Top 10 Best Cars for Snow

9 minutes Published: 17/05/2020
Rowan Harris

Christmas is never too far away. When it gets to that time of the year when you’re ready to wind down for the festive season, Santa and his elves are hard at work, clocking up over-time as they frantically assemble presents, sort the naughty from the nice and get ready for the biggest parcel delivery shift of the year.

And you thought that organising Christmas dinner was tough...

Of course, Santa does have one advantage. Cold as he may be, soaring above the city skyline in his open-top, supernaturally-powered sleigh, he isn’t fazed in the slightest by things like black ice or piles of snow accumulating on the road.

Unfortunately, our beasts of burden aren’t imbued with magical powers, and for as long as we are bound by the laws of gravity, getting granny to your Christmas get-together could pose a problem.

But don’t worry, these winter warriors should make light work of even the heaviest snowfall!

If you need some serious off-road power, check out our Best 4x4 Cars, or our Best SUV Cars! If you need a capable all-weather car than can get some work done, check out our Best Cars for Towing.

1. Land Rover Discovery Sport SW

RRP: £28,140 - £51,345
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.2
  • Fuel: D, P, H
  • Body: SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 48 - 208g/km

Pros

  • Very comfortable to drive, especially for long journeys.

  • ‘Terrain Response’ system makes this one of the best off-road vehicles.

Cons

  • Guzzles fuel.

  • Really expensive.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a solid choice if you’re looking for something as strong as it is sumptuous. While off-road capability feels like an afterthought in many compact SUVs, the Land Rover Discovery Sport should have no trouble scrambling up slippery slopes and ploughing through piles of snow.

As you’d expect from Land Rover (and a car of this price), the Land Rover manages to meld its battle-hardened exterior with an altogether more plush and palatial interior. Depending on which trim you opt for, you can get fabric seats and padded upholstery or leather throughout.

The 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system is bright and colourful and if you decide to upgrade to the SE model you’ll be able to swap out the analogue binnacle for a digital display behind the steering wheel, making a drive with satellite navigation an absolute doddle.

Unlike many of its rivals, the Discovery Sport also offers a third row of seats. They might be a bit of a squeeze for adults but if you ever need to come to the rescue on the school run they should do just fine.

2. Fiat Panda

RRP: £8,845 - £18,205
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.4
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 155g/km

Pros

  • Quirky looks.

  • Compact car that fares surprisingly well in off-road conditions.

Cons

  • Small boot.

  • Infotainment is a bit old fashioned.

The Fiat Panda? Seriously?

While a docile, bamboo-munching Panda may not seem like an appropriate namesake for a rugged off roader, we can assure you, the Fiat Panda 4x4 is more than up to the challenge. It’s a compact city car that will make short work of the odd cross-country jaunt thanks to its all-wheel drive and off-road tyres. While it won’t be taking on any rocky crags or river valleys any time soon, it should be more than enough to get you through the winter months.

It’s not got a particularly high tech cabin, but you should have no trouble getting comfortable inside. Because of its taller body, there’s enough headroom in the front and rear seats for adults to get comfy, though people in the back seat might want a little more leg space for the longer journeys.

It’s not the most practical for families or long-distances, but if you don’t need to worry about filling the back seats and you like your cars compact then this might be the winter-warrior for you.

3. Volvo Xc90

RRP: £45,550 - £73,775
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 4.4
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 322g/km

Pros

  • Tonnes of safety features.

  • Super-stylish minimalist interior.

Cons

  • Noisy diesel engine.

  • Great tech, but at a big price.

The Swedes are no strangers to wintery weather and snow-strewn streets so, as you’d expect, the Volvo XC90 feels right at home. Volvo’s four-wheel drive system channels the powers of the Norse pantheon - like Thor’s legendary hammer, Mjölnir, the XC90 has no trouble levelling mountains of snow.

It may have once been the ‘go to’ for old men and auction house enthusiasts but Volvo’s latest models exude effortless Scandi-cool with their minimalist dashboards and sharp, sumptuous interiors. It’s got a 5-star Euro-NCAP score and a ‘Run Off-Road’ system will prepare the car for a crash if it senses you veering off the tarmac, while energy-absorbing seats will soak up the impact of a big hit.

