Best cars for snow

Don't get stuck when snowflakes strike: these are the best cars for snow driving, from cheap hatchbacks to luxurious SUVs

James Mills
Sep 18, 2018

Will the winter weather bring another snowpocalypse? While one day off work or school can be an entertaining distraction, any more than can become a serious inconvenience.

That’s why those that live in areas frequently affected by snow during the winter should choose their next car wisely. It needs to be able to plough through powder with the confidence of a Winter Olympics ski champion and help ensure the children get to school or drivers don’t have to take a day off work.

What not all motorists may appreciate is that a good car for snowy roads doesn’t necessarily need four-wheel drive, which adds to a car’s cost and impacts on its fuel economy. Many cars will tackle the white stuff competently when fitted with nothing more than a set of tyres designed for winter weather driving conditions.

 

Best cars for driving in snow

Choosing the right car for your needs will mainly depend on where you live and the type of terrain you typically tackle, not to mention practical requirements and budget.

What's right for someone living off the beaten track in a rural area is likely to prove overkill for someone in the suburbs who travels along well-gritted roads. Below, you'll find a mix of cars that are capable in snow across different sizes and price points. Click on any category below to jump to our picks or scroll down for all recommendations and advice on picking a car that's good in snow.

 

Best cars for snow: top features

Winter weather packs are available on a wide range of modern cars. So used car buyers should ask whether a car includes such a pack, or consider ordering it with their next new car.

They typically include an electrically heated windscreen, so ice and snow melts away in a moment without you having to reach for an ice scraper. Other equipment may include heating for the wing mirrors and windscreen washer fluid, which stops them freezing over when driving. Heated seats are now available in the front and back of certain cars, and the latest nicety is a heated steering wheel – something you’ll never want to be without once you’ve tried it.

Winter tyres are engineered to give more grip on cold or snow-covered roads than normal tyres. Once the temperature drops to 7C or below, regardless of whether it’s sunny, raining, there’s a frost about or snow on the road, winter tyres make any car more surefooted. That’s because low temperatures make the rubber of regular tyres harder, so the winter versions are formulated to be softer. They also have a different tread pattern, which improves grip on snow. 

Front-wheel drive cars have the weight of the engine over the driven wheels, which ensures superior traction on slippery surfaces compared with rear-wheel drive cars. The majority of cars are powered in this way. Fit a front-wheel drive car with winter tyres and they will cope with most winter conditions encountered in the UK.

Four-wheel drive (or all-wheel drive) means that the engine is able to send its power to all four wheels. This ensures superior traction when accelerating, so you're less likely to suffer spinning wheels on frosty or snow-covered roads. However, it can’t defy the laws of physics and prevent a car from skidding, either in a corner or when braking.

Ground clearance is the space between the bottom of the car and the road. The more there is, the less likely it is that your car will get caught on piles of compacted snow or obstacles beneath the powder. So consider a car that has a raised ground clearance; many estate cars, crossovers and SUVs sit higher off the road but are still two-wheel drive, making them more affordable and frugal than four-wheel drive models

 

Best small affordable cars for driving in snow

They might not tower over the road like big off-road sport utility vehicles (SUVs), but small affordable cars have a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to winter weather.

The first is their weight: lighter cars are less likely to sink and get stuck in the snow, while their size means that they can nip between obstacles more effectively. A good number use new systems to help the front wheels maintain grip in slippery conditions or along unmade tracks; other small cars are actually available with four-wheel drive. Here are some of the best for driving in snow.

 

Audi A1 quattro

Latest four-wheel drive Audi deals from £11,990
Finance from £108 per month

The baby in Audi’s range has just had a complete makeover and emerged looking more stylish and distinct. Inside, there’s a dashboard fit for the digital age, and under the bonnet is a range of super-efficient engines. But it’s the option of four-wheel drive – or quattro, in Audi speak – for the A1 that will be of interest to drivers after a compact car that can tackle the worst of winter weather. The car is due to go on sale shortly, when Audi will announce which cars are going to be available with quattro.

