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What's the most reliable off-road mini-SUV?

I work for an organization that often goes to remote locations to do work. By work, I mean that we often have to haul people, heavy equipment, messy equipment, and gear to places that take us off road. We were considering maybe looking at a mini-SUV that can go off-road, but also haul just people when needed. Has anyone used their Mini SUV for actual SUV purposes before? And if so, what’s a reliable, dependable one? We are kinda hard on our vehicles.

How big is the equipment you’d be carrying around? Are we talking about shovels and pick axes or generators and drill presses?

Towing capacity is the first factor to consider, do you have any idea of what your max loads might be?

The favorite vehicle in the Australian Outback is the Toyota 4Runner. It featured prominently in the Crocodile Dundee movie.

This is a tough machine that displaced both the Land Rover and the US Jeep. It can carry a sizable load and at least 4 passengers.`

Having lived in Asia for 5 years and having worked in the Middle East, I find now these vehicles all over, including the Arctic.

Mini SUVs are not off-road vehicles. They are car-based vehicles made for driving on paved roads. If you want something made for off-road use, it should be a truck-based SUV or a Jeep. I am thinking something like a Chevy Suburban or a Ford Expedition is what you need.

4Runner would be my first choice, too.

The Japanese forest service used Suzuki Samurai vehicles before they ever came to the US, but they are tippy and underpowered. Toyotas are used round the world for about everything and are certainly reliable, and all but one model of Jeep are designed and built for off-road use, and are certainly rugged, despite their mostly suburban owners not taking them through much more then a light snow or mud puddle.

If you live in the USA, I would probably get the tried n’ true Jeep or a 4WD pickup, despite it not being as small as you mention. I think it will hold up better in the long run and be cheaper to fix if it breaks.

I suggest you consider a Tacoma crew cab compact pick up. If you do indeed do true off roading, only Toyota and Nissan provide a full line of off road ready compact vehicles including the Nissan XTerra and Toyota FJ Cruiser. Both of which have full frames and are classified as compacts.

Pick up trucks with extended cabs tend to be tougher with their full frames then any compact SUV built today without a frame. You WILL need a framed vehicle to maintain clearance when carrying gear and people off road. Otherwise, you really have to go really expensive and/or really big. The Jeep Wrangler is good off road and comes with an extended seating capacity. But, it is less capable, less reliable, less comfortable and more expensive then a Tacoma or Nissan crew cab pick up.

I have a 4 Runner…they are good but too expensive to actually use as a work vehicle…get a compact crew cab pick up. It’s a no brainer. Be aware, Ford, Chevy, GMC and Dodge make nothing that is capable off road without extensive modification excepting the Humvee copies. Nissan and Toyota alone own the inexpensive off road market for both SUVs and pick ups and there are plenty of them on the used market.

Last night the TV show Frontline on PBS had a special about Yemen. A reporter and his caneraman had obtaianed permission through a “contact” within Al Quida to visit normally restricted areas, including a town ruled by Al Quida and a shut down schoolhouse where Al Quida is holding 90 prisoners. This was the “real deal”. Rebel warriers, terrorists, and Al Quida leaders wanted worldwide.

I had often heard the line that rebels can always be found loaded into the backs of Toyota pickups, so I paid attention. It is true. Almost every single vehicle in the entire Frontline special was a Toyota. To me that speaks volumes about the reliability, dependability, and ruggedness of Toyota trucks.

Toyota should use that as a slogan: “Toyota: The choice of terrorists worldwide!”

… or “When you absolutely, positively need to deliver your martyr on time …” :wink:

Reliability is only part of the reason. The other reason is serviceability and how easily parts are to get. That’s one reason the Range Rover was so popular in the very remote areas. Very easy to work on…parts could be interchanged from a wide range of other Range Rovers.

My criteria is that if you can slide under the vehicle on a creeper and change the oil and filter with room to spare without jacking it up, you probably have the beginnings of a vehicle with good off road capability.

My criteria is that if you can slide under the vehicle on a creeper and change the oil and filter with room to spare without jacking it up, you probably have the beginnings of a vehicle with good off road capability.

Ground clearance is a MUST for off-roading. My 4runner is decent. I can’t think of any small SUV that would be good for off-roading. But then again my definition of off-roading might be different.

Mike, I had a Suzuki Sidekick that I squeezed 235/75-15 tires on and used off road. It was awesome in the mud and every bit as good in most conditions as my neighbor’s son’s Jeep wrangler. Down side ? Don’t drive it over 40 mph on a windy day.

Thanks for the chuckle, Whitey.

I would say a Nissan xterra 4x4, or a nissan frontier 4x4. We own both of those cars and regularly ended off road in the El Dorado hills. Driven in mud, rain, and snow without any issues.

I would say a Nissan xterra 4x4

The Xterra is a MID-Size SUV. NOT a small SUV. The Xterra is slightly smaller then the Pathfinder.

At over 4000 lbs. and highway mileage of just 20 mpg, an X Terra would have to be classified as a “lardo”. It’s within a few hundred pounds of the enlarged 4Runner and outweighs a base Wrangler by nearly 1000 lbs.
But, I would give it top consideration as a very good off road vehicle. The pick up trucks that these SUVs are often based are much lighter and my first choice if compact is a key choice label. Put a cap on a base 4 wd Tacoma or Frontier and other then passenger room, you have an excellent “compact” off roader for two people and lots of gear.

I have a neighbor who had 4Runners for a long time and now has a Tacoma crew cab for less money and more practicality. When my 4 Runner needs replacement, I will go back to an extended cab compact pick up for sure.