A car for winter weather

(45 Posts)
Bunbaker Mon 30-Sep-13 19:09:52

I know this is an emotive subject, but I am seriously considering buying a 4 wheel drive car.

We live on a hill in a rural area and the bad weather over the last two winters left us housebound on a number of occasions. I have been looking at a Ford Kuga and wondered what the opinion was. Or what else can anyone recommend?

According to various forums I looked at over the last couple of winters an ordinary car on winter tyres will do better than a 4WD on all season tyres. I don't know how true that is. Swapping to winter tyres from November to March will definitely be cheaper than buying and running a 4WD.

WMittens Mon 30-Sep-13 20:44:58

4WD doesn't have to mean "SUV" - Audi and Subaru are well know for their 4WD saloons, and there are many other manufacturers who offer 4WD versions of their models. Hell, you can get a 4WD Fiat Panda (with locking differentials). The Jaguar X-type is well thought of in 4WD flavour.

an ordinary car on winter tyres will do better than a 4WD on all season tyres.

Quite possibly; a 2WD car on winters will almost certainly outperform a 4WD on 'summer' tyres though.

Bunbaker Mon 30-Sep-13 21:05:17

That is certainly food for thought. I will have to give that serious consideration.

BlackMogul Mon 30-Sep-13 21:30:51

Really depends if you want a 4 x4 and the style of them. We live up a very steep hill and "baby" 4x 4s do not make it in winter snow and ice judging by the numbers abandoned at the bottom of the hill. Difficult to know about winter tyres as no- one has them. In Scandinavia wheel storage or tyre storage is normal for the season when the tyres are not in use but not here. Also winter tyres may add to the noise in the car and may alter the handling on normal road conditions so it may not be a simple answer. At least 50% of our village have 4 x 4s but the ones that really work on all surfaces are the ones you would expect. Land Rovers of various types. The hill descent control and the choice of terrain mode are brilliant and make the car safe and reliable in bad weather or other off road surfaces. I think if you need to get out, buy a car that will do the job, not half the job. Also great for muddy car parks. Not sure what "out perform" above means. Range Rovers etc are quick and assured on the normal road. Don't fancy an Aston Martin with winter tyres personally.............!

Bunbaker Tue 01-Oct-13 06:52:46

We don't have lots of cash and Range Rovers are out of my price range, and I don't want a Landrover as they are so unreliable. Our hill is very steep and we have the difficulty of the turn off into our cul de sac being steep as well so it definitely needs to be something that can handle well in bad conditions.

I don't intend to take it off road, I just want to avoid the misery of the last two winters.

You know what will happen, don't you? Winter tyres/4 x 4 in place and we'll have the mildest winter on record wink grin

duckyfuzz Tue 01-Oct-13 06:57:50

Get winter tyres, much cheaper than a new car and they have seen me through the last three winters in my rwd car when dh's 4wd struggled

Bunbaker Tue 01-Oct-13 07:07:16

I know NickyNackyNooNoo grin
The thing is that my current car is getting long in the tooth and is ready to be replaced, hence the dilemma.

What does your OH drive duckyfuzz?

elastamum Tue 01-Oct-13 07:13:08

I have an XC90 with winter tyres on as we have some amazingly steep single track roads her that never get gritted. Tyres are called grabbers and brilliant.

Turn off the traction control and it will go up most things in the snow. It is an absolutley fab family car. It also has 7 seats, can take 3 big dogs in the boot and also pulls 2 tonnes of horse trailer without any trouble.

I love it grin

elastamum Tue 01-Oct-13 07:14:17

Sorry, meant to say its a volvo XC90!

Bunbaker Tue 01-Oct-13 07:17:06

I don't need a 7 seater, but thanks for the recommendation.

WMittens Tue 01-Oct-13 18:10:24


Also winter tyres may ... alter the handling on normal road conditions

Yes, but the same goes for buying Linglong, Triangle or Sunny summer tyres instead of Bridgestone, Continental or Pirelli summers; unfortunately we can't stop people fitting their cars with shit cheap tyres.

Not sure what "out perform" above means.

Really I was referring to most important things any tyre helps you to do: stop and turn; the ability to stop crashing into someone/something, or being able steer around the person/thing you're sliding towards.

A 4x4 will not stop any quicker on summer tyres compared to a 2WD car on winters from a given speed (especially if the 4x4 waighs over a ton more than the 2WD car). An AM on winters would stop quicker because it weighs less and has more grip.

If you can't turn your car then you have next to no control. Any car can understeer into a tree if you have no grip on the front wheels.

