Driving your pride and joy through the winter months can be a testing experience.
Besides the chance that you might inadvertently sling it into the icy scenery, there's the ever present possibility that someone else will beat you to the punch and decide to use you as a crash barrier.
Then there's the toll that the winter weather and road conditions themselves can take on your car – particularly when it comes to the rate at which road salt can exacerbate corrosion of your car's undercarriage.
So the idea of a winter car is always a tempting one. Something that you don't mind being driven into, putting on its roof or suffering a bit of cosmetic and structural wear and tear.
Because it's semi-disposable, it needs to be comparatively cheap, too. Four-wheel drive is preferable as well; on standard tyres you'll stand more of a chance of making progress, and it'll be more relaxing and enjoyable as a result. Then, when the budget arises, you can sling on a set of winter tyres and be fully set for whatever lies ahead.
Here are our recommendations, then, for alternative and interesting winter cars for around £1500.
1. Volkswagen Golf VR6 4Motion
Admittedly the Mk4 Golf was hardly the most exciting car in standard form, but throw in a 204bhp 2.8-litre VR6, a six-speed manual gearbox and a Haldex-based four-wheel drive system and you've got something a little more intriguing. They're also tough, comfortable and easy to get parts for, which adds to the appeal. Add a set of aftermarket anti-roll bars and some different springs and dampers at a later date and it'll sharpen up the whole thing quite nicely.
Sure, it might not be an R32 but it doesn't command the premium of one either. We found a 2002 example, with 86,000 miles on the clock, on sale for £1490. It needed a little cosmetic attention but was immaculate inside and otherwise good to go. Ideal if you want a bit of business-class luxury and pace without extravagant physical dimensions. Alternatively, have a gander at the likes of early Audi A3 1.8T quattro Sport.
2. Jeep Cherokee
The XJ generation of Jeep Cherokee is a stalwart of features like this, and not without just cause. They're well equipped, immensely capable in poor conditions and almost impossible to break. Get a good one and they're also remarkably good fun to drive, with a decent turn of speed off the line, sound on-road manners and the ability to clamber through or over whatever you put in front of them.
You're ideally looking for the squarer pre-facelift 1996 model with the 4.0-litre straight six engine. Excellent examples of these will set you back well under £1500. Avoid the diesels and the four-cylinder petrols, though, and drive a few so you can get familiar with what a decent one should feel like.
3. Mitsubishi GTO
It's got pop-up headlights (in Mk1 form) and is therefore worth the £1500 admission fee on that basis alone. More importantly, though, the GTO is four-wheel drive. Consequently it's an entirely appropriate choice for winter motoring. Perhaps. Well, it's unlikely you'll have to deal with several feet of snow, so why not enjoy a sporting coupé in the interim?
We'd recommend avoiding any tired turbocharged GTOs, as tempting as they may be, and instead go for a clean, naturally aspirated example in manual or automatic form. You might even find an official UK model, badged 3000GT, for that money. Either way, just remember to check the cambelt has been done at some point.