 

Citroen C3 Aircross

Latest Citroen C3 Aircross deals from £8,490
Finance from £143 per month

This Citroen comes with the option of Grip Control; an electronic system that monitors the road conditions and adjusts the amount of power sent to the wheels for maximum grip. It means that front-wheel drive C3 Aircross models fitted with Grip Control can breeze through winter conditions, proving that you don't need a big 4x4 to drive on snow. Mud, snow and sand settings ensure that it's optimised for the surface you're driving on.
Citroen C3 Aircross buying guide

 

Dacia Duster

Latest Dacia Duster deals from £7,880
Finance from £138 per month

Brand new four-wheel drive Dusters (shown above) are on sale for around £12,500 before any discounts, and you can pick up a previous-generation used Duster for half that price. That makes the car cheaper than most Ford Fiestas, and there’s no doubting which one you would choose if you wanted to get anywhere in the snow.

Admittedly, for the rest of the year, you would find the Fiesta quieter, more nimble and considerably better equipped, but many will prefer the workhorse qualities of the Duster.

 

Fiat Panda 4x4

Latest Fiat Panda 4x4 deals from £7,787
Finance from £150 per month

Don’t be fooled by the Panda’s pintsize, cartoonish character. Anyone that’s owned one will testify to its tenacious ability at tackling rough roads and winter weather. 

Its four-wheel drive system operates automatically to keep you moving in the snow, or you can lock it to split power evenly between the front and back when the going gets tough. It also comes with a higher ride height than most other Pandas, allowing it to pass over drifts of heavier snow with less chance of getting stuck. There’s a choice of a 0.9-litre, turbocharged petrol engine or more muscular diesel motor.
Fiat Panda buying guide

 

Mini Countryman

Latest Mini Countryman deals from £8,899
Finance from £138 per month

If you're looking for afforable, then the previous-generation Mini Countryman (pictured) fits the bill. The cheapest versions don't have four-wheel drive fitted, but the raised ground clearance helps them cope with tricky driving conditions, and a set of winter tyres will provide all the grip most drivers need from this type of car in the winter.

If you’d feel more comfortable having a Countryman with four-wheel drive, search for models with ALL4, Mini’s name for the 4x4 system. These cars cost from £10,000 on BuyaCar, with finance from £168 per month.

 

Suzuki Ignis

If you need an affordable car that’s fit for an adventure or two off the beaten track, the Suzuki Ignis makes for a good alternative to the Fiat Panda 4x4. It has the look and stance of a 4x4, but four-wheel drive is actually an option, called Allgrip. Fit it, and this little car is like a mountain goat, able to scurry about places that might faze bigger, more expensive SUVs. There aren't a great number of Allgrip models around, so it's worth moving quickly if you see one that you want.

 

Best SUVs and crossovers for driving in snow

Drivers don’t necessarily need an SUV for driving in the snow, but many will want one for ferrying their family about. These are practical family cars with a raised seating position that gives a commanding view of the road and traffic.

Some can be bought with front-wheel drive, keeping down the price and running costs, others are available with four-wheel drive. With a set of winter tyres, even front-wheel drive models should confidently handle winter weather in Britain.

 

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Latest Land Rover Discovery Sport deals from £21,899
Finance from £317 per month

Most SUVs are designed to be best on Tarmac roads. Their ability to scramble up slippery slopes and crawl across rocks is very much an afterthought.

But Land Rover still builds its cars to conquer the unknown, even if a churned-up grassy lane is likely the toughest test it will ever encounter. It works well for the company’s marketing strategy, but also makes their cars a bit more dependable in winter. In theory, if the road is blocked, you could take the Land Rover Discovery Sport on a shortcut across country instead, assuming the tyres are appropriate for the terrain.