It really doesn't matter how quick an RR can be, in snow (or other treacherous wintery conditions) you may not be able to go more than 20mph safely.

There are plenty of YT vids of powerful winter tyre-shod RWD cars out-accelerating, -turning and -stopping well-respected 4WD cars (Subaru Forester being one example that springs to mind) on normal/summer tyres.

WMittens Tue 01-Oct-13 18:12:02

Don't fancy an Aston Martin with winter tyres personally.............!

I do! That would be fucking amazing fun!

BikeRunSki Tue 01-Oct-13 18:17:18

Bunbaker in exactly the same situation as you, my FiL bought a Skoda Yeti a couple of winters ago and loves it. He is in the Cotswolds. I think you' re fairly near me, and u have noticed a lot of Yetis about in.the last few years. I'll certainly consider one for my next car. Or a Panda 4x4 if budget does not allow.

PastaBeeandCheese Tue 01-Oct-13 18:18:47

We live rurally and have a BMW X5. We still put winter tyres on it. That's far more important than the style of car.

You just swop them back and store them when the warmer weather comes so it only relies on you having space to store 4 tyres.

Bunbaker Tue 01-Oct-13 18:21:41

I am even more confused now. I want to be able to get back up the hill to my house in the snow. So is it winter tyres on my aged Focus or a 4wheel drive?

PastaBeeandCheese Tue 01-Oct-13 19:07:52

I just double checked with DH and he said you'd be just as well to put winter tyres on your Focus provided you don't actually want to off road ie under the ice and snow on your hill there is actually a proper road.

They really do make a massive difference.

WMittens Tue 01-Oct-13 20:25:53


I am even more confused now. I want to be able to get back up the hill to my house in the snow. So is it winter tyres on my aged Focus or a 4wheel drive?

Best option: 4WD and winter tyres.
2nd best (including cost): existing car on winter tyres.

I was actually looking for a video comparing a Porsche Cayman (RWD sportscar) on winter tyres getting up their ice hill, but the 4WD Cayenne on summers failing.

Bunbaker Wed 02-Oct-13 07:03:52

Thank you WMittens. I was beginning to think that. My car has stupidly low profile tyres and is useless in snow. I didn't even want low profiles but that is what came with the car.

duckyfuzz Wed 02-Oct-13 07:09:48

Sorry bunbaker I was out all day yesterday, the 4wd was a passat estate. If you need a new car anyway id do as mittens suggests and go for a 4wd with winter tyres.

I have to say that the best non expensive 4x4 for me the last 2 winters has been my father in laws older style Suzuki vitara. We had several feet of snow drifts and getting to my horse was a nightmare but it plugged on in low 4 wheel drive where nearly everybody else got stuck.

The old thing saved my bacon on several occasions and it's not bad to drive the rest of the year either. I've used it for towing the horse box and rally car tonnes of times too

KatyPutTheCuttleOn Wed 02-Oct-13 07:23:57

I've driven a lot in bad weather, lots of snow and ice etc. I have had one accident where the car slid (not skidded) into a crash barrier, at the time I was driving a 4x4 so TBH I don't think they are any better or worse than other cars, I've got out of such situations in ordinary cars without an accident. Once a 4 x 4 is sliding down a hill into a crash barrier it's not going to give you the time to direct the car elsewhere - which I've been able to do in a smaller, lighter car.

PastaBeeandCheese Wed 02-Oct-13 07:28:40

To be fair to SUV style 4x4s they are very good if you genuinely go off road which we do as our lane is unmade.

octanegirl Wed 02-Oct-13 09:54:10

OP if you give us a budget and so on we can help you better - but yes, 4wd on summer tyres is better than 2wd on summer tyres if you want to compare apples with apples, but winter tyres are the way forward (pardon the pun).

I have a 4wd estate car with summer tyres in summer and winter tyres in winter. I've not got stuck yet....

Bunbaker Wed 02-Oct-13 15:04:06

Budgetwise I think I would be looking at no more than £15,000. It doesn't have to be a new car.

lljkk Wed 02-Oct-13 15:11:00

I intend to get winter tyres instead. Thanks for reminding me.
How hard is to swap tyres yourself? We are not super mechanical but we can often figure out basics.

lljkk Wed 02-Oct-13 15:11:43

ps: do you think 1 Nov about right date to swap to winter tyres? Swap back end of March, maybe?

