Snow in the UK is relatively rare and getting rarer. Met Office figures show that on average there is only 15.6 days of snow on the ground per year, although there are obviously some parts of the country, such as northern Scotland, which are more affected than others.
So buying a car specially equipped to deal with snow seems a bit extravagant, not least because a good set of winter tires would be a smarter and more affordable investment.
But if you’re determined to have a car that can handle the snow – whether it’s the occasional flurry, more serious falls in mountainous regions or regular ski trips to the continent – there are some models that are better suited than others.
Four-wheel drive or four-wheel drive for better traction is a definite plus, although be aware that this will add weight and increase the purchase price. Some buyers will emphasize a car that handles well given the difficult road conditions. And the raised position of the seat is useful for improving the view.
Here are 10 models – five bought new and five used – to consider if you’re looking to buy a car that can handle the worst of winter.
If you want a relatively affordable new car capable of driving in the snow, consider the Duster family SUV from the budget division of Renault, the Romanian brand Dacia. High ground clearance and the presence of four-wheel drive make it a smart choice in bad weather. All-wheel drive is only available with the 113 hp Blue dCi 115 diesel engine. and in two more expensive Duster trim levels, Expression (from £20,945) and Journey (from £22,145). But the diesel is a reasonable performer, especially at higher revs. And while the driving experience isn’t overly complex, Renault’s proven mechanics should mean decent reliability.
There are plenty of stylish small SUVs on the market right now, but many of them are two-wheeled “soft roaders” that look their best but struggle in the snow. If you want a car with true all-wheel drive pedigree, look no further than the Renegade. The legendary American manufacturer Jeep has earned its reputation for making tough, versatile machines, and the Renegade continues that tradition. Updated this year, all-wheel drive is only available on the pricier £35,950 Trailhawk version, equipped with a 240bhp hybrid, but with Selec-Terrain and Hill Descent Control, the Renegade will hold its own when snow begins to accumulate on the ground. The distinct square look also adds a sense of authority.
Want something more than Renegade? Tarraco can fit the bill. The SEAT is a seven-seater that impressed Auto Express so much that it was named the best large SUV in our New Car Awards 2020. £40,390 gets you the Tarraco Xperience, the cheapest all-wheel drive model. SEAT’s “4Drive” system is available with a 2.0-liter TSI gasoline engine with 187 or 242 hp, as well as a 2.0-liter TDI diesel with 197 hp. All three are equipped with a DSG automatic transmission. There is also a special rotary control that allows you to select off-road mode or snow mode depending on the conditions.
Full-on SUVs aren’t for everyone, so why not consider the Outback, which is more of a crossover station wagon? Updated for 2021, Subaru’s lifted wagon has a higher-than-average ground clearance (200 mm) than most conventional wagons, and features the Japanese company’s renowned Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, which constantly sends power to the wheels with the most grip. provide maximum grip under any conditions. A relatively low center of gravity, compared to the center of gravity of conventional SUVs, ensures smooth handling. The 2.5-litre opposed petrol engine provides more than enough power, and with the brand previously being voted number one for safety systems in the Auto Express Driver Power owner survey, you’ll definitely feel safe in the Outback.
There’s a fair chance that if you’re going to buy a car specifically for dealing with snow, you might have a decent budget at your disposal. So why not splurge on the king of premium SUVs, the Range Rover? If you want to be as comfortable as possible when winter hits, there are some better options. All-wheel drive and adjustable driving modes ensure that the car can cope, whether you are driving on a muddy road with light patches of white, on an A-road with packed snow or during a blizzard on a wet motorway. And the powerful hybrid inline-six and V8 mean you’ll never be short of power. But best of all, you’ll be protected from the elements in a beautiful cabin that rivals the cabins of the best luxury cars. With standard wheelbase models starting at £94,400, it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for.
Fiat Panda Cross
The little Panda Cross is a great choice for those who are intimidated by the prospect of driving in the snow and are looking for a small, lightweight model for maneuverability, or for those looking for a second or third cheap model for temporary use in the snow. The little adventurer from Fiat is equipped with a 0.9-liter Twinair gasoline engine with a capacity of 85 hp. and 4×4 technology, which provides excellent grip and traction on any surface, as well as a drive mode selection function that includes off-road and descent control, which should ensure that you feel safe no matter the situation. conditions underfoot. It will also take you where other city cars can’t in good weather. Around £8,000 should be enough to find a car with reasonable mileage.
With the Yeti name, you’d expect this tough-as-old-boots Skoda to excel in the snow. And it does. His stocky style makes him an unmistakable presence, but what’s more important is what’s under the skin. It’s available with both petrol and diesel engines, but only the latter came with all-wheel drive, so that’s probably the route you should go if snow driving is your priority. The 2.0-litre TDI was available in a variety of power outputs and you can pick up decent early examples from the early 2010s with respectable mileage for around £5,000. Reliability shouldn’t be an issue, as the Yeti is a past Auto Express owner survey winner.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Watch any television news or travel show footage of inhospitable, snow-capped mountain ranges like the Himalayas, and one thing is guaranteed: the Toyota Land Cruiser will make an appearance at some point. This is because the locals appreciate the ability of a large SUV to overcome the worst terrains and conditions. High-tech features such as the drive mode selection system, Multi Terrain Select and traction control ensure that you can overcome the most dangerous snowy routes, and you will do it in comfort thanks to a spacious five-, seven- or eight-seater. cabin. Toyota’s well-known reliability means that buying used is nothing to be afraid of; Top spec Land Cruiser Invincible diesel models are widely available on classifieds sites with prices to suit every budget depending on age and mileage.
Some people prioritize a car that handles well in the snow; challenging road conditions mean that confidence in the car’s ability is increasingly important. If that’s key to you, then the smaller of the two Porsche SUVs should be on your radar. With standard four-wheel drive, excellent grip and outstanding dynamic capabilities, it’s both relaxing and fun to drive. Plus, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to power, with 2.0-liter turbocharged and V6 engines. Inside, you’ll find a very comfortable cabin – something to keep in mind on continental ski trips. However, the Macan isn’t cheap; Expect to pay around £27k for a seven-year-old V6 with around 60,000 miles on the clock.
Consider a pickup truck for driving in the snow? If not, why? They’re a common sight in some of the snowiest states in the U.S. in the winter, and for good reason: four-wheel drive, go-anywhere capability, and great practicality make them a great solution for snow driving. The range of models here is smaller than in the US, but one option that is widely available used is the Ford Ranger, with prices starting at just under £2,000 for a 16-year-old double-cab model. You can use the cargo bed to store any gear – from muddy boots to emergency skid chains – and the functional cabin will withstand plenty of slush and abuse.