Serious off-roaders can’t ignore a vehicle’s ground clearance. This lets you climb over massive rocks and power through streams and rivers. Without it, you’re stuck sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else have fun. That’s why even some compact SUVs, like the Ford Bronco, are getting serious ground clearance straight out of the factory, so you can forget the lifts.
2021 Ford Bronco: 11.6 inches of ground clearance
If you’re looking for major ground clearance, you want the Ford Bronco with the Sasquatch package — when it becomes available anyway. It comes complete with HOSS, or High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension, which allows you to go farther off the beaten path.
The ground clearance is also fantastic. According to Car and Driver, the Bronco gets 11.6 inches of ground-clearing goodness. Add in 35-inch tires, and you’re good to go.
2021 Jeep Wrangler: 10.8 inches of ground clearance
It’s hard to discuss off-roading without at least giving the Jeep Wrangler a shout-out. The Wrangler is not only one of the most recognizable off-road SUVs out there, but it’s also one of the oldest.
Edmunds reports that the 2021 Jeep Wrangler provides a respectable 10.8 inches of ground clearance.
2021 Jeep Cherokee: 10.8 or 8.7 inches of ground clearance
The 2021 Jeep Cherokee may not have as many fans as the Wrangler, but it’s a great vehicle for anyone who wants an SUV that’s as adept on-road as it is off. According to Car Indigo, the 2021 Cherokee gets the same ground clearance as the Wrangler, 10.8 inches. But that’s only for the Trailhawk edition.
Otherwise, you’ll get 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Though some drivers may not mind, this is something you need to be aware of if you’re planning on crossing any deep streams.
2021 Subaru Forester: 8.7 inches of ground clearance
Subaru vehicles are known and loved for their standard all-wheel drive. It sort of takes away the chance of buyer’s remorse as you realize the vehicle you bought is a front-wheel drive. But can Subies go off-road?
The Forester can. Subaru reports that this compact SUV has 8.7 inches of ground clearance. It may not be able to keep up with the big dogs like the Bronco and Wrangler, but it’s good for some lighter off-roading. There may not be any rock crawling or 4×4 tracks in your Forester’s future, but you can definitely have a good time in it.
2021 Toyota RAV4: 8.4 inches
It’s hard to beat a Toyota. Other automakers have been trying to take on the auto juggernaut for years, and so far, Toyota is still topping the charts. The 2021 RAV4 is no exception. It comes with a ground clearance of 8.4 inches, according to Edmunds.
Though rock crawling is out of the question, you can hit some mildly difficult off-road trails. The best part is you’ll be comfortable in the 2021 RAV4’s sumptuous interior.
Not all compact SUVs have the ground clearance to go off-road but are still tall enough to drive in messy weather. These include the Nissan Rogue with 8.2 inches, the Volkswagen Tiguan with 7.9 inches, the Honda CR-V with 7.8, the Ford Escape with 7.8, the Mazda CX-5 with 7.5 inches, the Kia Sportage with 6.4 inches, and the Hyundai Tucson with 6.4 inches.
Though none of those SUVs are suitable for rock climbing, they all have their own charm. Their lower ground clearance also makes them easier to get in and out of for those who are either short or have difficulty climbing in and out of tall vehicles.