The best 4x4s can take the worry out of driving in the snow, whether they're a family-friendly seven-seater or a compact model that will fit into the tightest parking space.
We've rounded up our favourite four-wheel-drive cars, all of which are equipped to deal with the worst the weather can throw at them. Here's our guide to the best 4x4s for winter.
If there's one car that you'd choose to be stuck in a blizzard in it has to be the all-new Range Rover. Chances are it'll get you to your destination in conditions that would leave any other car stranded, thanks to its incredible off-road ability.
Even if it's just a bit wet and windy, the Range Rover's exceptional composure, sumptuous cabin and smooth ride cocoon you from the outside world as well as any luxury car. The latest model now provides lots of space for passengers and luggage, too.
The Range Rover is expensive, but you don't need to consider the pricier models in the range when the basic 3.0 TDV6 Vogue SE model is so good, and so well equipped.
Range Rover's Terrain Response system reads the surface and selects the appropriate setting
The BMW X3 was overall winner in the 4x4 and SUV section of our Car of the Year 2013 awards, and it was an easy decision to make.
Most of all, the X3 is a brilliant family car, with a spacious cabin that every bit as plush as BMW's executive saloons.
The X3 is great to drive, too, thanks to sharp handling and a forgiving ride, while the engines are strong, quiet and incredibly efficient. Our favourite model - the xDrive20d SE - has four-wheel drive and averages 50.4mpg.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe has a roomy cabin; seven-seat version offers MPV-rivalling practicality
The Hyundai Santa Fe has always been great value for money, and although the latest model is a lot more expensive than its predecessor, it's still a great choice for families that want a large, rugged vehicle that doesn't cost a lot to buy and run.
The cheapest Santa Fe models come with five seats, but we reckon it’s worth paying extra for the third row of seats, to get near-MPV practicality.
Although it doesn't have the off-road ability of some rivals, every Santa Fe has downhill-brake-control and hill-start-assist systems. For maximum peace of mind, we'd suggest going for the four-wheel-drive version, which in seven-seat guise emits only 4g/km more CO2 than the front-wheel-drive equivalent.
Land Rover Discovery
If you're looking for the best seven-seater 4x4 bar none, the Land Rover Discovery remains our top choice. Thanks to a series of updates over the years it's now better than ever.
Those Tonka toy looks suggest the Discovery is ready for anything, and it delivers on that promise. Thanks to its rugged construction and clever four-wheel-drive system, it stands a good chance of going wherever you point it, whatever the conditions.
Just as importantly for most buyers, the Discovery is as refined and comfortable as many executive saloons, while the seven-seat cabin matches many MPVs for space and versatility.
Ownership costs are rather high, but considering the Discovery rolls the best bits of a 4x4, executive saloon and MPV into one, it represents decent value overall.
Thanks to Mazda's Skyactiv technology the CX-5 is more fuel-efficient than many of its rivals
Compared with many of the cars here, the Mazda CX-5 might look a bit weedy, but opt for the 2.2D Skyactiv-D 150 SE-L AWD model and you get the reassurance of four-wheel drive and a hill-start-assist system. Thanks partly to Mazda's 'Skyactiv' technology – a blend of lightweight construction and efficient engines - average fuel economy is 54.3mpg, and there's a sub-140g/km (136g/km) CO2 emissions figure.
Whichever CX-5 model you go for, you can be sure that you'll have plenty of fun behind the wheel, thanks to its decent handling and responsive steering. The cabin has all the space and quality you could ask for, and ownership costs are low.
Land Rover Freelander
Thanks to a recent face-lift the Land Rover Freelander now looks more like its larger brothers. The Land Rover DNA coursing through it means the Freelander is as formidable off-road, too.
All four-wheel-drive models have now come with the latest version of Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which allows the driver to select different settings for maximum traction.
As ever, the Freelander rides comfortably and, although it's not as nimble as some rivals, it's good to drive.
Cabin space isn't a Freelander strength, but there's enough for most families and the latest version has a plush interior that looks similar to pricier Land Rover and Range Rover models'. Go for the 2.2 TD4 150 S and the Freelander is surprisingly cheap to buy and run.
Fiat Panda 4x4
Extra body cladding and bespoke bumpers mean the Fiat Panda 4x4 looks the part; it has genuine off-road ability, too
If you want a proper 4x4, but don't don't want to pay the earth for it, the Fiat Panda 4x4 is the car to go for.
There's a lot more to it than simply an extra pair of driven wheels, too. Compared with standard Panda models, 4x4 versions feature a raised ride height (by 47mm) and bespoke bumpers that give it better approach and departure angles than those of any Mini Countryman or Nissan Qashqai.
Fiat has even positioned the Panda's air intake higher for improved wading capability, and there's an electronic locking differential and a torque-on-demand system to maximise traction.
Petrol and diesel versions are available; our favourite is the 89bhp 0.9-litre Twinair petrol, which gives an average of 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions of just 114g/km. That's a match for many superminis, as is a list price of just £13,950.
By Leo Wilkinson
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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