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Best cars for the snow

With skiers and boarders brushing off their gear and planning to venture into snow country CarsGuide has assembled our top 10 motoring snow companions.

SUBARU OUTBACK 2.5i (from $37,990)
image    Subaru quality
image    Love it or hate it looks

Even though the smaller Forester gets the lion's share of Subaru sales there is a lot to commend the bigger Outback. The design may be more American focused and not as sporty looking as the previous version but the package is typically Subaru and that means fuss-free motoring. The CVT auto is impressive and works well with the 2.5-litre four.

The handling and comfort levels also appeal. Critics may cry that it's just a jacked-up Liberty wagon but the slightly higher ground clearance lets you go that little bit further. The added plus is the roomy boot. However, it does get marked down for having a spacesaver spare.

NISSAN DUALIS+2 Ti (from $36,890)
image    Versatility and styling
image    Engine performance

Designed to supplement the five-seater Nissan Dualis, the two extra seats provide more than just extra kiddie room. A 135mm longer-wheelbase than the five-seater opens up more space out back for luggage and passengers. Boot space grows to 550 litres with the seats up and 1520 litres with the second and third rows folded away. The middle seats split 40/20/40 and slide forward.

If the normal Dualis is a guide the +2 should be just as welcoming and comfortable on the road. All-wheel drive provides some reassurance for tackling slippery snowy roads. However, the jury is still out on whether the 102kW/196Nm 2.0-litre four will be able to haul the bulkier seven-seater full of passengers with any urgency. The same engine in the five-seater performance is adequate rather than outstanding.

HYUNDAI ix35 AWD (from $31,990)
image    Diesel performance
image    Suspension and steering

This is a bit of a surprise package. The new looks and terrific performing 135kW/392Nm 2.0-litre diesel - $3000 more than the 2.4-litre four - will put this Hyundai on many people's shopping list.

CarsGuide expects many to be first-time Hyundai buyers and there is a lot going for it if you choose the all-wheel drive Elite or Highlander with the six-speed automatic. The steering and suspension still need work but the fitout, safety, quality and equipment list is comprehensive. With hill start assist, downhill brake control and full electronic all-wheel drive system, the Elite and Highlander both present as capable snow machines.

KIA SORENTO AWD (from $39,990)
image    Value and performance
image    Not as adventurous as before

Kia's new-generation overhaul of its once-competent off-road wagon sees major changes in looks, space and performance. Gone is a low-range gearbox and full-frame ladder chassis, making the Sorento more city friendly. The wagon now seats seven, AWD versions get only diesel engines and the ambience is softer, quieter and more refined.

Although it doesn't go off the bitumen as well as its predecessor, it has sufficient driveline electronics to make most dirt and snow treks relatively painless. Most of all, the bigger cabin makes the journey more enjoyable. The great diesel engine is a new wave of powerplants for the Hyundai-Kia conglomerate. It is frugal, feisty and fuss-free. It's very hard to bypass, especially given the value for money.

LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 4 (from $68,490)
image    Go anywhere ability
image    Land Rover reputation

If the budget can stretch, Land Rover's Disco 4 is the consummate snow car, particularly because the brand has alpine cache. If you do happen to venture right off the snowy path it will go just about anywhere and do so in comfort. The latest Disco 4 gets a raft of significant equipment and technology updates. The entry 140kW/440Nm six-speed automatic 2.7-litre V6 TDI - eventually destined to appear in the Ford Territory - is fine but if you have the cash opt for the sequential twin-turbo 180kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6, which starts around $81,990.

It jacks the price but the performance and economy are standouts. Inside it feels more upmarket. Equipment levels and the cabin finish now match the price. It is roomy, safe and seats seven. Among the toys are five digital cameras to give a 360-degree view outside the car, particularly useful for parking or towing.