NaturalBaby Wed 02-Oct-13 15:16:11

My sister lived at the top of a steep hill up north for years and drives a fiesta...with winter tyres. The only time she's had big issues with it is when a car park flooded while she was at work grin.
I drove dh's bmw last year in severe snow and nearly skidded off the road with my 3 dc's in the back. Everyone I told said 'oh yea, bmw's can't cope with snow and ice'. Wish I'd known before I set off that day!

BikeRunSki Wed 02-Oct-13 18:00:53

BMWs are rubbish in snow because they are rear wheel drive.

WMittens Wed 02-Oct-13 18:39:53


Do you mean swap tyres or swap wheels? Swapping wheels requires jacking the car up, unbolting wheels, removing wheels, fitting other wheels, tightening bolts (or lugnuts) - easy.

Swapping tyres involves all of the above, plus breaking the bead on the tyre, levering the bead over the rim on one side, then the other, probably fitting a new valve, brushing some tyre soap on to the new tyre, levering it on to the rim (a fucking chore if you don't have thousands of pounds worth of equipment), checking the balance of the wheel and fitting weights as required (again a chore without specialist equipment).

WMittens Wed 02-Oct-13 18:42:17

BMWs are rubbish in snow because they are rear wheel drive.

Apart from the X1, X3, X5, X6, 1-series xDrive, 3-series xDrive.

BlackMogul Wed 02-Oct-13 18:45:27

Actually I would recommend a Discovery. I did say Land Rover, not Range Rover. I have seen "soft roaders" abandoned on our hill and nearly every 2 wheel drive. BMW 5 my husband used to have was impossible! 4 x 4 of a good pedigree is definitely best.

Waswondering Wed 02-Oct-13 18:49:04

Friend who is gp in rural practice, north East Scotland, swears by a Fabia with winter tyres.

BlackMogul Wed 02-Oct-13 18:52:37

OP - given your budget I would look at a 2nd hand freelander. I have had Land Rovers for 20 years and they have not gone wrong. I have them serviced and they have all been reliable. My current Discovery never puts a foot wrong and neither did the last one. The roads you have to deal with seem difficult. We have spent years agonising over snow car vs rest of the year car and I think you have to drive what you really like for the majority of the time.

lljkk Wed 02-Oct-13 18:58:00

I meant swapping wheels I think! Sorry, is that too expensive to do ourselves?

Waferthinmint Wed 02-Oct-13 19:24:14

I love my 58 plate Suzuki Grand Vitara

BikeRunSki Wed 02-Oct-13 19:25:47

Ok, I stand corrected on the BMWs. Just repeating what the petrolheads at work told me last time it snowed and the managers all had to abandon their Mark 5s at the bottom of the hill.

WMittens Wed 02-Oct-13 19:50:04

I did say Land Rover, not Range Rover.

You said Range Rovers at one point too, which is why I mentioned it.

I don't think Freelanders are particularly reliable - they're a different beast to a Discovery.

OP, £15K is a hell of a wedge, there's a huge amount of choice at that point. You can get a brand new Dacia Duster 4x4 for a little over £11K.

octanegirl Thu 03-Oct-13 11:20:30

BikeRunSki I think you mean 5 series not Mark 5's ;) Unless you meant a Golf?

£15k is LOADS. You can literally buy anything you want!

Personally I'd always buy an older German 4x4 or LandRover model over a newer Japanese/other offering - and a new Duster would be very far down my list. I like quality interiors and cars that are built to last. Jap cars are built to last but don't generally have particularly nice cabins. Duster - eww.

BikeRunSki Thu 03-Oct-13 12:45:51

Yes, I meant 5 series. Not great on cars, but I can tell a Golf from a BMW.

duckyfuzz Thu 03-Oct-13 19:36:02

mittens bmws with winter tyres on are great in the snow grin

WMittens Thu 03-Oct-13 21:45:41

Duster - eww.

What? Romania's finest.

Hey, I was going to suggest a Lada Niva.

thenightsky Thu 03-Oct-13 21:48:16

I've had no issues since I got myself a Subaru all wheel drive Impreza which I swap onto winter tyres once the temperature drops to below about 5c for more than a week consecutively. Its been rock steady on solid ice and I've not missed a day of work, despite living 15 miles away down rural untreated roads.

Love winter tyres (Vredestein Wintrac Extreme) and my Scooby.

WMittens Thu 03-Oct-13 21:49:29


mittens bmws with winter tyres on are great in the snow

I have no doubt, and I'm fairly certain I'll be sampling the same in the future.

For now I'll stick to an AWD Impreza on winter tyres (well, when the temperature drops).

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