The best cars for winter driving

Normal winter driving tips usually talk about putting winter tyres on as soon as the temperature drops below seven degrees centigrade and leaving plenty of time for your journeys.

That’s all good advice, but what if you just fancy buying a new car and the only way to justify it to the rest of your family is to tell them it’ll make for safer travel over the winter months? Don’t worry, we’re on your side. There’s always room for a new car on the drive…

Here are carwow’s top winter cars – and there’s something for every budget and mentality, from the sensible to the rather silly. Let’s get stuck in.

Or just plain stuck.

Best for people in a hurry: Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is perhaps not the first car you’d think of if you’re in a rush (unless it’s maybe the brilliant ST version). But bear with us – if you can spare a second. One of the frustrating aspects of winter driving is having to scrape away the thick frost that builds up on the windows overnight. It takes ages to remove, and you’ll probably ruin another loyalty card – or worse still, your own knuckles – in the process.

Thanks to Ford’s ‘Quickclear’ windscreen, much of the time-consuming hassle can be removed. Identical in principle to heated rear windows, you just flick a switch, and in a matter of seconds, hey presto! The frost has gone, and you can be on your merry way far sooner than you would otherwise.

The heating elements running through the windscreen are tiny, so they don’t obstruct your forward vision. This handy feature is available on almost any Ford, save for the Ka and the most basic Fiesta and Focus models.

Best for winter driving on a budget: Dacia Duster

There’s a whole range of bargain off roaders on the market these days. Cars like the Skoda Yeti and Fiat Panda 4×4 are very capable thanks to their four-wheel drive systems, but our pick of the bunch is the Dacia Duster.

It’s so hard to overlook the value though. Prices start at just £9,495, which makes the Duster the cheapest off-roader on sale in the UK. Sure, compared to some rivals it makes one or two sacrifices, including a cabin that lacks the slightest hint of style. But it looks nice and rugged on the outside, it’s decent – if not class-leading – to drive, and the 1.5-litre diesel engine is more than adequate.

You won’t win any points with the family, but it’s so cheap you could probably afford to just keep it in the garage for those slippery days…

Best for remaining un-stuck: Skoda Citigo

Contrary to what many believe, one of the best ways to make it through the snow is in a car with a low kerb weight, skinny tyres, and a modest amount of power driving the front wheels. If you’ve ever seen a Citroen 2CV happily toddle about through a snow drift while everyone else struggles for traction, you’ll have an idea of what we’re talking about.

We appreciate that many of you will find the little old French ‘tin snail’ somewhat slow and unrefined by modern standards, but the excellent Skoda Citigo shares many similar principles. Weighing in at a featherweight 929kg, the narrow tyres help it to cut through the soft snow onto the grippier tarmac below.

Meanwhile, when pleasant weather breaks out during the other weeks of the year, you’ll have an extremely well-rounded city car; one that is is economical, well-built and fun to drive. If the Skoda badge isn’t your thing, the Seat Mii and Volkswagen Up! are pretty much identical machines.

Best for keeping your neck warm: Mercedes Benz E-Class Cabriolet

A cabriolet car for the winter? No, we haven’t lost leave of our senses. We Brits love our cabriolets – we buy more than the French, Italian and the Spanish, despite our generally miserable weather.

The second the sun pops out, the roofs are down, even if it is minus five outside. That’s where Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet, equipped with the’ brilliant ‘Airscarf’ system sweeps in to rescue our cold ears. An air vent neatly tucked into the seat back blows a warm draft around your shoulders and neck, keeping you nice and toasty even in the most baltic of British winters.

If you’d rather something a little more sporty looking, the same system is available on the Mercedes SLK, too. Also, recent research has shown that winter is the cheapest time of year to buy a convertible (surprise!), so you could be quids in if you turn up at a carwow dealer on Christmas Eve…

Best for those who like to see where they’re going: Audi R8

With the cold winter months come longer nights, making a good set of lights vitally important. Help is on the way in the sleek shape of the Audi R8, and its optional laser headlights.

They illuminate the road up to twice as far as LED headlights are able to, and six times farther than your bog-standard halogen bulb. Clever systems recognise oncoming traffic and adjusts the beam accordingly to reduce dazzle. Naturally, once you’ve got over the excitement of your headlight tech you’ll be able to revel in the hugely powerful 601hp V10 engine in the R8 Plus, which’ll shoot you from a standstill to 60mph in 3.2 seconds. If it’s not snowing.

