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The Best Cars For Snow

The Best Cars For Snow

Driving in the snow can be a harrowing experience. Many drivers have found themselves stuck on an icy hill or sliding into a snowbank when caught off guard by winter conditions. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, there are over 4,000 collisions during snowy months in Toronto alone. Having the right car for winter driving makes all the difference in staying safe on snow-covered roads.

This guide will provide an in-depth look at the best cars for Canadian winters. We’ve researched compact cars, SUVs, trucks and luxury vehicles to highlight the top picks optimized for snow, ice, slush, and everything in between. Key factors like all-wheel drive, ground clearance, advanced traction systems and more will be examined to help you decide which winter warrior is right for your needs.

By the end of this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to choose a snow-ready ride to handle whatever winter decides to throw your way.

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Why Winter Driving is Challenging

Driving in winter conditions can be extremely challenging compared to the rest of the year. Snow, ice and frigid temperatures transform typically easy roads into tricky terrain. Understanding these hazards is key to navigating wintry conditions safely and confidently.

Snow impacts traction and handling as it builds up on roadways. Fresh powder is slippery, making it easy to lose control, especially when braking or turning. Packed snow also reduces grip, and ruts in the surface can pull vehicles off course. Large snowdrifts are another obstacle, capable of stopping drivers in their tracks.

Black ice is a common winter danger, occurring when snow melts then quickly refreezes on pavement. These transparent sheets of ice are nearly impossible to see, so drivers don’t realize they are there until losing traction. Bridges and overpasses are prone to black ice due to cold air circulating above and below the surface.

Frigid temperatures bring their own challenges. Not only does the cold decrease tire grip, but it also reduces the effectiveness of the battery, engine fluids, and other vehicle components. Subzero conditions make starting difficult, and can leave you stranded if the car stalls.

Together, these wintry factors significantly increase the chances of getting stuck, sliding off the road, or being involved in a collision. That’s why it’s critical to prepare yourself and your vehicle before facing icy, snow-covered roads.


Traction Control and Stability Systems

When driving in snow and ice, advanced vehicle control systems can make a huge difference in maintaining grip and control. Here are some key systems to look for:


Traction Control

Traction control uses the anti-lock braking system to detect and prevent wheel slip. When traction is lost, it automatically brakes the spinning wheel to redirect power to wheels with grip. This allows you to accelerate smoothly without breaking loose.


Stability Control

Also known as electronic stability control (ESC), this system detects loss of steering control and automatically applies brakes to help you stay on course. By braking individual wheels, it counteracts oversteer or understeer when cornering on low-traction surfaces.


Anti-Lock Brakes

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) pump the brakes to prevent wheel lockup when braking hard. This allows you to maintain steering control and prevents skids. ABS is essential for stopping safely on snowy or icy roads.

Having traction control, stability control, and ABS can significantly improve winter handling and accident avoidance. Many modern vehicles now come standard with these key technologies.


All-Wheel Drive vs Front-Wheel Drive

When it comes to driving in snowy conditions, the type of drivetrain your vehicle has can make a big difference. Two of the most common options are all-wheel drive (AWD) and front-wheel drive (FWD). Both have their pros and cons for winter driving.

AWD systems power all four wheels of the vehicle. This improves traction and stability on slippery surfaces like snow and ice. With power going to all wheels, it’s less likely for the drive wheels to spin out. AWD systems vary in sophistication – some can actively distribute torque between front and rear axles while basic systems have a fixed torque split. AWD adds weight which can impact fuel economy.

FWD vehicles drive the front wheels only. Without power going to the rear, FWD cars can struggle for traction in the snow. But traction control and winter tires can help maximize grip. FWD cars tend to be lighter and more fuel efficient. They also tend to cost less compared to AWD alternatives. Overall maneuverability can be better with FWD in low-traction conditions.

While AWD has inherent advantages for winter driving, a FWD vehicle with proper winter tires can perform remarkably well in snow. But for the best capability in deep snow, steep hills and icy conditions, AWD is hard to beat. Evaluate your specific winter driving needs to decide if AWD is a must-have or if FWD can get the job done.


Ground Clearance for Deep Snow

A vehicle’s ground clearance, which is the measurement from the underside of the chassis to the ground, is an important factor when driving in deep snow. Vehicles with higher ground clearance have an easier time clearing snow piles and not getting stuck. For example, most sedans have a ground clearance around 5-6 inches, while many SUVs and trucks have 8 inches or more.

When snowfall is heavy, roads can become packed with inches of accumulation. If a vehicle’s undercarriage gets buried in the snow, it can become high-centered and immobilized. The spinning wheels just dig it in deeper. Even a few inches of clearance makes a big difference in whether a vehicle can power through versus bottoming out.

