With the nights drawing in, winter is on the way – no matter how mild it might be at the moment. And what that means is the return of slippery, muddy roads and the prospect of ice and snow as we head deeper into wintertime.
If your car was a bit of a handful last year and you’re after something with a bit more grip, don’t think that you have to plump for a big and expensive off-roader; a number of conventional-looking cars are available with the option of four-wheel drive, giving you extra traction, but doing without the divisive looks of most 4x4s and the social stigma that some drivers experience.
We’ve rounded up five cars which give you the benefit of four-wheel drive – but without the in-your-face styling of many “Chelsea tractors” – from affordable and frugal superminis to very spacious and practical larger models.
City car – Fiat Panda 4×4
When it comes to 4x4s, they don’t come much smaller than the Fiat Panda 4×4. This compact and lightweight model looks pretty much like the standard Panda, but sends its power to all four wheels, giving very good grip on slippery surfaces.
Available from just £14,295, buyers can choose between petrol and diesel power for the Panda 4×4, with both versions capable of nearly 60mpg – and the petrol scampering to 62mph in a reasonable, if not lightning-quick, 12.1 seconds.
These models also come with mud and snow tyres for added traction on wintry roads.
Supermini – Suzuki Swift 4×4
If you need something with a little more space, but still wieldy enough to thread through city streets, the Swift is a sound option. This Ford Fiesta-rivalling supermini looks virtually identical to the normal Swift but rides 25mm higher and has the all-important four-wheel drive kit hidden underneath.
Apart from its attractive looks, solid interior and peppy engine the Swift is also one of the most affordable 4x4s on the market with prices currently starting at £11,799 thanks to Suzuki’s VAT free deals, which run until the end of the year.
Medium car – BMW 120d xDrive
BMWs may be notoriously tricky to drive in snow thanks to power being sent to the rear wheels (without the weight of the engine pushing them into the road, as with front-wheel drive cars). However, the German company has answered this criticism by providing four-wheel drive versions of several of its models.
Smallest of these, is the 1 Series hatchback, which is available with 4×4 grip in five-door 20d form. This speedy machine zips to 62mph in a scant 7.2 seconds, but is still capable of an impressive 60.1mpg – less than 10 per cent behind the rear-wheel drive model.
Sports car – Audi TT
Proving that not all sports cars are hopeless when the going gets slippy the Audi TT and TT Roadster convertible are available in Quattro four-wheel drive, for all-weather, all-season traction. The chic new TT has just been announced at the Paris motor show and will be appearing in British showrooms by the end of the year.
The automatic-only Quattro TTs carry a £2,960 premium over the manual-only two-wheel drive versions. With a hearty 227bhp on tap, this turbocharged 2.0-litre model is able to zip to 62mph in around six seconds – and take corners confidently, thanks to the power being split between front and rear wheels.
Estate car – Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 4×4
If lots of space is one of the key criteria on your wish list, but you are put off by the bold, boxy styling of most SUVs, the Skoda Superb Estate has to be one of the most practical cars you can buy. This large machine offers an enormous boot, a huge amount of space in both the front and rear seats, along with four-wheel drive.
Four-wheel drive models include 138bhp and 168bhp diesels, which are capable of around 50mpg economy and accelerate to 62mph in 10.4 and 8.8 seconds respectively. The less powerful car comes with a manual gearbox, while the faster car gets a standard-fit automatic unit instead.
A 3.6-litre petrol model with four-wheel drive is also available, but with fuel economy standing at barely more than 30mpg this only suits those who aren’t scared off by the prospect of high fuel bills.