Cars with the cheapest eD4 engine are less capable, as they don't have four wheel drive. Avoid this engine and should also have seven seats, which are included as standard on most models. The back row is on the snug side, though.
Land Rover Discovery Sport buying guide

 

Peugeot 3008

Latest Peugeot 3008 deals (current model) from £12,000
Finance from £188 per month

You could argue that Peugeot’s engineers understand better than most what drivers need from an SUV. Its current 3008, which went on sale in 2016, is one of the best crossovers that you can buy, but doesn’t even feature four-wheel drive. How? It includes a Grip Control system, which gives a surprisingly amount of traction on slippery surfaces.

This is a software system that can adjust the amount of power sent to the front wheels, helping to prevent the car slipping on snow when accelerating. It may not be quite as effective as a proper four-wheel drive car but, when combined with winter tyres, it's all that most drivers will need.
Peugeot 3008 buying guide

 

Skoda Kodiaq

Latest Skoda Kodiaq deals from £22,950
Finance from £324 per month

Need an affordable, spacious seven-seat SUV that comes with the latest tech and is available with four-wheel drive? Look no further than Skoda’s acclaimed Kodiaq. The Sportline or Scout (pictured) models are a bit more expensive but look better than regular models and come with a host of extra equipment.

All Kodiaq 4x4 variants can tackle snow without sending a shiver down your spine, but the Scout adds a little more capability for rough-roads, with underbody protection to prevent damage and Off-Road Assist, which helps manage the Kodiaq’s speed off-road and works in conjunction with hill-descent assist, which controls your speed on steep slopes.
Skoda Kodiaq buying guide

 

Subaru Forester

Generations of farmers swear by the Subaru Forester. It has four-wheel drive, is raised off the ground, boasts rugged mechanical parts and generally doesn’t go wrong.

That’s a finding reflected by plenty of Forester owners, in the 2016 Auto Express Driver Power consumer satisfaction survey. It was ranked sixth out of 150 cars - something you’ll be glad of when you’re driving in freezing temperatures with snow falling heavily all around you.

 

Toyota Land Cruiser

The Land Cruiser makes for an unstoppable family car that can seat seven in some degree of comfort. Its secret to breezing the snow is a wealth of four-wheel drive mechanical hardware that is complemented by the latest electronic technology. Together they ensure that when the going gets tough, the Land Cruiser gets going.

Admittedly, its interior is on the drab side for such an expensive car (prices start from around £34,000) and the four-cylinder diesel engine and automatic gearbox are far from the most sophisticated, in terms of both performance and refinement, but few cars are as capable as this 4x4.
Toyota Land Cruiser buying guide

 

Volvo XC40

Latest Volvo XC40 deals from £13,780
Finance from £250 per month

Just as Scandinavian drama has set the standard by which other TV shows follow, so Volvo’s new XC40 leads the way in the small SUV scene. This is an outstanding car, a class-leading product that shows it’s possible for a comparatively small car company to do a better job than the German giants in the premium SUV market.

Whether you choose a front-wheel drive model or all-wheel drive version (AWD) is up to you. All trim levels are available with Volvo’s AWD system if you want it. But regardless of which you go for, the XC40 is a seriously impressive SUV.
Volvo XC40 buying guide

 

Best family cars for driving in snow

In an industry where consumers demand choice, it’s no surprise that today’s family cars bear little resemblance to those of two decades ago. There are now specialist estate cars that can venture off the beaten track and upmarket sports saloons that come with four-wheel drive, showing that drivers don’t have to buy an imposing SUV to make headway in the worst of the winter weather.

Audi A4 allroad

The Audi A4 is one of the most quiet and comfortable cars in its class. But in the guise of the allroad, it is built for those who intend to tow, tackle a slippery slipway or need a family estate that can stay surefooted on snow just as well as it can carry the family Labrador in the boot.

