Small cars with high ground clearance

Need a small car with high ground clearance and potentially four-wheel drive, too? These high-riding small cars should be perfect for you

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Sep 9, 2021

Looking for a small car that can tackle challenging terrain - whether that's rough and bumpy country roads or even tougher surfaces? High ground clearance is important, especially if you intend to take your car off-road. Whether you’re climbing over rocks and boulders, fording water or simply negotiating poorly maintained rural roads, having a car with decent ground clearance could mean the difference between getting home and getting stuck.

Given the state of our roads, you might find that ground clearance comes in handy simply when dealing with potholes on your daily commute. We tend to associate high ground clearance with large SUVs, but what if you fancy something smaller and altogether more affordable?

You don’t need to climb any mountains or ford any streams to find out. In fact, BuyaCar offers a range of small cars with high ground clearance and low monthly payments. Prices start from as little as £150* per month on PCP finance, so you should be able to find something that suits your needs and budget.

Ground clearance is the distance between the road and the lowest part of the car. The greater the clearance, the further you’re likely to get when venturing off-road - or simply crossing big bumps, potholes or other obstacles in the road - although your tyres, the car's level of underbody protection and the presence of a low-range gearbox for negotiating very steep or rough terrain, could make all the difference when the going gets really tough.

Here are 10 brilliant small cars with high ground clearance, each one available with four-wheel drive and at an affordable price. Being caught out by high kerbs and potholes the size of a crater will be a thing of the past.

Best small cars with high ground clearance

1. Subaru XV

Ground clearance 220mm

Used deals from £13,499
Monthly finance from £262*

Want to stand out from the crowd? The Subaru XV is a rare sight in the UK as it tends to be driven by people who need rather than want an off-road vehicle. Four-wheel-drive is fitted as standard, so it’s ideal for rough roads, slippery fields and gravel tracks. It also provides added reassurance in wet and wintry conditions.

The XV is more expensive than rival compact SUVs, but you get more kit for your money and the higher running costs are outweighed by Subaru’s excellent reliability record and five-year warranty. There’s a new XV e-Boxer version for anyone who wants a petrol model but is worried about fuel economy. The 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid should return around 36mpg, which is the same as you’re likely to see in the much slower non-hybrid 1.6-litre version.

MORE ABOUT THE SUBARU XV E-BOXER

2. Range Rover Evoque

Ground clearance 212mm

Used deals from £35,500
Monthly finance from £464*

The original Range Rover Evoque quickly established itself as the must-have compact SUV for the fashion-conscious motorists of Britain. The current Evoque is even better, with improved off-road ability, a revamped interior and upgraded technology. These factors help to keep it ahead of the game against other stylish relatively small SUVs.

Few Evoques will venture too far off-road, but intrepid explorers will discover that the ‘baby Range Rover’ possesses many of the off-road talents of its larger siblings. Opt for a four-wheel-drive version for Land Rover’s 'Terrain Response 2' selectable driving modes and a wading depth of 600mm and you should be able to tackle the worst roads the UK has to throw at you.

RANGE ROVER EVOQUE BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Suzuki Jimny

Ground clearance 210mm

Used deals Limited stock

Long waiting lists, demand outstripping supply and used cars worth more than the manufacturer’s list price. No, not an exotic supercar, but the adorable Suzuki Jimny. This little 4x4 can show many larger and more expensive SUVs a clean pair of tyres when the going gets tough. Don’t confuse the Jimny with a style-centric crossover that looks like an off-roader but doesn't have the hardware underneath - this is the real deal.

A low-range gearbox for greater control when tackling steep hills, four-wheel-drive and a lightweight body combine to give the Jimny mountain goat-levels of off-road ability. Some versions even come with hill descent control for added stability when venturing down a hillside or mountain. BuyaCar normally has a few Jimnys available, but check out our vans section for the commercial version, if you're open to one of these.

SUZUKI JIMNY BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Dacia Duster

Ground clearance 210mm

Used deals from £10,399
Monthly finance from £173*

The Dacia Duster is a family-friendly SUV for the cost of a supermini when new. Prices start from around £13,500, so it represents incredible value for money when you’re getting a used one, as prices are even lower. BuyaCar prices for the current version, introduced in 2018, start from £10,399, so you won’t mind getting your tyres muddy with one of these.

Most versions of the Duster are front-wheel-drive, so they’re ideal if you spend most of your time on the road, though you'll still get the benefit of the car's high ground clearance. They’re cheaper to purchase, while the improved fuel economy that comes from not having a heavy four-wheel-drive system will result in lower running costs.

Opting for a four-wheel-drive Duster will increase your fuel bills while improving your chances of conquering really rough terrain, so it's worth considering whether you'll get the benefit of having four-wheel-drive. If four-wheel-drive appeals to help you deal with snow in the winter, meanwhile, it's worth considering whether getting a two-wheel-drive model and fitting winter tyres could be a wiser idea. Four-wheel-drive may help you get moving on snow, but winter tyres will help you to get moving and to stop safely.

