When considering 4×4 vehicles in the commercial sector the spotlight naturally turns on pick-up trucks, but not everyone needs an LCV with either this degree of off-road capability or wants one of such imposing bulk. Additionally, some customers may require the load capacity of a large panel van when they venture off the beaten track.
The 4×4 sector caters for these operators. Admittedly, it is a niche segment – sales in the first five months of the year had not quite edged up to 3000 and were slightly down on the same period last year – the only segment to record a deficit in a recovering market. But although demand may be low it is fairly consistent and recent months have seen some new additions to the sector.
Mitsubishi has recently  introduced the third generation of its Outlander, with the 4Work commercial version based on the seven-seat passenger SUV. The LCV is converted in the UK so gets the same cabin as the passenger vehicle, offering a level of car comfort and material fit and finish not familiar to most LCV drivers.
A half-height steel bulkhead with mesh upper section separates the front seats from the carpeted load area, which is accessed from either one of the rear side doors or via the tailgate. The 4Work is essentially the off-roader with the seats taken out and the rear windows blocked in. Ease of loading is not a strong point but it has a decent-sized load area of 1.7m3, so if you don’t need a payload of much more than half a tonne it might make sense. The 4Work comes with a price tag of £20,812 excluding VAT and is powered by Mitsubishi’s 2.2-litre DOHC diesel engine coupled to a six-speed manual transmission. It is Euro6-compliant with official CO2 emissions of 138g/km.
Another 4×4 van based on a passenger-carrying off-roader is the Ssangyong Korando CSX. Launched at the start of 2013, the CSX is the third LCV from the Korean brand, joining the Korando Sports pick-up and Rexton CS 4×4 van. It features a torque-on-demand all-wheel drive system, running in front-wheel drive mode in normal conditions, the van senses any loss of grip and allocates power to the wheels that need it most. There’s also a 4×4 lock mode for speeds under 25mph. It is priced £15,721 excluding VAT, has a payload of 433kg, a load capacity of 1.3m3 and a 2.0-tonne towing capability. Power comes from a meaty 149hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine. Access to the load area is via the tailgate or either of the rear doors, which feature panels replacing the side glass.
Ssangyong UK claims the CSX is the only 4×4 van to come backed by a five-year, limitless-mileage warranty.
The Land Rover Defender is a bone fide 4×4 legend, but one not usually noted for its environmental friendliness. At the Geneva motor show in February, however, Land Rover unveiled seven electric Defender research models. The standard diesel engine and gearbox in the 110 Defenders have been replaced by a 70kW (94hp), 330Nm electric motor twinned with a 300V lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 27kWh, giving a range of more than 50 miles. In low-speed off-road use it can last for up to eight hours before recharging, Land Rover claims.
The battery can be fully charged
by a 7kW fast charger in four hours, or a portable 3kW charger in 10 hours.
Elsewhere Mercedes has got 4×4 versions of its new Sprinter lined up with power outputs of 129, 163 and 190hp, and if a
full 4×4 system is not required
then traction-enhanced light commercials are available from the likes of Citroen, Peugeot, Renault, Fiat and Volkswagen.