Higher clearance allows the tires to maintain contact with the road beneath the snow. This results in better traction and handling. The elevated ride height also provides better visibility so you can see farther down snow-covered roads. When evaluating winter vehicles, look for those with at least 7-8 inches of ground clearance or more.


Heated Features for Winter Comfort

One of the best ways to stay warm and comfortable while driving in frigid temperatures is with heated features. Many modern vehicles come equipped with heated seats, steering wheels, and side mirrors – amenities that make a huge difference on cold winter days.

Heated seats warm up quickly, allowing you to drive in comfort without needing heavy winter coats. For longer drives, heated seats help prevent soreness and stiffness from sitting still in the cold. Most new vehicles have heated front seats, while some also include heated rear seats for passengers. Control buttons allow you to adjust the temperature settings to your desired level.

Heated steering wheels combat one of the worst parts of winter driving – frigid hands from gripping a frozen steering wheel. Within minutes of turning on the heating element, the steering wheel becomes toasty warm to the touch. This makes a dramatic improvement in comfort and also helps increase blood flow to your fingers.

Heated side mirrors are vital for safe winter driving. They rapidly melt frost, snow and ice that can build up on mirrors and obscure visibility. With the push of a button, integrated defrosters will clear mirrors and prevent re-freezing. This winter safety feature provides you with optimal rearview vision.

While heated seats, steering wheels and mirrors may seem like a luxury, they provide very real benefits for winter drivers. These amenities transform driving in the cold from an uncomfortable experience to an enjoyable one. Be sure to look for modern vehicles equipped with these winter-friendly features.


Best Small Cars

When it comes to driving in the snow, small cars have some advantages over larger vehicles. Their light weight and shorter wheelbases give them an edge in maneuverability on slick roads. Here are some of the top options for compact cars that perform well in winter conditions:


Subaru Impreza – The Impreza is a smart choice for winter driving thanks to Subaru’s renowned symmetrical all-wheel drive system that comes standard on all models. This system provides great traction and control in snow and ice. The Impreza also has ample ground clearance to handle deeper snow.


Toyota Corolla AWD – New for 2022, the Toyota Corolla is now available with all-wheel drive. Adding AWD transforms this compact sedan into a very capable winter vehicle. Available winter driving aids like traction control further improve performance on slippery roads.


Volkswagen Golf Alltrack – With its raised suspension and available 4Motion all-wheel drive system, the Golf Alltrack is ready to take on winter weather. The Alltrack provides the nimble handling of the Golf hatchback with added ground clearance and grip.


Best Midsize Sedans

Midsize sedans offer a balance of interior space, fuel economy, and handling that makes them a popular choice for many Canadian drivers. Here are some of the top options when it comes to tackling winter driving in a midsize sedan:


Toyota Camry AWD

The Toyota Camry recently added available all-wheel drive across its trim levels, making this best-selling sedan even more appealing. With 205 horsepower and great fuel economy, the Camry provides plenty of traction on slippery roads thanks to its automatic AWD system that engages when sensors detect wheel slippage. The Camry offers a composed, comfortable ride even in poor weather.


Subaru Legacy AWD

Subaru is known for its mastery of all-wheel drive, and the Legacy sedan benefits from the company’s latest generation symmetric AWD system. Standard on all trims, the AWD provides great stability and control in winter conditions. With 182 horsepower, the Legacy has sufficient power to navigate snowy hills and back roads. Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist technology is also handy for maintaining safe distances in poor visibility.


Best Small SUVs

Small SUVs provide the cargo space and seating of an SUV with the maneuverability and fuel efficiency of a smaller vehicle. Here are some top picks:


Subaru Crosstrek

The Subaru Crosstrek is one of the best small SUVs for winter driving thanks to its standard all-wheel drive system. Models come equipped with 8.7 inches of ground clearance to handle snow, while heated front seats help keep you warm on frigid mornings. The Crosstrek provides ample cargo room for your gear with fold-down rear seats.


Honda CR-V

Known for its reliability, the Honda CR-V is available with an intelligent all-wheel drive system to optimize traction. Spacious and practical, the CR-V offers the cargo flexibility to load up your ski gear or winter camping equipment. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are available to make commuting more comfortable.


Toyota RAV4

The popular Toyota RAV4 delivers renowned Toyota build quality and is now available with all-wheel drive across all trim levels. With ample ground clearance and optional heated front seats, the RAV4 provides winter readiness in a nimble, fuel-efficient package. Advanced safety features like pre-collision braking also boost wintertime confidence.