Much like Mjölnir, the car’s passenger compartment appears to have been fashioned in the forge of the Norse Gods. It’s constructed out of high-strength steel known as ‘boron’ - the strongest steel used in the automotive industry.

4. Jeep Wrangler Hard TOP

RRP: £22,495 - £49,120
  • Doors: 2 - 4
  • Engine: 4.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 325g/km

Pros

  • Nostalgia.

  • The King of the off-roaders - great for winter conditions.

Cons

  • Not a great safety record.

  • Expensive for what you get.

Jeep has come a long way since it started producing its famously indestructible military-grade vehicles for the second world war. In many ways, however, the Jeep Wrangler is an indirect progression from the original WW2 Jeep.

The Wrangler still uses a separate body and frame (body-on-frame), rigid live axles both front and rear, a fold-flat windshield and removable doors - not that you’ll be leaving yourself exposed to the elements any time soon.

Unlike the original Jeep, the Wrangler series is designed to be safer and more comfortable on-road. Unfortunately, it only achieved 1 star in the Euro NCAP rating, and the Wrangler is not only expensive to buy but is also a real gas-guzzler.

The Jeep is also a real off-roader, and if you opt for the ‘Rubicon’ trim with its larger off-road tyres you should be able to handle much more than just a bit of powder snow and ice.

5. Dacia Duster

RRP: £9,235 - £19,690
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.6
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 185g/km

Pros

  • Not full of bloat tech you don’t want.

  • Frugal.

Cons

  • Entry level trim is totally stripped back, though higher trim levels aren’t particularly exciting either.

  • Does the job, but not fun to drive.

The Dacia Duster is a cheap and cheerful alternative for those that don’t have the budget for a Range Rover. It’s exceptionally affordable and packs a lot more space than many of its competitors, with plenty of boot space - just don’t be expecting the kind of top-class interiors that you’d get from an Audi or Mercedes.

This car is not luxury. There are plenty of hard, scratchy plastics on the dash and the entry level-model will leave you wondering exactly how it is possible to manufacture a car so bereft of technology. You won’t even get a stereo. You’ll need to pay extra for the ‘Essential’ trim which will get you a fairly basic stereo.

Upgrade again to the middle of the range ‘comfort’ or ‘prestige’ trims and you’ll get a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment screen, though it's nowhere near as bright and easy to use as the one you’d find on the Volkswagen T-Roc.

6. Volvo V90 Estate (2017)

  • Doors:
  • Engine:
  • Fuel:
  • Body: Estate
  • Drive:
  • CO2:

Pros

  • Lovely interior with minimalist styling.

  • Highly practical.

Cons

  • Diesel option only.

  • Not as practical as the XC90.

If you’re a fan of the Volvo XC90 but not so big on large vehicles, the Volvo V90 Cross Country is a great alternative. It’s basically a more rugged version of their estate car and benefits from a raised ride height and four-wheel drive to help it push on in perilous conditions.

It may not ever match the likes of the Land Rover Discovery, but the increase in ride height, four-wheel drive and solid skid plates mean it can tackle even the roughest of roads. Off-Road Drive Mode calibrates the engine and gearbox for the best traction, lightens the steering and will automatically engage hill-descent control, so you don’t need to be an expert on negotiating steep, slippery roads.

Aside from that, it’s just like a regular V90. It has the same, luxurious interior with the Swedish manufacturer’s trademark minimalism, bare wood trims and plush leather seats.

7. Nissan X-trail Station Wagon

RRP: £23,130 - £37,515
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.5
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 129 - 237g/km

Pros

  • Available with 7 seats.

  • Large boot.

Cons

  • Boring interior.

  • Third row of seats are really cramped.

Whether you’re looking for a competent 5-seater, a practical 7-seater, or just a great car for dogs, the Nissan X-Trail has plenty for everyone. It’s basically a beefed-up Qashqai - it shares the same platform, but is noticeably taller and longer than its relation. Add to this all-wheel drive and you’ve got a car that’s happy to get its hands dirty - making it a great choice for winter weather.