If the R8 isn’t your thing, then laser lights are also available as an option on the stunning BMW i8, which isn’t quite as quick, but offers spectacular fuel economy figures thanks to its hybrid powertrain.

Best for affordable winter performance: Audi TT

Is the R8 just a little too pricey? Then perhaps its baby brother might be for you. The TT still features Audi’s renowned quattro four-wheel-drive system on some models, and although the LED headlights aren’t quite up to the level of the LMX’s lasers, they still do a brilliant job of lighting the road ahead, allowing you to distinguish between snowman and snow-covered man with ease.

You have a choice of strong diesel or petrol engines – topping out at the seriously rapid 306hp TTS – and you’ll get what is undoubtedly one of the finest automotive interiors money can buy. Just remember that four-wheel-drive systems don’t help you slow down any faster in the snow.

Best for warming bums and hands: Kia Cee’d

Getting up for work on a freezing cold morning is only slightly preferable to having cattle released into your living room.

Forcing yourself to trudge outside when you’d rather just hibernate in a nice warm bed takes considerable willpower, so anything else that can offer that feeling of warmth during your commute will always be welcome.

The Kia Cee’d, in the top-spec ‘4’ and ‘4 Tech’ models, comes equipped not only with heated seats, but a heated steering wheel too. It isn’t quite a substitute for a thick duvet, but at least you wont have to wrap up like Sir Ranulph Fiennes just to hop in your car.

Best for those with clumsy neighbours: Citroen C4 Cactus

It may be considered slightly odd that one of our top ten winter choices is a car named after a plant evolved to survive in hot, dry weather, but the Citroen C4 Cactus does have its wintry blessings.

Those quirky ‘Airbump’ panels on the side of the Cactus not only look cool, but can withstand small bumps and dings without damaging any of the precious paintwork. So, if someone is clumsy with a car door when they’re in a hurry to escape the cold, they slip and crash their shopping trolley into your car, or even drift on some black ice and bump their car into you at a gentle speed, the Cactus is more than likely going to escape largely unscathed.

The Citroen is both practical and great value for a car of its size, too, so there is much else to recommend besides its squidgy exterior.

Best for doing all of the sensible stuff: Nissan Qashqai

Sometimes it’s just nice to appreciate the basics that will take the stress out of winter driving, and that is where the Nissan Qashqai comes in. With optional four-wheel drive, an elevated driving position, excellent reliability and top safety marks, Nissan’s popular crossover would be a perfect companion for the long, dark winter nights.

Given the fact that the rest of the year round you’ll be left with a practical family hatchback that is cheap to run and pleasant enough to drive, it is easy to see why the Qashqai is consistently one of the strongest selling cars in the UK.

Best for everything else: Range Rover

Put simply, the latest Range Rover is the perfect machine for winter driving. Not only is it staggeringly capable whether being driven on road, off road, in poor weather or while wading through up to 90cm of water, but it comes equipped as standard with a heap of winter-repelling goodies.

A heated leather steering wheel, heated windscreen, heated door mirrors, heated windscreen wipers (which ‘park’ away from screen when not in use to prevent freezing to the glass), and heated seats all round are available on the Rangie. Thanks to the beautiful, comfortable cabin, and a fantastic Meridian hi-fi system, you’ll even be able to keep yourself relaxed and entertained if you’re stuck in a two-hour traffic jam induced by a mild covering of sleet.

Save money this winter

If you need to change your car this winter but don’t want the hassle that’s usually involved, then use the carwow configurator to get dealers to send you their best offers on new cars – and you can do it from in front of the fire. You might save a pretty penny too, so there’s no excuse for giving the kids a lump of coal for Christmas…

Audi TT

Speedy coupe's interior and comfort will make you grin
£27,585 - £42,650
Read review Compare offers

Citroen C4 Cactus

A comfortable and quirky small crossover
£12,990 - £20,495
Read review Compare offers

Ford Fiesta

Comfortable ride and sharp handling disguise Fiesta’s age
£13,545 - £19,145
Read review Compare offers
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