Best Midsize SUVs

When it comes to midsize SUVs, there are a few standout options that perform exceptionally well in winter driving conditions. Here are two of the best:


Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 is one of the most popular midsize SUVs on the market, and for good reason. It’s available with all-wheel drive across all trim levels, giving you excellent traction and control on snowy roads. The RAV4 has 8.4 inches of ground clearance, which allows you to clear deep snow without getting stuck. It also comes standard with a suite of active safety features like pre-collision braking, lane departure alert, and automatic high beams to give you extra confidence on slick winter roads.


Subaru Outback

With Subaru’s renowned symmetrical all-wheel drive system, the Outback is arguably one of the best midsize SUVs for winter driving. Its minimum ground clearance of 8.7 inches gives it an edge over many competitors when it comes to clearing snow, while standard X-MODE enhances traction by optimizing the engine, transmission, brakes, and AWD system. Heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, and an available heated steering wheel help keep you comfortable in frigid temperatures.

Both the RAV4 and Outback offer ample cargo space and modern tech features while providing sure-footed handling and control in snowy, icy conditions – making them top choices for winter driving.


Best Trucks

Trucks are known for their rugged capability and durability, making them well-suited for winter driving. Here are some of the top trucks optimized for snow:


Toyota Tundra

The Toyota Tundra is a full-size truck that offers excellent snow traction when equipped with four-wheel drive. Higher ground clearance allows it to power through deep snow, while a sturdy truck frame and chassis provide stability. The Tundra has ample towing and payload capacity as well, perfect for hauling winter gear.


Ford F-150

America’s best-selling truck for decades, the Ford F-150 is a winter warrior when properly equipped. Opt for four-wheel drive and the F-150 can traverse snowy backroads with confidence thanks to advanced traction control and torque distribution. The available FX4 off-road package adds all-terrain tires, skid plates and upgraded shocks for enhanced snow capability.


Ram 1500

The Ram 1500 pickup truck is another excellent option for snowy conditions. Its rear coil-spring suspension allows the rear wheels to better maintain contact with the ground over uneven surfaces. Combined with an advanced AWD system, the Ram 1500’s powertrain smoothly transfers torque to maintain grip in slippery conditions.


Best Luxury Vehicles

When the weather turns icy and snowy, luxury vehicles with advanced traction systems can make winter driving feel safe and secure. Here are some of the top luxury cars and SUVs to consider for snowy conditions:


Audi A4 Quattro

The Audi A4 Quattro luxury sedan comes standard with the automaker’s famous Quattro all-wheel drive system. This allows power to be sent to all four wheels, giving you great traction on slippery surfaces. The A4 provides a comfortable and refined ride while also offering agile handling.


Volvo XC60 T8

Volvo is known for its safety, and the XC60 SUV delivers with standard all-wheel drive even on its base models. Step up to the T8 plug-in hybrid, and you’ll have the confidence of electric all-wheel drive traction plus the long range of a gas engine. This luxurious and family-friendly SUV has raised ground clearance to handle deep snow.

When evaluating luxury vehicles for winter driving, be sure to test the traction control systems and all-wheel/four-wheel drive capabilities. Heated seats, steering wheels and wiper blades also lend comfort on cold days. With a refined luxury vehicle designed to handle slick roads, you can take on winter weather in style and safety.


Tire Tips

Equipping your vehicle with the proper tires makes a significant difference when driving in snow and ice. Here are some tips on the best tire options:


Winter Tires – Winter tires are engineered specifically for cold-weather traction. They use a softer rubber compound that remains pliable in freezing temperatures, along with an aggressive tread pattern to grip snow and slush. Winter tires provide much shorter braking distances and better handling than all-seasons in snow and ice.


Chains – Snow chains give a huge traction boost in deep snow and ice. They should be installed on the drive wheels of front-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles. Chains cut through powdery snow to grip the pavement. They are mandatory in some mountain passes.


All-Season Treads – While not as capable in winter conditions as specialized tires, all-season tires with aggressive tread patterns can perform decently on snow. Look for chunky block or asymmetric tread designs with multiple sipes for extra grip on snow and slush.

Investing in the best tires for your vehicle’s drivetrain will give you much more control and safety in harsh Canadian winters. Always check local regulations on winter tire and chain requirements before heading out.


Preparing Your Vehicle

In addition to choosing the right vehicle, it’s important to take steps to prepare your car or truck for winter driving conditions. Here are some tips:


Winter Emergency Kit

Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle stocked with essentials like jumper cables, flashlight, ice scraper, blankets, non-perishable snacks, traction mats, and a first aid kit. Having these supplies on hand could be a lifesaver if you get stuck or stranded.


Washer Fluid

Make sure you fill up the windshield washer reservoir with winter formula washer fluid that won’t freeze. Top it up frequently since you’ll be using it often to clear salt, grime and snow from your windshield.



