If there’s one thing we all know about living in the United Kingdom, it’s that the weather in winter is going to be rough. When the clocks go back, it seems to act as a signal to mother nature that the UK is ready to have its annual ice bath. Torrential rain comes first, as the roads become slick with water and wet leaves. Then the temperatures drop even further, leaving us with frozen cars and roads covered in black ice. And, once in a while but much more often than a few years ago, we get snow. A beautiful pristine blanket of whiteness that makes driving close to impossible.
If you live in an area which is particularly affected by the winter, such as out in the countryside and in the north of Scotland, or simply want to have a car that can cope with the change in weather and road conditions, then we have put together the perfect list for you. We’ve taken a look at the cars in our database and picked out the ones that are going to be the best at tackling the coldest season of the year. Here is our selection of the best cars for winter driving.
When it comes to winter driving, it’s no surprise to see Volvo have some of the best cars to tackle the winter conditions. After all, when you think of Scandinavia and Sweden, you think of the cold and long winters with ice and snow all around. The Volvo XC90 is our pick of the bunch for winter driving.
A big part of that is because of the large amount of grip you get in the car. You’ll certainly feel it when you put your foot down or apply the brakes, the traction feels powerful but most of all it feels controlled. You’re not trying to tame some wild animal, more fully in control of this big machine.
As well as the grip, the car comes with safety features that can help prevent accidents, as well as reduce the amount of damage that could come with a winter collision. Add to that the five-star rating from Euro NCAP and you have a car that’s designed to tackle the winter head on.
But how is it away from the winter conditions? Well it’s a big and beautiful SUV, so it will look smart no matter what the season is. The size means you lose a little on economy, but the spacious interior combined with heated seats and a whole host of comfort and entertainment options, you’ll be happy all year round.
If the Volvo XC90 is at the high end scale, than the Dacia Duster SUV is definitely at the more affordable end of the market. Dacia have really made a name for themselves in recent years for their incredibly affordable range of practical cars. The Dacia Duster SUV will only set you back around £11,000 when new, meaning you can get some fantastic deals on the nearly new and secondhand market. But do you lose any quality with the lower price? The answer is no.
The Dacia Duster SUV still gives you what you need for winter driving. Four-wheel drive with lots of grip on the road, as well as a number of smart driver assist technologies. Hill start assist in particular might become particularly handy if you find yourself on a steep incline and worried about wheelspin.
You also get a lot of car for your money, with a spacious interior and plenty of boot space for snow boots and sledges (or just the weekly big shop). You may find yourself having to opt in for a few of the more premium features like infotainment systems, but in its base model, its still got plenty to offer.
When you hear the word ‘outback’, you’re bound to think of a car making its way across rocky desert roads in the Australian wilderness. And when you see it’s a Subaru and know your motorsport, then you’re bound to think of Colin McRae’s iconic rally car and him speeding through dirt as he won race after race. So the pedigree of the Subaru Outback is there in its name. But does that translate to a good winter drive?
While its not as wild as the name may suggest, the Subaru Outback is a decent family car that’s well suited for winter conditions. The ‘Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive’ system is designed to tackle difficult road surfaces and ensure you have enough traction at all times. Add to that the car’s lower height and centre of gravity, means you won’t be swinging through corners as you turn on an icy road.
It’s been designed to handle off-road driving too, with features like ‘Hill Descent Control’ meaning you won’t be sliding down steep roads too fast. That extra feeling of control really helps you feel safe.
It’s not the cheapest car on this list, but the safety features and generous amount of tech that comes as standard will leave you feeling confident during the winter months.
It’s no surprise that a company that made its name creating vehicles to be used by the military would one day be able to translate that rugged capability and reliability into a consumer vehicle. The Jeep Renegade is, unsurprisingly, one of the cars best suited for tackling winter conditions.
This SUV is smaller than some others on this list, so if you don’t need a big family car, then it might be a better option for you. And if you are on the road or off, there are two 4-wheel drive systems to choose from so you can switch things up for the most challenging conditions.
