Wanted: safe, reliable, affordable, stylish winter transportation. Must like long drives on snow-covered roads and must handle well in all weather conditions. Must sweep me off my feet and over snow drifts. Must warm my hands with a heated steering wheel and warm my heart with good gas mileage.
Okay, so a personal ad may not be a great way to find the best car for snow-bound drivers, but this list will help you on your search. Keeping the budget and cool factors in mind, here are a few good snow-worthy options starting around $30,000 or less for you to consider. Take these new models out for a spin. Or, for additional cost savings, try a late model vehicle. Savvy buyers can get a terrific price for a winter-ready car through private sellers or they can get a great deal at DriveTime or other used auto dealerships.
Subaru offers four affordable snow-worthy vehicles: the Outback, SV Crosstrek, Legacy, and Impreza. Subaru touts its symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD)—standard on most Subaru models—as providing top traction, stability and control. In addition to AWD, these Subarus offer drivers standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), brake assist (to control the force and speed of braking) and tire pressure monitoring (to make sure your tires are in great condition to hit the icy roads). Some Subaru models also have an option for traction control, driver assistance technology (lane departure warnings), remote start capabilities (to warm the engine and the cabin before you get in), heated mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers. These safety and comfort features are conveniently complemented by optional ski and snowboard carriers!
Photo of the Subaru Outback by David Villarreal Fernandez via Flickr
This collection of Subarus gets between 30 and 36 highway mpg. Vehicles in the collection run on regular gasoline (or the Crosstrek has a hybrid option) and are both under $24,000 for base models. Based on these features, Car and Driver calls the Outback “excellent both on and off pavement” and highlights the Impreza’s noteworthy “forget-the-weather, four-wheel-drive system,” while Autoweek calls the Legacy a “solid value” and the Crosstrek “a good, inexpensive little car.”
Photo of the Subaru Crosstrek by lotprocars via Flickr
The Ford Fusion, especially the Titanium model with available AWD, offers a sporty option for trekking through icy city streets or across the snowy countryside. The Fusion is available in regular gasoline and hybrid models; the standard Fusion Titanium model starts around $30,500 and gets up to 31 mpg (highway), while the hybrid Titanium starts around $32,500 and gets an average 47 mpg.
Photo by IFCAR via Wikimedia Commons
Both gas and hybrid models offer snow safety through standard ABS, electronic stability control (which senses and corrects for skidding) and Ford’s SOS Post Crash Alert system, which alerts emergency personnel by automatically turning on the car’s emergency flashers and horn after an accident when the airbags are deployed. The Titanium Fusion also offers comforting cold-weather conveniences, like standard heated seats and optional heated steering wheel, and comes with standard remote start.
If you are looking for a slightly larger vehicle, check out the Nissan Pathfinder, which Autoweek calls a “nice-driving three-row crossover.” This seven-passenger vehicle comes standard with 2WD, but offers drivers additional drive settings with optional 4WD and Auto Mode settings to self-regulate 2WD or 4WD needs, while balancing road safety and gas mileage. Pathfinders do well on snowy roads with their standard ABS and brake assist, which manage braking in emergencies, and their traction control system, which helps drivers control braking and steering.
Photo by IFCAR via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to road safety features, Pathfinder options include cold-weather conveniences, like remote start; however, base model Pathfinders lack some of the other cold weather comforts, like heated seats and heated steering wheels, which are not available in entry-level models.
If you prefer a more compact ride, look to the MINI Cooper S Countryman All4. This smaller sport utility vehicle (SUV) with seating for five is packed with safety and snow-worthy features. It comes standard with all-season tires, ABS and MINI’s Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control, which improve handling in adverse weather conditions.
Photo by M 93 via Wikimedia Commons
Additionally, the MINI has an available optional cold weather package, which includes heated mirrors and heated front seats. In case you get stuck in the winter weather, MINI includes Roadside Assistance for the first four years of MINI ownership. These attributes earn the MINI Countryman praise from US News, which calls the Countryman “a compelling choice.”