If you are on the lookout for a compact car that still offers decent ground clearance, opting for a small SUV is most likely going to be your best bet. After all, these cars are called SUVs, which means that they theoretically should be able to cope with mild off-roading.
Most compact SUVs also have all-wheel-drive, which also comes in handy when the weather conditions are damp and slippery. But these cars have to be good around town as well, and they should offer a decent amount of modern technology in the process.
There is no need to skip comfort if you want high ground clearance, as most compact SUVs these days try to offer a perfect mix of superior on-and-off-road features. Heated seats, AC, plush materials, and big-screen infotainment systems are all available on 99% of SUVs these days.
The Suzuki Jimny, Fiat Panda, Subaru XV, and the Dacia Duster are all affordable, reasonably well-equipped, and offer high ground clearance. If you want a more luxurious option, opting for a Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar E Pace, or the Volvo XC40 enables you the best mix of capability and luxury.
The Suzuki Jimny offers 210mm of ground clearance, which is more than enough for even some more serious off-roading adventures. The Jimny also benefits from superior approach and departure angles which greatly increases its off-roadability.
As a regular car, the Jimny is decently equipped and comes with a lot of equipment as standard. Suzuki has only recently refreshed the Jimny, and now is a good time as any to consider a Jimny as your do-everything type of car. On-road features are decent, but the Jimny is no Mercedes Benz G-Class, even though it wishes to be.
The Fiat Panda is somewhat of a legend when it comes to off-roading. A compact 4×4 that is capable of a remarkable off-road pace, but still keeps with the progression of today’s automotive industry. The variable all-wheel-drive is primarily two-wheel-drive until the car senses loss of traction, and only then the car is truly AWD.
Besides the off-roading credentials and a not-so-impressive 150mm of ground clearance, the Panda manages to tackle terrain that cars with twice the ground clearance sometimes can’t. This is mostly due to its skinny tires and a lightweight body. As far as snow driving is concerned, the Panda is up there with the greats.
With a ground clearance of 220mm, the Subaru XV is the king as far as the numbers are concerned. The XV is probably one of the best off-roaders money can buy at this segment, thanks to superior ground clearance and a permanent all-wheel-drive system.
On-road the Subaru does manage to disguise its off-roading identity with a modern automatic transmission, relatively decent materials, and loads of practical features. The Subaru is also a great family car as it offers lots of interior space for every passenger on board.
The Dacia brand in general is aimed at offering incredibly value-oriented cars, and the starting price of the Dacia Duster is just that. The Duster has 210mm of ground clearance, which puts it at the very top of the compact SUV segment when it comes to ground clearance.
But if we dig into the Duster, we realize that Renault made lots of compromises with the Duster as it does not really have any sense of luxury or state-of-the-art technology. The Dacia Duster is a no-nonsense, straight-up low-cost, practical car for people on a budget.
Range Rover Evoque
If you want a more upmarket experience, but still decent ground clearance, the Range Rover Evoque offers a perfect blend of unmistakable Land Rover utility and the equally unmistakable Range Rover luxury.
The Evoque offers a 212mm ground clearance and a bunch of dedicated off-roading modes which make the Evoque a breeze to drive over rough terrain. In addition to its off-roading muscles, the Evoque offers a stylish interior and exterior with lots of plush materials and state-of-the-art features and technologies.
Jaguar E Pace
If you think that the Range Rover Evoque is a bit too common or “feminine,” you should also check out the Jaguar E Pace. The E Pace offers the same ground clearance because these two are based on the same chassis under the Jaguar Land Rover umbrella.
But the difference here is basically everything else. The E Pace is more of an on-road type of car and it does not offer all that many off-roading specific features, but the E Pace is more fun to drive. No matter the differences, these two are quite similar and both of them are amazing at what they do.
The Volvo XC40 offers 210mm ground clearance, which makes the Volvo fairly interesting. It is very well known that Volvo is not all that interested in making true off-roaders, but we all know that they could do it if they wanted to.
The XC40 is the grown-up version of the Evoque and the E Pace and it certainly shows. The XC40 offers a more restrained and conservative design that tries to blend in, rather than to stand out. The XC40 is a true luxury car with loads of comfort and safety amenities one would expect from such a car.
Which German compact SUV offers the highest ground clearance?
Most German compact SUVs offer as much as 180mm of ground clearance (BMW X1/X2), but lots of them offer ground clearance as low as 140mm (Audi Q2). These cars are not made for any type of off-roading and it shows, as some of them are as low as some sedans are.
Are compact SUVs true SUVs?
Compact SUVs/Crossovers are true SUVs in the same way an Audi A3 sedan is a true sedan. There are some aspects one expects from an SUV, and that’s the availability of an AWD system, increased ground clearance, and a higher center of gravity.
Some SUVs like the Volvo XC90 don’t come standard with AWD in every market, even though one would never argue an XC90 being a true SUV. That being said, these days lots of things don’t make any sense, that’s why we have a 190mph 4-door Coupe SUV with a Lamborghini badge.
How important is ground clearance?
Decent ground clearance is important if you want to use your car on multiple different types of terrains. But ground clearance is not the only important trait of a true off-roader. Some cars like the Suzuki Jimny and the Fiat Panda function decently off-road, thanks to many other aspects.
Such aspects are a lightweight body, skinny tires, and great approach and departure angles. That’s the reason why you commonly see a Fiat Panda going places where even a Toyota Land Cruiser can’t, and that’s the type of reassurance you only get from legendary cars.