Best cars for winter

Last updated: Nov 26, 2013

While most 4x4 owners will never take their cars off road, increasingly unpredictable weather means that the case for owning a four-wheel-drive car is getting ever stronger.

Although four-wheel drive means that your car will have more grip in all weather conditions, it has traditionally come at the cost of increased fuel consumption and high CO2 emissions. This is something that even big 4x4s like the Range Rover Sport are starting to address, though.

Aside from the added grip of four-wheel drive, SUVs have proved popular in the UK thanks to their upright driving positions and tall interiors.

For our list of the 10 Best Cars for Winter, we have focused on models that offer the benefits of four-wheel drive, while returning solid mpg and emissions figures, so keep reading for a guide to some of the UK's best winter cars.

Dacia Duster compact SUV

If the car you’re looking for needs to be cheap to buy and relatively cheap to run, then the Dacia Duster is ideal - and it’s our 2013 Best 4x4 winner. It costs no more than many small hatchbacks, but offers four-wheel-drive grip and a more practical cabin. The interior might not be the most stylish on the market, or made from particularly nice plastics, but we can’t grumble at this price. The Duster’s 1.5-litre diesel engine, which Dacia borrows from Renault, means it can return 56.5mpg and has CO2 emissions of 130g/km. Only a three-star Euro NCAP rating loses the Duster points. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£9,495 - £15,495

Mazda CX-5 SUV

For a big SUV, the Mazda CX-5 has impressive fuel economy of 61.4mpg and CO2 emissions of just 119g/km. It also has a decent turn of speed and is fun to drive for such a large car. But of more interest to potential buyers is the CX-5’s spacious and well built interior. The CX-5 has plenty of nice touches that families will appreciate, including 40:20:40 split rear seats, a large glovebox, plus a useful central compartment for the driver and passenger. Some rivals do offer more storage, however, and four-wheel-drive versions are not as fun to drive as their two-wheel-drive counterparts. All come with sat-nav as standard. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£21,895 - £29,895

Range Rover Sport SUV

There are plenty of cars that can do better than the Range Rover Sport’s 38.7mpg figure and CO2 of 194g/km, but to dismiss it would be to ignore a car that has made massive improvements over the model it replaces. It’s also worth mentioning that, unlike the out-going model that shared many of its parts with the Land Rover Discovery, the new Sport is based on the current Range Rover, but costs around £20,000 less. As a Range Rover, the Sport offers unrivalled off-road ability, huge levels of luxury, and is good to drive on the road. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£61,250 - £93,450

Skoda Yeti SUV

Although Skoda is owned by VW, the Skoda Yeti has no direct VW equivalent and has been a huge success since it went on sale in the UK. The Skoda Yeti offers economy of up to 67.3mpg and emissions of 119g/km. And buyers can opt for a Skoda Yeti 4x4. As we have come to expect from Skoda, the Yeti is very solidly built and the manufacturer finished second in our Driver Power 2013 customer satisfaction survey. To these accolades, the Yeti adds a good compromise between on and off road performance, a spacious interior and a competitive price. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£16,715 - £27,840

Kia Sportage SUV

The Kia Sportage is another example of how far the brand has come in the past few years. It’s genuinely good to look at, is comfortable on long journeys and comes complete with Kia’s excellent seven-year warranty. It’s a good bet as a family winter car thanks to four-wheel drive, a 564-litre boot – which increases to a massive 1,353 litres with the rear seats down – and plenty of useful cubbyholes. The car’s diesel engines are strong and it can deliver up to 54mpg and CO2 emissions of 135g/km. Negatives include poor rear visibility, some cheap-feeling interior plastics and bouncy suspension. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
Price 
£17,500 - £29,505

Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback

The Fiat Panda is right at the top of our list of favourite small hatchbacks, so the Fiat Panda 4x4 starts from a strong position. Don’t be fooled by the cute looks either, because the Panda’s formidable off-road. So much so that the Italian police uses them in the mountainous regions of Italy. The Panda is also well equipped and returns impressive official figures of 60.1mpg and emissions as low as 99g/km. In the past, however, Fiat’s official figures have been particular difficult to match, and the Panda could be a little cheaper to buy. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£14,295 - £16,945

Range Rover Evoque SUV

All Land Rovers have excellent off-road ability, which means they are well suited to winter conditions. The Evoque adds to this with youthful looks and fun on-road driving characteristics. It’s also got a beautifully built cabin and an extremely comfortable ride. Economy of 50mpg and CO2 emissions of 149g/km are impressive. The Evoque is also quite spacious, although the five-door car is slightly taller, so has more space for rear-seat passengers. The three-door car also suffers from poor rear visibility, but can be equipped with a rear parking camera. Read more.

Key points

4.0 / 5
Price 
£29,205 - £49,805

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SUV

The Suzuki SX4 S-Cross offers a similar package to the Skoda Yeti, but is slightly cheaper than the Skoda and its lower CO2 emissions of 110g/km mean it’s in a lower road tax band, although economy of 67.2mpg can’t quite match the Skoda’s. Suzuki’s experience with small off roaders indicates that the SX4 S-Cross is probably more capable off-road than you would expect. It also features a large and flexible boot, but loses points due to cramped rear seats, noisy engines, and dull styling. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£14,999 - £23,549

Hyundai Santa Fe SUV

If the Kia Sportage doesn’t have quite enough space for your needs than the Hyundai Santa Fe might be the answer. It’s a size up from the Kia with a huge 969-litre boot, which has an additional 48 litres of storage under the floor. It also offers the option of seven seats for a relatively cheap price, although a price hike of around £3000 means it’s significantly more expensive than the old model. The payoff, however, is that the new model is better equipped. All Santa Fes come fitted with a strong 2.2-litre diesel engine, which can manage up to 47.9mpg and emissions of 155g/km. Read more.

Key points

3.6 / 5
Price 
£27,800 - £35,430

Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid

The Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid may seem like a strange choice, given that it has no off-road pretentions whatsoever. But if you want four-wheel-drive grip, and to be free from paying London’s congestion charge, it makes perfect sense. It’s Swedish-built, too, and they should know something about winter conditions. Volvo’s dashboards are designed to be easy to use for someone wearing gloves, and the V60 comes with other nice winter additions like heated seats. Emissions come in at 49g/km, with economy of 155.2mpg thanks to its ability to run for 32 miles on electric power only. What really lets the Volvo down is its high price. Read more.

Key points

3.0 / 5
Price 
£49,775 - £51,675

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