Another key selling feature is the 9-speed automatic transmission. Knowing what gear to use and when in the tough conditions can be confusing, so this does the hard work for you. It works by monitoring the road, the performance of the wheels, and even the temperature outside your car, to adapt to one of 20 different settings that will ensure you are in complete control.
Like with Jeep, Land Rover’s history of producing workhorses that can tackle times of war or tough times in the countryside has led to consumer cars that have the luxury and comfort you desire with the power and performance winter roads can offer up to you. The Land Rover Discovery Sport is almost the culmination of the many years of work that has led to the company becoming the name in luxury SUVs.
It’s a fine balance between practicality and luxuriousness, but the Discovery Sport walks that line beautifully. One of the best examples of this is in the car’s ‘configurable dynamics’. You can choose from a range of different options based on the road and how you intend to use the car. For example, you can choose a comfortable suspension for when you are in good driving conditions, and then switch to dynamic when the bad weather kicks in. A smart onboard computer will monitor the terrain and conditions for you, so if you don’t want to adjust the settings yourself, you can leave it to the car to do it for you.
This car is also available as a PHEV, meaning you can go for the electric engine and not have to worry as much about the car freezing up in the winter time. As well as all that, the interior is truly exquisite and makes you feel like a movie star or premier league footballer as you drive around town.
One of the big concerns about winter driving is going to be keeping your family safe. But another might be balancing the budget. So one of the best big family cars for the colder season is the Peugeot 3008. A big reason for this is that, despite not being a 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle, it has an affordable technology option that can replace it. Peugeot’s ‘grip control technology’ uses an onboard computer system to detect how the wheels are performing. If it notices any loss of traction, it will make adjustments and shift the power to the wheels that have grip. This gives you the control of a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but without having to pay for the option.
The 3008 also comes with a large number of safety systems, like lane control and automatic braking. It’s also big and roomy which is what you want to avoid those civil wars that take place in a family car.
When you think of driving in inclement weather conditions or on roads that aren’t great, you probably think that 4-wheel drive is your best bet. And you’d be right! But why is that?
The biggest advantage of 4-wheel drive cars is the amount of grip you get on the road. When the tarmac is covered in water or ice, your tyres are going to have less traction. 4 wheel drive means that you have more of a chance of getting grip on the road, so you are less likely to be stuck with your wheels spinning. There is still the danger of slipping on ice, especially if you have all 4 wheels on the same type of terrain, but you also have a better chance of being able to get off.
The biggest danger is overconfidence. Even with 4-wheel all all-wheel drive, you have to be cautious on the winter roads, especially those covered in ice and snow. You may assume that you’re big and tough 4-wheel drive car will be able to overcome everything that you come across. But common sense and careful reading of the road is just as, if not more important.
Modern cars have advanced safety features, but many are designed to work in traffic or when it comes to parking. Things like lane control and blindspot detection are still useful in the winter, but are not designed to tackle the different weather conditions. However, there are some technologies that are more than useful in the winter months.
Traction control – this system prevents your tyres from spinning on the road. It will prevent too much slip on your tyres. This is especially important when you are on wet or icy roads and need that extra grip.
Automatic braking or brake assist – Cars today can detect problems on the road much more quickly than the human brain can react. Automatic braking or brake assist will ensure that if there is a sudden obstacle in the road ahead, or you need to put your foot down hard on the brakes, you’ll come to a stop.
Electronic stability control – Turning on icy or wet roads can result in a spin or skid. Electronic stability control helps to counter this, by detecting a car going into a slide and applying different brake settings to individual wheels to smartly counteract the skid.
Hill descent assist – This type of technology comes in a few different names. What it is designed to do is to prevent you driving too fast down hills, especially those with inclement conditions. In the winter, that can be especially helpful on icy or wet roads that are steeper than you might want to tackle. By managing the power and applying the brakes for you, hill descent assist ensures you feel in total control all the time.
Winter tyres are another way to counter the winter weather. If you are in an area where the quality of the roads reduces drastically during the colder months, then it may be worth investing in different tyres for different seasons. You’ll need to be able to fit them yourself, or get yourself to a garage who can do it for you. Choose ones that are best suited to your cars make and model, otherwise you could end up overpaying or with tyres that won’t give you the sort of control and protection you need.
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