Though UK winters generally aren’t all that severe, the last thing you want to do is find yourself stuck if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
It’s why a four-wheel-drive car might be worth considering, and it’s particularly true if you live somewhere isolated and prone to snow. Even if you don’t live somewhere remote, you might just want the extra capability that a four-wheel drive brings.
A four-wheel-drive doesn’t have to mean a large SUV, either, as many shapes and sizes are available. Let’s take a look at some great used options.
The Yeti arrived as Skoda’s first SUV in 2009 and was an almost instant hit, with its relatively compact dimensions and incredibly practical interior making it a great choice for families and those that do lots of outdoor pursuits.
If you’re looking for a capable winter car, you want to opt for the ‘4×4’ version, which accounts for less than half of Yetis on the road. With used prices starting from around £3,500, this Skoda could be an ideal choice for the colder months.
BMW 120d xDrive
BMWs have traditionally come with rear-wheel-drive, and though this makes them more fun in day-to-day driving, when it comes to wintery conditions, they can often be a bit of a nightmare.
It’s why the firm has rolled out all-wheel-drive ‘xDrive’ versions on many of its more normal cars, including the 1 Series. Making it much more sure-footed in bad weather, they’re worth choosing over the regular model. Plus, in combination with the 120d diesel engine, BMW claims you could see close to 60mpg. Prices start from £6,000 for a 2013 model.
Dacia’s Duster has developed a fantastic reputation as a cut-price crossover, and when it comes to a capable winter 4×4 on a budget, it’s hard to go wrong. Sure, the Duster might be quite no-frills, but its utilitarian, no-nonsense looks and interior will appeal to those not fussed about what badge is on the bonnet.
The majority of Dusters you’ll see for sale will be front-wheel-drive, so you might have to look a bit harder for the 4×4. But if that greater capability is important, the Duster’s ability when the terrain and conditions get challenging is unlikely to disappoint. Around £4,000 will buy a 2013-registered Duster with 90,000 miles on the clock.
Subaru is a manufacturer renowned for its cars’ four-wheel-drive ability, with virtually every vehicle the brand has ever sold (whether that be a hatchback, SUV or estate) coming as a ‘4×4’. You can take your pick, but our vote would go for the Outback.
Based on the Legacy estate car, the Outback gets tougher styling, upgraded suspension and underbody protection to enhance its capability. The result is impressive too, with this Subaru of more use in plenty of situations than many SUVs. Used Outback prices start from as little as £2,000, though you might want to spend more for a newer, lower-mileage example.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
Land Rover has built up a superb reputation for its cars’ capability off-road, and nearly all of its vehicles would be a massive helping hand in winter or when the conditions take a turn for the worse. But our pick is the Discovery Sport – the replacement for the Freelander, introduced in 2014.
All but the entry-level diesel (D150) come with four-wheel-drive, and with the firm’s ‘Terrain Response’ system present – which includes a specific Snow setting – this Land Rover will prove fantastic winter wheels. It’s also available with up to seven seats and offers a high-quality interior too. Used Discovery Sports start from around £11,000 for a high-mileage 2015 car.
Audi TT Roadster
A convertible to use as a winter car might sound like a recipe for disaster, but thanks to Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, the TT Roadster is a drop-top you can use and enjoy all the months of the year.
Of course, the TT won’t be much use in deep snow thanks to its low ground clearance, but in rainy and colder conditions, it’s very secure and capable. Packing plenty of performance and a high-quality interior, the TT Roadster is also fantastic value for money, with high-mileage but usable examples starting from £2,500. Just make sure the Haldex all-wheel-drive system has been regularly serviced as it can prove troublesome if not.
Suzuki’s well-loved Jimny might be the obvious ‘winter car’ from this Japanese manufacturer, but with prices for that 4×4 commanding steep prices, it’s worth exploring some of Suzuki’s other models – not least the Ignis.
This dinky city car (it measures just 3.7m in length) has a trick up its sleeve in the fact it’s available with Suzuki’s lightweight ‘AllGrip’ all-wheel-drive system, which will prove very useful in winter. Equipped with a mild-hybrid petrol powertrain, it’s able to return up to a claimed 60mpg. As the second-generation Ignis wasn’t launched until 2017, you’ll pay around £11,000 for a car with 40,000 miles on the clock.