With snow becoming a regular hazard in winter in the UK, it’s understandable that you might be contemplating finding a car that’s more suited to the tricky conditions presented when the white stuff falls. Whether you’re negotiating a single track road with a light dusting, or an ungritted motorway caked in packed snow, here are the cars that will be the most friendly to you:
Land Rover Defender
The undisputed king of the off road, the Defender has recently been reborn with a new generation for the modern era. The original Defender was a car that simply couldn’t be beaten by terrain, and that was the M.O. of the designers when working away at the new model. With a hefty four-wheel-drive system bolstered by a handful of electronic aids, it’ll take quite a lot to get stuck in a Defender, and if you decide to add on the protective panels or the snorkel, there’s pretty much no limits to where you can go.
If you’re looking for a car specifically for the winter, chances are you’ve probably got a bit of a budget behind you. You can’t go wrong with a Rangey, although one will set you back at least £83,000 – but they’re expensive for a reason. With four-wheel-drive and adjustable driving modes, the car will almost certainly back you up no matter how deep the snow or rough the terrain. Not only will you be able to navigate the tough conditions, but you’ll be doing so in style thanks to the Range Rover’s impressive interior. It’s the premium nature (and price tag) of these cars that have made them somewhat of a status symbol on the roads.
Dacia has come a long way in the eyes of the British public since it was a running gag on Top Gear many years ago. The Duster (which can lay claim to one of the most annoying adverts of all time) offers an option that’s surprisingly friendly to the bank account when compared to most other cars on this list. With its high ground clearance and four-wheel-drive option, this car can easily help you out if you get caught in an unexpected flurry. Even though they’re relatively cheap, they’re also pretty reliable, thanks to Dacia’s close relationship with Renault.
If you’re searching for a car simply to protect yourself from the winter, but rarely actually venture off road, then a large 4×4 isn’t going to be the perfect car for you. Luckily, manufacturers have you in mind and the small SUV may well be the car for you. Perfectly usable for day-to-day running, but has that ability to be useful in a sticky situation if needed. Although not as cheap as the Duster, you get that undeniable rugged reputation that comes with the name Jeep, and with its driving aids including Selec-Terrain and Hill Descent Control, it’ll help you out even in the deepest of snow. But most importantly, it looks awesome.
So far every car on this list has either been a full blown 4×4 or a baby SUV-style car, but that’s not for everyone, to the point where some people simply turn their nose up at the thought. Thankfully, Subaru has an option for you in the shape of the Outback. Effectively a beefed up estate, the Outback sits higher than most tourers, but benefits from the lower centre of gravity that the stilted SUVs simply can’t achieve. The biggest help for you in the snow, however, is the “symmetrical all-wheel-drive” system, which sends the power to the wheel with the most grip, meaning you’ll always have the best grip levels in diminished adhesion – whether it’s snow, ice or simply a great big mud bog.
The Kodiaq wasn’t designed with off-road functionality in mind, which may set alarm bells ringing in your head as to why we’ve included it on this list. However, the Kodiaq does come with the option to include four-wheel-drive, and when you add that to the higher ground clearance than most SUVs, plus the additional option of “snow mode”, it becomes more than capable in adverse driving conditions. Due to not being intended as an off-roader from the beginning, the Kodiaq looks at home on motorways just as much as it does in a snow drift, and certainly won’t look out of place on the Autumn school run.
Volvo V90 Cross Country
Another estate car with off-road capabilities, the Cross Country version of the Volvo V90 offers a boosted ride height, all-wheel-drive and protective cladding to avoid damage caused by even the largest of obstacles. As with all Volvos, you’ll be getting the unrivalled safety of the Scandinavian giants, mixed with comfort and style to turn heads in the heaviest of snow or the brightest of summer days.
VW Golf Alltrack
Bet you weren’t expecting to see a Volkswagen Golf on this list. While it may not quite be the little hatchback we all know and love, it’s based on the estate version of the best-seller and brings with it all of the qualities that have made it one of the most popular cars over the last five decades. The Alltrack specification brings in a more resilient edge to the Golf, raising the suspension up and providing All-Wheel-Drive, meaning even the harshest of inclement weather won’t slow you down in any way.
The MINI Countryman is BMW MINI’s answer to what happens if you want to take a Mini off road. The original Minis were naturally great in the snow anyway, with a hat-trick of wins at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in the 1960s. The base model of BMW’s modern incarnation of the Mini is unlikely to be as handy in adverse weather, so in comes the beefier MINI Countryman. Offering its All4 all-wheel-drive system, you’ll be able to get out of the slickest of mud/snow slides, and look good while doing it, because, lets face it, MINIs just look great, don’t they?
Fiat Panda Cross
One of those cute-in-a-weird-way cars, the Fiat Panda may not seem like a car you expect to be taking on the roughest of terrains and the bleakest of winters. Enter the Panda Cross – no, this isn’t a bear that’s had its bamboo taken away, but instead is the plucky little hatchback with added chunky cladding to protect from bumps and scrapes, and four-wheel-drive to get you out of the stickiest of situations. It also comes with a pair of towing hooks, meaning you can even get your friends out when their less-capable cars inevitably get stuck.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota is currently running away at the front of the World Rally Championship, so you’d expect them to be able to make a car capable of dealing with the worst of conditions. The Land Cruiser does just that, thanks to its lockable differentials meaning you’re able to get through even the deepest of snow. It also offers the handy ‘crawl’ feature, meaning you’re able to work your way uphill even when it looks as tricky as a Gladiators travelator.
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