Having a sturdy winter hack need not mean compromising on style, as demonstrated by the Audi TT. Your £5000 will get you a coupé or a softtop roadster equipped with Audi’s Haldex-based quattro all-wheel drive system, which can quickly shuffle torque between axles, according to where grip is needed.
Your head will say to go for the entry-level 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which delivers its 180bhp in a smooth, unfussy fashion. But then you’ll see that for the same money, you could get a more exciting 220bhp version or, better still, a 3.2-litre V6 with 247bhp.
You might then rationalise that, despite its inevitably higher mileage (think 70,000-plus, compared with 50,000 miles or so in a 180bhp car at the same price), the extra weight of the V6 unit could be a boon in tricky conditions.
One man who knows as much is Alex Harries, 35, who bought his TT 3.2 quattro after looking at the less winter-friendly Honda S2000. He says: “The TT is excellent on flooded motorways when I’ve hit big patches of standing water and on country roads covered in mud. It just goes where you ask it to with no fuss or misbehaviour.”
The big things to look out for are failure of the dashboard pod, cambelt replacements on the 1.8 every 80,000 miles or five years, and a noisy cam chain on the V6, because if it needs replacing, it’s an engine-out job.
If you go for the DSG automatic gearbox, ensure the oil has been changed regularly, and the same goes for the oil and filter in the quattro system.
True, the TT’s Golf underpinnings mean that it isn’t ultimately the most sparkling driver’s car, but look at all of the other models here and tell us it still isn’t the most enticing-looking. Exactly.
BMW X5 (2000-2006)
One we found 2004 4.4 Sport (320bhp), 99,700 miles, full service history, £4995
I'm a pilot, so I absolutely have to get to work every day. It isn’t an option to get snowed in,” says Olly Bloxham, 32.
That explains why he doesn’t rely only on his X5’s all-wheel drive system but has also taken the wise step of fitting winter tyres.
With the 4.4-litre V8 fitted, the X5 drinks about as much fuel as an Airbus A380, although Paul reckons it’s still cheaper than a hire purchase deal on a “fairly average” new car. Hearing that V8 throbbing away, we’d be hard pressed to argue.
The E53-generation X5 was BMW’s first big 4x4, as well as the only one at the time that was truly as good to drive as its saloon counterparts. This led BMW to call it an SAV, or Sports Activity Vehicle, to differentiate it from more cumbersome SUVs – not that anyone listened.