On saying that, most users won’t actually need the AWD system. Even in 2WD mode it doesn’t struggle. 2WD mode, winter tyres and and a good bit of welly are more than enough to see the X-Trail scrabble up surprisingly steep, gravel slopes. Keeping your tyres in check will not only save on optioning all-wheel drive for the winter, but it will also make for a significant reduction in fuel usage.

While the interior of the X-Trail feels pretty spacious and the dashboard is well laid out, it does feel a little dated, no matter how much you decide to spec-up. Design and material quality is a bit behind some of its rivals.

8. Skoda Kodiaq

RRP: £21,310 - £43,835
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 126 - 170g/km

Pros

  • Great value for money.

  • Lots of space inside.

Cons

  • Not as techy as the Tiguan.

  • Lacking the ‘poshness’ of some rivals.

Skoda is known for its cheap, practical and reliable cars. So, as you’d expect, you don’t have to break the bank for an all-wheel drive equipped Skoda Kodiaq with a set of winter tyres. Great ground clearance and a clever traction control system make this car a must-have for the festive season.

Thanks to its slightly larger dimensions, it’s also a fantastic family car. It’ll fit in a third row of seats in the back with space left over for your weekly shop. If you plan to regularly transport 7 adults however, you might want to look into getting an MPV like the VW Touran, which offers much greater leg-room in the third row.

Nevertheless, the seven-seat versions of the Skoda Kodiaq are just about as flexible as the Touran. Folding down the rear two seats is easy and opens up a cavernous space for storage.

9. BMW 3 Series Touring

RRP: £26,220 - £50,420
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 3.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Estate
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 247g/km

Pros

  • Standard kit is impressive.

  • Reasonable boot space.

Cons

  • Desirable features cost extra.

  • Not as practical in snow as a traditional SUV.

The BMW 3 Series is, without a doubt, one of the best cars on sale in the UK - the ‘Touring’ estate is better still, with added practicality. It’s got a fairly big boot and offers one of the most comfortable drives that money can buy.

Whether you usually find yourself on a long stretch of motorway or twisty back roads, the Touring has a great selection of engines and trims to suit. The BMW’s xDrive four-wheel drive system adds a sizeable chunk to the price, and the extra weight and mechanical drag will add to the fuel consumption, but it may be a price worth paying if you’ve had trouble on slippery roads before.

The low-lying seats and a sweeping dashboard make you feel like you’re in a sportscar - but there are plenty of plush-feeling materials to kindly remind you that you’re not. It’s also got one of the best infotainment systems on the market, BMW iDrive.

10. Subaru Forester

RRP: £24,795 - £38,420
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.5
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Crossover SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 148 - 261g/km

Pros

  • Sturdy.

  • Lots of space.

Cons

  • Ugly inside.

  • Competitors offer better value for money.

Over the course of its life, the Subaru Forester has undergone a rather predictable transformation. Starting out in 1997 as a tough, no-nonsense four-wheel drive estate, it has since evolved into - yes, you guessed it - a fashionable SUV.

It may have a relatively low ground clearance, but the Subaru Forester has one of the grippiest all-wheel drive systems on offer, though body lean and an overly soft suspension are noticeable when you’re on the road.

Entry-level kit is pretty much what you’d expect - there’s a 7-inch infotainment screen, a rear-view camera, electrically adjustable driver’s seat and cruise control. But if you’re looking for luxury you might want to look elsewhere. Hard plastics and a fairly disappointing satellite navigation are some of the main issues, but if you’re looking for durability then you won’t be disappointed.

Summary

They may not be as cool as a hot hatchback or a Porsche 911, and they certainly won’t put Santa’s sleigh to shame, but they should make winter driving a little easier - and keep you nice and toasty inside!

If you regularly drive in snow, remember to make sure that you get on your winter tyres and drive carefully - stay safe!

For a round-up of the toughest cars in the market, check out our Best 4x4 Cars, or our Best SUV Cars! If you need a car that isn’t work-shy, consider one of our Best Cars for Towing. We've also got full lists of our available 4x4 lease deals and SUV lease deals.