylish 4007.  Looking good from every angle, the Peugeot
4007 is roomy enough, very good on fuel (7.0 – 7.3 litres/100 km), luxurious and
comfortable.  Reliability is also improved
– as the Peugeot 4007 is essentially a Mitsubishi Outlander.







Porsche do offer an impressive array of Cayenne models to
meet the true adventurer who likes a fast drive, too.  The best of the Cayenne models are the
3.0-litre turbo-diesel versions.
Offering 7.4 litres/100 km, on average, these engines know how to soak
up the miles with style, speed and agility.
Good space in the rear makes for good load carrying ability, while the
seats and cabin are extremely well crafted and comfortable.  At $105k they aren’t cheap, but they are very
capable off-road, and can take you many places beyond the tarmac.





Back to Korea, and we find that a large portion of the line-up
from Ssangyong are well equipped for tackling the rough.  Pricing for the new Korando, Actyon, Kyron
and Rexton are impressive.  And you’ll
find the diesel engines are very quiet, gutsy and frugal machines.  A great level of do-dads inside their comfy
interior make these a tantalising proposition.
Only the Rexton 2.7 Xdi SPR is priced over $40k, so you’re in for a
smart buy here.
















Subaru are masters of the AWD system.  Frugal adventure comes in the form of the
nicely designed Subaru Forester 2.0D models.
At 6.4 litres/100 km, they poke along nicely, feeling stable on any given
road surface.  They are spacious, well
priced and have a nice level of comfort, style and equipment.  You can tackle off-road conditions in one of
these machines.  The ground clearance and
entry/exit angles are the limiting factors.
A Forester is great for heading off to the Mt Buller or Thredbo slopes
for a winter getaway.





Suzuki always have a go-anywhere vehicle in there modern,
good looking line-up.  You’ll find the
Suzuki Grand Vitara has the goods to tough it in the wild.  Real off-road ability, and plenty of room
make it a contender for being one of the best economical adventure vehicles.  These are nice to drive, comfortable for the
long haul, and they are very well priced for what you get.  Again, the diesel model is the more frugal model
at 7.6 litres/100 km.  However, the
petrol fed 2.4-litre models in five-speed manual guise can return around 9.0





Unfortunately, the smart-looking Toyota Rav4 isn’t as
economical as I thought it to be.  Being
big and grunty, the Toyota Prado is excellent in the toughest terrain – so too
the Land Cruiser.  Buy diesel if you want
economy, because the petrol versions are thirsty.  Practical, comfortable and ever reliable
these will impress off-road.  The
downside is some of the models aren’t as cheap as they once were.





Volkswagen are producing a range of 4WD vehicles that are
capable, practical and very well built – the best being, perhaps, the
Tiguan.  It’s roomy, refined and handles
well.  Both the petrol and diesel options
are efficient and impress with the way they can economically cover the
ground.  You can take them off-road, and
they will handle some hard going pretty well.
Also, do look at the price.  It’s
one of the most reasonable 4WD vehicles you can buy with European origin.  Superb off road, the Volkswagen Amarok is a
dual-cab with diesel efficiency and refined, stylish interiors.







Volvo know how to create a beautifully crafted SUV-type vehicle.  The Diesel XC60, XC70 and XC90 models are
roomy, very comfortable and superbly safe.
Loaded with a ton of torque, they perform nicely and handle well on and
off the road.  Clever AWD technology
means that these can venture a long way off-road – as far as is necessary for
most people, at least.  Even the lusty T5
petrol XC60 returns 8.7 litres/100 km.
The D5 XC60 drops the fuel consumption down to the mid sevens.




Sumptuous and roomy, the Volvo XC70 provides a special treat
for the adventurer.  Tackling tough
terrain is easy with the clever AWD system, though ground clearance, entry and
departure angles, are limited at times.





The biggest of the Swedes is the Volvo XC90, and with the volume
comes impressive load carrying capacity.
A bigger mass does tell a little on the economy figures, though you
should be able to get a little over 9.0 litres/100 km out of the D5.  Very comfortable seats and high equipment
levels makes the XC90 extremely relaxing.
Off-road they’ll manage plenty of tricks, and if you crash you’re in one
of the safest SUV cabins around.