Audi has raised the ground clearance compared with a standard A4 Avant, fitted some natty looking additions to the bodywork and equipped it with four-wheel drive and – with some versions – adjustable suspension that gives a pillow-soft ride over even the roughest roads. The current model (pictured) is available with Audi's latest technology (as an option) but the cheapest versions are from the previous generation, which offer a similar driving experience.
Audi A4 allroad buying guide

 

BMW 5 Series

For proof you don’t need to buy an SUV or even jacked-up estate car, see the current BMW 5 Series. This is the best large saloon car that money can buy, and these days BMW’s engineers have addressed its poor traction in snow by fitting select models with xDrive, an accomplished four-wheel drive system.

With a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines, and a wealth of onboard technology and one of the best driving experiences money can buy, it’s the yardstick by which other cars are judged
BMW 5 Series buying guide

 

Skoda Superb

Latest Skoda Superb 4x4 deals from £19,495
Finance from £290 per month

Think of the latest Skoda Superb as value-for-money alternative to an Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series and you won’t go far wrong. It is exceptionally spacious, delightfully quiet and the interior feels far removed from Skodas of old.

The latest hatchback looks a little like a saloon, and is supremely practical, with a boot that’s big enough to camp in. But it’s the addition of four-wheel drive that we suspect will be of most use to drivers after a smart car that’s fit for the next snowmageddon event.
Skoda Superb buying guide

 

Volvo V60 Cross Country

Latest Volvo V60 Cross Country deals from £9,865
Finance from £168 per month

Like the Audi A4 allroad, the V60 Cross Country is an estate car that’s been decked out in an adventurer’s wardrobe. It sits 65mm off the ground, handy in deep snow or on rutted tracks.

The Volvo is fitted with technology that helps it to be efficient on the road, but competent off it, so muddy hills and rocky tracks shouldn’t spell too much trouble. The rest of the car is overshadowed by alternatives - such as the Mercedes C-Class, which are more luxurious, but it means that you should be able to get a good discount.

 

Best luxury cars for driving in snow

Range Rover

Latest Range Rover deals from £38,420
Finance from £499 per month

It’s the king of the mountain, the car that will not only make it to the top of the world but signals to everyone else below that you’ve done rather well for yourself.

Its capability off-road or when towing is the stuff of legend. But for most owners, the true appeal of the Range Rover is that it’s a relaxing luxury car that will speed them from A to B in complete comfort. Whether up to its axles in mud, surfing the sand on a beach or wafting across snow-covered roads, there’s little that prevents a Range Rover from reaching its destination.
Range Rover buying guide

 

Lexus RX450h

Drivers don’t have to buy big, brash 4x4s with gas-guzzling petrol or diesel engines to stay out of trouble in winter weather. Cars like the Lexus RX450h show there’s an alternative, with a hybrid powertrain that is cleaner, comparatively fuel efficient and lets you announce at dinner parties that you’re trying to do your bit for the environment.

The RX450h won’t be to everyone’s taste – its styling is deliberately bold – but we suspect that the plush interior and Lexus’ legendary reputation for outstanding customer satisfaction will simply add to this snow-car’s appeal.
Lexus RX buying guide

 

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

The Sport Turismo is like a Panamera only, er, not ugly. It only comes with four-wheel drive, which means traction on frost- or snow-covered roads is assured.

However, unlike, say, a Cayenne SUV, the Panamera Sport Turismo sits lower to the road. This can be bad, if you have a holiday home at the end of a remote track and need extra ground clearance to avoid reshaping the underside of the car. However, it can also be good, because you get to enjoy a luxury car that feels more faithful to Porsche’s sports car roots.

 

Volvo XC90

One of the best large seven seat SUVs on sale, the XC90 is a haven of calm that somehow brings out the best in a family and helps journeys pass by without drama. That’s thanks to an interior that is straight out of the Scandinavian book of designer-cool.

The T8 model has proven popular, as its plug-in hybrid technology makes it surprisingly tax efficient for company car drivers. But for most private drivers, the D5 diesel is the XC90 to plump for, as it’s affordable to buy and more economical on a long drive. All models come with four-wheel drive, too.
Volvo XC90 buying guide

 

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