DACIA DUSTER BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Jeep Renegade

Ground clearance 210mm

Used deals from £29,995
Monthly finance from £441*

With its unmistakable Jeep styling, you’d expect the Renegade to be ready for anything. Some caution is required because most Renegades leave the factory in two-wheel-drive form, so you’ll have to look a little harder for a four-wheel-drive version. You’ll also need the Trailhawk model for the maximum 210mm ground clearance.

The Renegade Trailhawk is a formidable off-road vehicle - especially considering how small it is. A powerful diesel engine, a lower gear to pull it out of sticky situations, beefier tyres, hill descent control and a tow hook are just a few of the items in its arsenal, edging it close to the larger and more expensive off-roaders.

JEEP RENEGADE BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Mitsubishi ASX

Ground clearance 190mm

Used deals from £13,995
Monthly finance from £229*

With tough four-wheel-drive pick-ups and off-roaders like the L200 and Shogun to its name, it’s safe to say that Mitsubishi knows a thing or two about off-roading. It has used this experience to create the ASX, one of a number of small SUVs available in the UK. It’s been on sale for a decade, but cars built after the 2019 update are the best of the bunch if you can stretch to one of these.

A four-wheel-drive option was reintroduced, offering a choice of driving modes via an electronically controlled centre differential, which allows you to send power to different combinations of wheels. 2WD sends power to the front wheels for the best fuel economy, while 4WD AUTO dishes out power according to the conditions. In 4WD LOCK mode, up to 1.5 times the level of power is sent to the rear wheels than the front ones to improve traction on poor surfaces.

MITSUBISHI ASX BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Suzuki Vitara

Ground clearance 185mm

Used deals from £9,699
Monthly finance from £159*

The Suzuki Vitara offers exceptional value for money, with low prices, a long list of standard equipment and a good record for reliability. It’s also great to drive, thanks to its lightweight body and excellent engines, including a powerful 1.4-litre Boosterjet petrol option.

Suzuki is currently the only car company in the UK to offer a four-wheel-drive option on every model in its range, and its AllGrip system is fitted as standard to the Vitara SZ5. The system allocates power to the rear wheels if it detects wheel slippage, providing reassurance in slippery conditions. Front-wheel-drive versions get the same ground clearance without the off-road ability, so if you only need high ground clearance to deal with a rough track up to your house, this could be a good option.

SUZUKI VITARA BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Ground clearance 183mm

Used deals from £15,700
Monthly finance from £236*

A five-year warranty and Mitsubishi’s heritage in the 4x4 world are two reasons why you might choose the Eclipse Cross over any of its compact SUV rivals. Its 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine offers a decent amount of pulling power and good fuel economy, with a reasonable official fuel economy figure of 37.7mpg from the two-wheel-drive variant.

Fuel economy takes a slight hit in the four-wheel-drive Eclipse Cross, as this is heavier and more complex, but the 'CVT' automatic gearbox delivers a smooth driving experience to go with the reassurance of the 4WD system. The Eclipse Cross also benefits from what Mitsubishi calls Super-All Wheel Control, which manages the power and braking forces of all four wheels for more control on slippery surfaces.

MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE CROSS BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Suzuki Ignis

Ground clearance 180mm

Used deals from £6,962
Monthly finance from £117*

SUVs don’t come much smaller than the Suzuki Ignis. This most compact of compact SUVs is a city car with aspirations of living in the jungle, with its 4x4-inspired styling, high driving position and excellent ground clearance. Four-wheel-drive is an option for those who want to venture off the beaten track.

There’s a minimum of 180mm ground clearance on all versions, so the Ignis is great at dealing with speed bumps, potholes and bumps in the road. The AllGrip four-wheel-drive system is optional on the SZ5 model and comes with hill descent control and Grip Control, which activates at speeds of up to 18mph for help when dealing with slippery surfaces.

SUZUKI IGNIS BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Fiat Panda Cross

Ground clearance 161mm

Used deals Limited stock

The Fiat Panda Cross is an even more rugged version of the excellent Panda 4x4. The available ground clearance depends on the engine, with figures of up to 161mm for the 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol version and 158mm for the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel. Those figures are higher than the standard Panda 4x4 (150mm).

The Panda Cross is designed for those who want to venture even further off-road, as highlighted by the additional body armour and underbody protection. Even the mud and snow tyres fitted from new are larger than the tyres on the Panda 4x4 and are designed for optimum performance over wet, dry and snowy terrain.

FIAT PANDA BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Cheap seven-seater cars

  2. Cars with the best warranty

  3. Cars with leather seats