Currently reading: Off-roaders for winter weather - used car buying guide
Record warm weather may have fooled us into forgetting it’s winter, but Mother Nature could bite back at any moment
3 mins read
2 February 2016

This winter has been unseasonably mild for much of the UK, with only isolated patches of snow and ice. Be wary, though, because Mother Nature could still bite back, and if she does, you'll be needing a reliable off-roader.

1 - Ford Kuga (2008-2013)

The Kuga is a popular crossover available with both two and four-wheel drive. Around £15,000 gets you a five-year-old diesel-powered 4x4 variant in Titanium spec, stuffed full of bells and whistles.

The Kuga is let down on practicality, especially cabin space and storage. However, it’s a good-looking car, is very well equipped and comes with a strong range of diesel engines, albeit only with a manual gearbox.

It excels on ride comfort and performs well when cornering, with body roll nicely contained. The Kuga won’t ascend rugged landscapes, but it’s a great everyday tool that has 4x4 ability at the ready for when the bad weather strikes.

2 - Toyota RAV4 (2006-2013)

The RAV4 is a great all-round SUV with a low purchase price and lower running costs. It’s good on the road, too, with car-like driving manners and a supple ride.

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Inside, you’ll find a well-made, neat and tidy cabin. Being a Toyota, it’s reliable and robust enough to take the knocks from kids, dogs and luggage, although the side-opening tailgate is an opinion-divider because it can hinder access to the load bay in tighter spots.

Check for excessive stone chips at the front, and the clutch and flywheel may need replacing on higher-mileage cars, with costs running to four figures. Also check for difficulty in selecting a gear.

A 2.0 D-4D in XT5 spec, with less than 60,000 miles, can be yours for £5500.

3 - Range Rover (2002-2013)

The Range Rover exudes class, style and refinement and is the final word in off-road luxury - or at least it was until it was replaced by the latest version in 2013. It can carry you from Harrods to Harrogate in comfort and then conquer the Yorkshire moors all in the same day.

It’s expensive to run and the bills will be stately should anything major go wrong, so if you’re considering a used example, make sure yours has been well cared for and religiously serviced and, if possible, comes with a warranty.

A 2010, 60-plate Vogue SE with a 3.6-litre V8 diesel and about 60,000 miles on the clock can cost less than £25,000. That’s a lot of luxury for the price of a new, mid-range BMW 1 Series.

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4 - Volvo XC70 (2000-2007)

What could tick the boxes more effectively than a safe and trusty Swede for those cold, damp and icy winter days? The XC70 offers an enhanced estate experience with a raised ride height and all-wheel drive traction without going down the full SUV route.

The XC70 is capable in the rough but limited by a lack of off-road systems and compromised ground clearance. It has a comfortable ride with a well-appointed, practical and roomy cabin. The steering lacks feel, however, and the car isn’t really designed with hard driving in mind.

About £9000 will get you an 06-plate, 55,000-mile 2.4-litre diesel D5 with an automatic transmission and in decently equipped Lux SE trim.

5 - Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin (2000-2006)

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It may not win many beauty pageants, but the Shogun Pinin will prove mightily useful as it powers through ice and snow to deliver you safely home, while those in more glamorous cars slip and slither.

Available in three or five-door form, it’s a genuine off-roader with the added advantage that it’s relatively cheap to buy and run. Don’t expect a comfortable ride or engaging handling, though.

There’s not much to worry about mechanically, but keep an eye out for rust and bear in mind that if the car has spent its life towing things, it could have worn wheel bearings, suspension and transmission. We found a 2005 Equippe 3dr with a 1.8 petrol engine and 60,000 miles on the clock for £2400.

Matthew Griffiths

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Will86 2 February 2016

Avoid big heavy 4x4s

Surely the best winter car is the smallest, lightest and cheapest car possible. I'd certainly agree the Jimny and Shogun Pinin if you need 4WD or high ground clearance, you could also try the Honda HRV - from an era of proper Honda quality - but something like a Suzuki Swift or Toyota Aygo with winter tyres would get my vote. Small enough to get through gaps when other cars are blocking the road, light enough to control easily, narrow tyres for cutting through snow and perhaps most importantly, they're cheap, so when they rust away from the salt or someone slides into you in the car park, you won't worry too much.
289 2 February 2016

@ will86 are quite there Will.
If I didn't need the space a Panda 4x4 would be my choice for a get you there 4x4.
The Steyr drivetrain is perfect along with winter tyres.
chandrew 2 February 2016

Another vote for winter tyres and AWD

I agree that winter tyres are better than AWD but both is much better than one. There's a good reason why here in Switzerland most big cars sold are AWD and you'll rarely see a 2WD car in the mountains.

I would suggest a Subaru for its permanent AWD and their balance when you don't have traction. In several valleys here there is one Subaru for every 10 people. Suzuki also make a good range of AWD cars. Fiat's AWD cars are popular.

At the more expensive level I'd add an Audi Alroad (or Subaru Outback), probably instead of the Volvo.

@289, you'll be surprised how much your 4 year old tyres have gone off. The softer compounds on winter tyres seem to be sub-optimal after 2-3 seasons even if the tread-depth is still OK.

289 2 February 2016

@ chandrew could be right! Fact is I haven't seen any snow last year or this to find out, although the grip on frosty mornings is noticeably better.
I recently bought a four year old GL500 and retired the oldest of my two ML's to another family member so I will get some winter tyres for this car as well...should be able to test them back to back with the ML to see if this is true....IF we get any snow!
xxxx 2 February 2016


About 4 wheel drive and all Season tyres, the type 'Deputy' advocates.
Deputy 2 February 2016


I used to have a 4x4 and winter tyres (I live in the Dales) but it's pointless. I could go anywhere but the roads were still blocked by stuck lorries and muppets in 4x4s on 22 inch rims/tyres... So I now have a BMW M3 on semi slicks and stay in when it snows!