Best 4x4s in snow

Driving in snow can be stressful. Having four-wheel drive can make life easier though, so we've rounded up the best 4x4s for snowy roads

Sam Naylor
Jun 29, 2021

Driving on snowy roads can be difficult, dangerous and unpleasant if you’re not prepared. In some parts of the world it’s a normal, everyday part of life, but in the UK we don’t often get so much snow that it affects driving.

Yet on those few days each year where a white blanket of snow covers the roads and it feels impossible to get to work or school, it can feel like your car just isn’t up to the task. The good news is that we’ve put together a list of the best 4x4s for snow, so you can be prepared - whenever the next snowfall comes.

We’ve included a mix of cars here from more expensive and luxurious off-roaders to smaller, cheaper models and even some less common types of car with four-wheel drive, including an estate car and a people carrier. All have four-wheel drive, which is key for driving in snow. If all four wheels are being driven by the engine, there’s twice as much traction on the road surface, giving you a greater chance of getting moving.

Before we dive in, however, we need to talk about tyres - as they’re far more important than the car you’re driving. Winter tyres are designed for snow and harsh, low-temperature conditions and will make far more of a difference when it comes to driving safely on snow than changing your car.

In fact, we would recommend that you switch to winter tyres for driving in snow over switching to a car just because it has four-wheel drive. A four-wheel drive car on normal tyres - sometimes called summer tyres - will be worse in the snow than a two-wheel drive car fitted with winter tyres.

Consider that most of what makes driving in snow dangerous is the inability to control the car when it skids on ice and snow. Four-wheel drive cannot help you to slow down, but tyres that grip even on cold and slippery roads will - and that’s why winter tyres are mandatory in virtually any country that experiences regular snow in the winter.

All the cars below are great for getting moving in snow because they’re four-wheel drive, but for the greatest safety and the ability to stop in a controlled manner on snow, too, make sure you fit a set of winter tyres when the temperatures drop, too.

Best 4x4 in the snow

1. Land Rover Discovery

Best 4x4 for all-round ability

Our pick Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TDV6 HSE
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The Land Rover Discovery is the ultimate snow car in many ways. It’s equipped for off-roading with a fantastic four-wheel drive system and clever driving modes designed to help when driving in snow and other slippery surfaces including sand - so with the right tyres it’s more than up to the job of dealing with a harsh winter. Even that means a foot of snow on the road.

The Discovery is also a brilliant family car, as it’s very luxurious and spacious inside. There’s plenty of modern tech in the latest version, although the previous model (the ‘Discovery 4’) is perhaps more appealing for off-roading despite its slightly outdated in-car tech.

We’d pick the powerful but smooth 3.0-litre diesel model but even the 2.0-litre diesel is a good choice and should be cheaper to run, though it feels less luxurious, too. Plus, the automatic gearbox on all models is smooth. Be aware that the Discovery will bring high running costs when it comes to servicing, though.

2009-2017 LAND ROVER DISCOVERY BUYERS' GUIDE

2016-PRESENT LAND ROVER DISCOVERY BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Suzuki Ignis

Best small 4x4 for snow

Our pick Suzuki Ignis 1.2 DualJet SHVS SZ5 Allgrip
Used deals Limited stock

In northern Japan, where snow is present on the roads all winter, you don’t see residents driving around in huge trucks and SUVs. Instead, they rely on small four-wheel drive cars such as the Suzuki Ingis, and there are plenty of good reasons for that.

The Ignis is one of the lightest modern cars on the road, which is excellent for maintaining control in the snow. It’s available with four-wheel drive too, and the small tyre size is also excellent in the snow as it cuts through the powder rather than gliding over the top.

The Ignis is good all-year round though, as it’s cheap to run - again, because of the light weight, which means it consumes less fuel - and fun to drive. It’s not the most spacious 4x4 around but the back seats are fine for kids, and best of all it’s affordable to purchase as well. It’s a great city car that doubles as a capable snow car in the winter.

SUZUKI IGNIS BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Subaru Forester

Best 4x4 for dependability

Our pick Subaru Forester 2.0 XE Lineartronic 4x4
Used deals Limited stock

The Subaru Forester is a great choice if you want a winter car that is excellent in snow but also very reliable, rugged and good at off-roading as well. It’s known to be a dependable car and owners love it. In fact, the Forester is so sought after second-hand that prices are a little high next to other similar options from other brands.

The permanent four-wheel drive system that Subaru fits to its cars is excellent and delivers loads of traction on surfaces like snow. You’ll need the right tyres, but if you’re prepared for a snowy spell then you won’t go wrong with a four-wheel drive Subaru of any kind - we’ve picked the Forester because it’s spacious and practical as well.

It does have a few drawbacks. The interior isn’t as pleasant as some models such as the Skoda Karoq, and it’s quite expensive to run. The petrol engine is characterful but uses quite a lot of fuel, and while the Forester is good to drive, it’s not the most comfortable.