TOYOTA PRADO (from $55,990)
image    Off-road ability
image    Price

With a three-door as a taster, the new five-door Toyota Prado is still the pick for families. The Prado also happens to be the best selling mid-size offroader in the country. The cabin is more comfy and luxurious, the ride is more compliant, and there is a bit more room inside, which families will appreciate. Like the Disco, the range-topper even gets outside cameras to monitor the rough going.

The tweaked V6 is more sprightly with 202kW/381Nm but Toyota says most buyers still go for the largely unchanged 127kW/410Nm turbodiesel. With 14 models to choose from there is something for everybody.

image    Price and equipment
image    Noisy diesel

The Suzuki Grand Vitara has earned the title as the country's best compact off-roader for two years in a row. Not only will it get to the snow and back in comfort but it is one of the few serious four-wheel drives under $35,000 that has a true low-range mode for off-roading. The 122kW/225Nm 2.4-litre four moves the five-door along nicely and there is also a 165kW/284Nm 3.2-litre V6 or 95kW/300Nm turbo-diesel in the lineup.

The four is a quiet and comfortable highway cruiser while the 1.9-litre diesel is a little noisy at start up but settles into a relaxed highway gait. Inside, the cabin is a tad snug in width but the rear seats tumble forward for extra luggage room and quality is top-notch. Equipment and safety levels are good, as is reliability.

LEXUS RX350 (from $82,900)
image    Equipment and quality
image    Bulbous styling

The Lexus RX has grown into more of a luxury urban wannabee than an off-roader but if comfort and quality are high on your list for a snow car, you can't go past it. There is plenty of room for five and the sophisticated on-demand "active torque control" all-wheel drive system can be locked into AWD at speeds under 40km/h if the going gets tough.

The system also has an auto function that increases torque to the rear wheels when accelerating but also reduces it during tight cornering. Overall it's a smooth, quiet, yet quite isolating driving experience. Environmental types can also opt for the RX450h hybrid version.

VOLVO XC60 (from $56,950)
image    Styling and safety
image    Porky weight

This is Volvo's number one-seller locally. And there is are good reasons why. It is a stylish, family friendly wagon with an impeccable safety record and rock solid build quality. It is also a surprisingly good drive. The latest twin-turbo 151kW/420Nm D5 diesel is strong yet reasonably economical. The other choice is a 3.2-litre six petrol or turbo 3.0-litre six. The XC60 uses the latest Haldex AWD system to seamlessly push power to the rear wheels when needed.

Importantly the car starts in all-wheel drive and then the system will determine if AWD is needed or not. A 40/20/40 split rear seat adds to the versatility and even the front passenger seat fold flat to increase load space. On the road its car-like behaviour is impressive. The stylish design too is more rakish than some of its upright competition.

BMW X1 AWD (from $52,700)
image    Driving experience
image    Expensive options

It is the newest kid on the X block and like the X3 and X5, this entry BMW off-roader is heading for sellout status. All-wheel drive versions are called xDrive. At present you get the choice of two 2.0-litre diesels - 130kW/350Nm or 150kW/400Nm - or a 160kW/277Nm 3.0-litre in-line six in what's called the xDrive25i. Like the Volvo XC60, the 40/20/40 split rear backrest adds versatility and the cabin is upright and reasonably roomy, even if some of the plastics look a little cheap for this type of premium car.

Safety is top notch and early reports show the diesels to be hot sellers. On the road, the X1 is a competent and typically BMW driving experience. However, if you're a four-wheel drive purist, you might baulk at the runflat tyres. You'll be more confused by BMW's weird model naming strategy than the car itself.

Pricing guides

Based on 60 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
Highest Price

Range and Specs

2.0D Premium 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $8,200 – 12,650 2010 Subaru Outback 2010 2.0D Premium Pricing and Specs
2.0D 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $9,600 – 14,410 2010 Subaru Outback 2010 2.0D Pricing and Specs
2.5i 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $8,000 – 12,430 2010 Subaru Outback 2010 2.5i Pricing and Specs
2.5i Premium 2.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $9,400 – 14,190 2010 Subaru Outback 2010 2.5i Premium Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.