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6. Bowler Bulldog
If you want the world to know how serious you are about your weekend mud-plugging, what better way to show it than by buying a car that looks a bit like the world’s most iconic offroader – but that is actually a highly specialised customer rally raid car underneath? That’s precisely what you get with the Bowler Bulldog; an offroader built on the niche Derbyshire-based motorsport outfit’s latest ‘cross sector’ platform, and engineered well enough to convince Land Rover itself to acquire the whole company not-so-long ago.
The Bulldog is built on a bespoke monocoque chassis and uses long-travel suspension adapted from what you’ll find on a Discovery and Range Rover Sport, with heavy-duty springs and dampers there to take real punishment. Both supercharged petrol and diesel engines are available, with an enormous fuel tank delivering the desert-crossing range that many rally raid addicts require in the latter case. Opt for a petrol instead – and there’s a hell-raising 5.0-litre V8 with 567bhp, should you want it – and your fuel economy and range drops… well, quite a lot. There’s plenty of room in the flatbed for jerry cans, mind you.
The Bulldog’s performance ranges from hot-hatchback- to sports car-quick depending on engine choice, while its ride and handling is amazingly precise and controlled on the road, yet also indefatigably rugged and huge fun over ruts, gravel, mud and sand.
7. Suzuki Jimny
Suzuki markets the Jimny as the world’s only lightweight proper off-roader, which is all very true, refreshingly. The car weighs just over 1100kg but uses a ladder-frame chassis with rigid-axle suspension at each end and a low-ratio four-wheel-drive gearbox. There are, alas, no locking differentials, but with price starting below £16,000, nor would you expect there to be, and this thing really works off-road, as we’ve demonstrated with a twin-test against a Land Cruiser. Indeed, with tiny overhangs, its approach, breakover and departure angles are all superior to those of the Wrangler, which is quite something.
You will also, we guarantee, fall for the Jimny’s kei car looks, which is just as well, because its naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine isn’t particularly economical, its boot is tiny and its road manners are only a notch or two above dismal.