These are not out-and-out off-roaders – they are cars with four-wheel drive that stand the best chance of getting you around in the snow. We have included the class-leading new diesel and petrol 4x4s , plus a couple of other interesting options.
Although a good 4×4 system will provide great help in getting through the snow, the tyres on the car are one of the most critical issues. We’ve tested 4x4s with road-biased tyres that are hopeless in the snow – a two-wheel drive car with a decent set of winter tyres could perform better.
Finally, driving ability in snow and ice is also important – although a four-wheel drive car may have sufficient traction to get you moving, it won’t necessarily stop any quicker on ice.
Model/Engine size: Cooper D ALL4
Fuel economy combined: 57.6 mpg
CO2 emissions : 129 g/km
The MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 is the complete all-round car. It’s a family hatch that is also good to drive. In addition it can provide added security in low traction conditions, and hopefully it will get you home if it snows. It has the character of a MINI and so it is much more interesting than the average family hatchback. It’s also class-leading in terms of economy and emissions. It shows that cars can be fun and green – which is what Green-Car-Guide stands for, and that’s why the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4 is the first ever car to get a Green-Car-Guide rating of 10 out of 10.
Read more about the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4
Model/Engine size: 1.3 16v Multijet Cross
Fuel economy combined: 54.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 136 g/km
The Fiat Panda Cross delivers 54.3 mpg with emissions of just 136 g/km CO2, making it one of the most economical 4x4s you can buy. It’s a great choice for someone who needs a good degree of off-road ability, and who also wants decent economy. The Panda Cross looks different, and it does something more interesting than the average car. That makes it fun, and reasonably green, so it gets our thumbs up.
Read more about the Fiat Panda Cross
Read the Fiat Panda Cross road test
Model/Engine size: xDrive20d automatic
Fuel economy combined: 50.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 147 g/km
The new BMW X3 is the first decent sized 4×4 to achieve more than 50 mpg. Interestingly, the automatic version is more economical than the manual. Just watch out for the standard BMW tyres, as they are generally hopeless in the snow – put a decent set of winter tyres on the car and it will be transformed in adverse conditions.
Read more about the BMW X3
Model/Engine size : 450h 3.5 litre V6
Fuel economy combined: 44.8 mpg
CO2 emissions : 148 g/km
The Lexus RX 450h is a technical marvel. With its petrol-electric hybrid system, it officially emits just 148 g/km CO2, which should be impossible for this class of car. In fact, it is pretty much impossible to achieve this in real-life driving. And the 4×4 capability is nowhere near as competent as that of a car such as the Subaru Outback, which in the previous generation guise below will be much more economical in practice than the Lexus. However the RX 450h is still a low emission 4×4 so it makes it into our top 10.
Read more about the Lexus RX 450h
Read the Lexus RX 450h road test
Model/Engine size: 1.2 4×4
Fuel economy combined: 42.8 mpg
CO2 emissions: 155 g/km
The diesel Panda Cross gets our recommendation over the petrol 4×4 Panda, as it has much needed extra torque. However the petrol Panda 4×4 remains one of the cheapest 4x4s to buy and run, and it’s more capable off-road than you might think. Just be aware of its painfully slow 0-62 mph time of 20 seconds.
Read more about the Fiat Panda 4×4
Model/Engine size: Cooper S ALL4
Fuel economy combined: 42.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 157 g/km
The MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4 has all the benefits of the diesel Cooper D ALL4, with the advantage of a more powerful petrol engine, and this definitely makes the driving experience more fun. However the downside is that the economy and emissions are worse. But it still remains a family hatch that is also an efficient 4×4. If you drive this car in snow with the standard tyres then be aware that you will have sufficient traction to get moving, but stopping and steering will still be a challenge.
Read more about the MINI Countryman Cooper S ALL4
Model/Engine size: 2.2-litre
Fuel economy combined: 48.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 154 g/km
The Toyota RAV4 comes with Toyota Optimal Drive, so making it one of the most efficient 4x4s in its class. It’s also good to drive, it’s got a gutsy engine, it’s efficient, it’s got adequate amounts of space for a family, and it should be durable and reliable. Although it’s one of the more efficient 4x4s, it also shares the 4×4 capability genes of its more hardcore relatives, so it can also cope extremely well with snow.
Read the Toyota RAV4 road test
Model/Engine size: 2.0-litre
Fuel economy combined: 49.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 150 g/km
The emissions of the BMW X1 in xDrive 18d form are 150 g/km CO2, and it can manage 49.6 mpg. This was class-leading until the new BMW X3 appeared, which manages 147 g/km CO2 and 50.4 mpg. However the X1 still offers four-wheel drive and low emissions so it deserves inclusion. But – and it is a very big but – be aware that this car is hopeless in snow with the standard road-biased tyres. If you buy this car and want to get around safely in the snow then you must buy a set of winter tyres.
Model/Engine size: 2.0 TD R
Fuel economy combined: 48.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 153 g/km
The Subaru Outback diesel introduced in May 2008 was the lowest emission 4×4 by far, and it retained this crown until Subaru introduced the new model in November 2009 with significantly higher emissions – genius! So if you’re happy to go for a secondhand 4×4, then the Outback delivers awesome capability in snow and ice, it has lots of space, you can get 50 mpg if you drive carefully, and it will be reliable and dependable.
Read the Subaru Outback road test
Model/Engine size: 1.4 D4D 5 AWD
Fuel economy combined: 57.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 130 g/km
The Toyota Urban Cruiser may be viewed as a strange niche of a car, but, in all-wheel drive form, this is another vehicle that promises low emissions together with the ability to stop you sliding around in the snow and ice. To get the all-wheel drive version, you need to go for the diesel engine. The result is an urban crossover that has very similar emissions and economy figures to the MINI Countryman Cooper D ALL4, ie. this is one of the lowest emission cars you can buy that also has the added security of 4×4 all-wheel drive.
Read the Toyota Urban Cruiser road test