4. Dacia Duster

Best 4x4 for value

Our pick Dacia Duster 1.2 TCe 4x4
Used deals Limited stock

If you want a four-wheel drive SUV but you have a very limited budget then the Dacia Duster is well worth considering. You’ll see plenty of these driving around the French Alps in the winter, which gives you an idea of how capable they are, despite the low price.

The Duster is a cheap car and the interior isn't the most upmarket, it can be noisy if you work the engine hard and there’s not a great deal of equipment included. Yet it’s still a very appealing car because it’s comfortable, good off-road and in the snow and cheap to run.

Avoid entry-level Access models as these don’t even have a radio and are very basic, but if you choose a higher specification car with four-wheel drive then you can’t go wrong. There are petrol and diesel options, and while the latter is good for towing, the petrol is a better choice for those who do shorter trips, and it’s smoother too.

DACIA DUSTER BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Kia Sorento

Best 4x4 for affordable luxury

Our pick Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDI KX-4
Used deals Limited stock

If you need a family car that has four-wheel drive and is good in the snow, but also has seven seats, consider the Kia Sorento. It’s one of the largest SUVs around but because it’s a Kia, it’s far better value than something with an upmarket German badge on the nose. Larger cars aren’t ideal for snow because of their weight but not everyone can fit their life into a small, light car, so it still could be a wise option.

The Sorento was an award winner in the 2020 Auto Express used car awards and for good reason; it’s cheaper even than similar rivals such as the Skoda Kodiaq, yet offers loads of interior space, plenty of tech and models up to those that are seven years old are covered by the original manufacturer warranty.

The 197hp 2.2-litre diesel engine is a punchy unit and while it’s not all that economical - because the Kia is heavy - it comes with four-wheel drive so should be good for dealing with snowy conditions, as long as you’ve fitted winter tyres. The interior is excellent quality and should stand up to the abuse of family life well, so the Sorento is a great choice for larger families.

2015-2020 KIA SORENTO BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Ford Galaxy

Best 4x4 for ultimate practicality

Our pick Ford Galaxy 2.0 EcoBlue Titanium AWD
Used deals Limited stock

If you need a second-hand four-wheel drive car that is super practical, you could buy an estate car with a big boot, or maybe a big seven-seater SUV if you have a big family. Yet few of these can compare with the mighty Ford Galaxy when it comes to interior space.

The Galaxy is huge inside, and not only does it have room for seven, when you fold the two rows of rear seats down it’s almost van-like in terms of luggage space. It’s no wonder many are used as taxis, and then sold on at mega discounts as second-hand cars. Look out for signs of wear when choosing a Galaxy as this is a telltale sign of a hard previous life.

It’s interesting that four-wheel drive versions of the Galaxy exist, as the two-wheel drive versions make more sense for most drivers. But if you’re looking for a used 4x4 that isn’t an SUV but is still great in snow - with the important winter tyres - it’s good to know that this is an option. The Galaxy is good to drive and the cabin is pleasant, plus it’s comfy on the motorway too.

FORD GALAXY BUYERS' GUIDE

7. BMW 5 Series Touring

Best 4x4 for long trips

BMW 5 Series Touring front

Our pick BMW 520d Touring xDrive M Sport
Used deals Limited stock

The BMW 5 Series is one of the best cars ever built when you factor in just how good it is at everything you throw at it. It’s as comfortable as luxury cars costing twice as much, while also being great fun on a twisty road, efficient on a long trip and really practical and spacious as well.

This all translates to being a superb second-hand choice because the fact new versions lose value so quickly means it’s really good value for the second or third owner. The xDrive models come with four-wheel drive, so they’re suited to driving in the snow with the right tyres, and in 520d form this BMW is quick enough though running costs remain low.

The estate model is called the Touring and it has loads of interior space and can easily fit large adults in the rear seats without any comfort issues. The 5 Series is great for long trips and motorway commuting, although it’s not a great option for off-roading as it doesn’t have a large amount of ground clearance; the four-wheel drive is here simply to add a little extra grip on normal roads.

BMW 5 SERIES TOURING BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Skoda Yeti

Best 4x4 for everyday driving

Our pick Skoda Yeti Outdoor 2.0 TDI Elegance 4WD DSG
Used deals Limited stock

The Skoda Yeti may be getting on a bit these days but prices remain high and that’s because there’s huge demand for this quirky yet practical small SUV. You may think that means it doesn't offer good value, but you still get plenty of car for your money here. The 'Outdoor' versions of the Yeti came with four-wheel drive and better ground clearance, so these are the ones best suited to driving in snow.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine is powerful but economical, and while we’d choose a manual model for snow driving, most of the year you’re going to prefer the 'DSG' automatic models' relaxed driving experience, especially in traffic. The Yeti is a comfortable daily car all year round, and best of all, it’s really roomy inside so makes a top family car.

As the Yeti is an older model now, it doesn’t have the modern tech of some of the cars on this list, but it’s easy to overlook this when you consider the range of talents the car has. It’s good for every kind of journey and the four-wheel drive system will be great in winter, plus it’s really practical thanks to a big boot and loads of room for passengers in the back seats. Despite this, it's still small enough to be easy to manouevre around town and simple to park.

2009-2017 SKODA YETI BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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