3 cheap cars to tackle the winter

Oh, we miss the Pajero and other Patrols. The only survivors of this rich era of franchisors, Land Rover Defender and Toyota Land Cruiser, two particularly valued institutions. And let’s not forget, of course, the Jeep Wrangler! But for the smallest budget, the offer of off-road cars or, even comfortable in the mud, is rare. Blame it on the quest for the fewest grams of CO2 in the certification test, which condemns the all-wheel drive and chassis that sits too high.

Fortunately, not all of these adventurous cars are dead. A quick overview of the French market and here is a non-exhaustive list of vehicles that do more than put their wheels on the road.

What is a good all-purpose car?

Reduced overhang, simple and stable mechanics, 4-wheel drive and adapted tires: that’s good!© Dacia

Roughly speaking, if you frequent difficult terrain, covered in gravel, muddy, wet or covered in snow, there are some golden rules: a relatively light car, if possible with four-wheel drive, and high-quality tires (narrow for snow, a plus). The rest is bonus: Short-range transmission, differential lock, angles of attack or ventral, underbody protections allow you to go further after the end of the road.

Our models do not have all this but nevertheless they are highly recommended to deal with winters and especially in mountainous regions. Even if they are not that tight, being at the wheel of a comfortable car when the grip becomes uncertain can be noticeable.

Cheap cars for winter

The perfect vehicle for winter that combines off-road skills and a contained price will not please everyone. This is the Suzuki Jimny, this little Japanese 4×4 that can do wonders on the roads. But at the cost of a compromise between road and offroad almost non-existent. The Jimny on the road, although it has progressed, remains noisy, quite uncomfortable and not very efficient. And then, the Jimny was sold only in a two-seater utility version to escape the penalty…

Still with Suzuki, it’s better to opt for the Ignis Allgrip. The system is similar to Volkswagen’s Haldex with a viscous coupling that can send part of the torque to the rear axle in the event of a loss of grip. Obviously we are far from the responsiveness and power of a true permanent 4×4, but this system has the advantage of being lighter and cheaper. Best of all, the Ignis is very light and can do wonders in the snow.

If so, how not to mention the Dacia Duster 4×4? The engine is so popular that it has established itself in Russia at Renault with demanding off-road customers. It is not uncommon to see them among Lada Niva, Land Cruiser and other Nissan Patrols! The Romanian works wonders with his system, which however is not permanent: even blocking the 4×4 mode jumps above a certain speed and returns the Duster to two-wheel drive. Despite the lack of a short range and strong axles that allow it to easily cross bridges, the Duster 4×4 remains heavy on the roads.. And all at a competitive price. It’s a pity that since the restyling has started the petrol version has disappeared along with the excellent 1.3 TCE.

Another proposal that can do the job in light off-road… the Toyota Yaris Cross! Acceptable ground clearance, reduced overhangs and the presence of four-wheel drive (up to 70 km / h) are all important allies to go and feel the mud and not get stuck in the smallest rut. This is the most expensive model of our choice, so we get to the limits of accessibility, but also one of the least greedy with its hybrid engine that works well at low speeds. The icing on the cake, the Yaris Cross limits the breakdown in terms of weight, even allowing itself to do better than the Duster, which is less well equipped.


Characteristic Toyota Yaris Cross AWD Dacia Duster 4×4 Suzuki Ignis Allgrip
CharacteristicPrice from) Toyota Yaris Cross AWD€30,400 Dacia Duster 4×4€23,450 Suzuki Ignis Allgrip€18,710
CharacteristicWeight (according to our readings) Toyota Yaris Cross AWD1350kg Dacia Duster 4×41470kg Suzuki Ignis Allgrip910 kg (official value)
CharacteristicMixed consumption (according to our readings) Toyota Yaris Cross AWD6.2l/100km Dacia Duster 4×46.3l/100km Suzuki Ignis Allgrip5.6 l/100 km (official value)
CharacteristicTrunk volume (according to our readings) Toyota Yaris Cross AWD230 dm3 Dacia Duster 4×4320 dm3 Suzuki Ignis Allgrip260 dm3 (official value)
CharacteristicContagion Toyota Yaris Cross AWDAuto Dacia Duster 4×4Manual Suzuki Ignis AllgripManual
Characteristicfirewood Toyota Yaris Cross AWDHybrid Dacia Duster 4×4Diesel Suzuki Ignis AllgripEssence

The used alternative

If you are looking for a really cheap vehicle to go trekking in winter without fear, how not to recommend the Fiat Panda Cross 4×4. Currently, the model is no longer in the Fiat configurator, which sells only the two-wheel drive version of the Panda Cross. Too bad, because the Panda 4×4 excels in mountainous regions thanks to its extremely low weight and the ability to go almost anywhere!

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