Replace worn out wiper blades with heavy duty winter blades. The last thing you want is streaky vision in a blizzard due to bad wipers. Check them regularly and scrape off any ice before driving.

Taking simple preventative steps like these will help ensure you and your ride are ready to take on whatever winter throws your way.



Driving in snowy conditions can be challenging, but choosing the right vehicle and equipping it properly can make a huge difference. The best cars for Canadian winters excel with ample ground clearance, advanced all-wheel drive systems, stability control, and heated features to keep you comfortable. Compact crossovers like the Subaru Crosstrek and midsize SUVs like the Toyota Highlander offer a great blend of traction, cargo space, and maneuverability.

Wherever you live in Canada, investing in a set of dedicated winter or all-weather tires provides critical extra grip on snow and ice. Take time before winter hits to inspect your vehicle’s battery, fluids, lights, and wipers as well. Give yourself extra stopping distance, go slow, and avoid sudden acceleration or braking when driving in slippery conditions. With the right preparation and vehicle choice, you’ll be ready to handle whatever winter weather comes your way.

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Questions About Picking a Car For Snowy Weather

Cars that perform well in Canadian winters typically have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, ample ground clearance, narrower tires that can cut through snow, advanced traction control systems, and good aerodynamics to prevent snow buildup. Heated seats, mirrors, and steering wheels also help make winter driving more comfortable. When shopping for a snow-worthy car, look for models with high safety ratings that offer winter driving aids like Hill Descent Control.

Some of the top-rated SUVs for driving in Canadian snow and ice include the Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Volvo XC40, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Jeep Wrangler, and Mercedes-Benz GLA. These SUVs offer capable all-wheel or four-wheel drive systems, lots of ground clearance, narrower snow tires, and advanced tech features to handle slippery conditions. The Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 specifically have great reputations for winter-worthiness in Canada.

The best cars for driving in heavy Canadian snow have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, narrower snow tires, good ground clearance of at least 7 inches, a traction control system designed for snow and ice, vehicle stability control, antilock brakes, hill start assist, downhill assist control, and low-range gearing on SUVs. Heated seats, mirrors, windshield wipers, and steering wheels also help make winter driving safer and more comfortable.

Most Canadian winter driving experts recommend getting an SUV over a sedan because of their higher ground clearance for deep snow and available all-wheel drive options. Small SUVs like the Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V provide good visibility, maneuverability, fuel efficiency, and snow handling capabilities. Full-size SUVs can power through deeper snow but may be trickier to handle. Sport sedans often don’t have enough ground clearance or narrow enough tires to perform well in heavy snow.

Trucks known for excellent winter performance in Canada include the Ram 1500 with its optional air suspension, GMC Sierra 1500 Denali with grippy snow tires, Ford F-150 with available heated seats and steering wheel, Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, Nissan Titan Pro-4X, and Chevy Silverado Trail Boss. These trucks offer high ground clearance, advanced four-wheel drive systems, lots of torque, and available creature comforts for cold weather.

Yes, installing high-quality winter or snow tires like the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 or Michelin X-Ice Snow is highly recommended for driving on snow and ice in Canada. Snow tires have deeper grooves and sipes along with rubber compounds designed to stay grippy at freezing temperatures. Pairing snow tires with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive makes a vehicle extremely capable in icy, slippery conditions.

The best vehicles for icy Canadian roads have stability and traction control systems designed specifically for snow and ice. These systems use ABS and advanced electronics to optimize tire grip, prevent skidding, and help drivers maintain control. All-wheel drive paired with narrow snow tires provides the most traction and handling capability on icy roads. Heated and de-iced features help as well since built-up ice lessens traction.

Yes, a remote start system is very convenient for dealing with cold Canadian winters. With remote start, you can turn on your vehicle from a distance to warm up the engine, heat the interior, and defrost the windows before driving. This makes your car much more comfortable when it’s freezing outside and helps accelerate the defogging process. Aftermarket remote start systems can be installed if not available from the factory.

To keep warm in frigid Canadian winters, look for a car with heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, heated side mirrors and windshield wipers, and effective climate control. Multiple zone climate systems allow drivers and passengers to dial in their preferred temperatures. Windshield defrosters, winter mats, and waterproof upholstery also come in handy for combating cold, wet conditions inside the car.

For the best snow and ice traction, all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are much better options than front-wheel drive. Full-time AWD systems with advanced traction control and stability features that can shift power between wheels provide responsive handling in slippery conditions. 4WD excels at plowing through deep snow but runs in rear-drive most of the time. FWD struggles with deep snow and works hardest to redirect steering out of slides.

The top-rated electric vehicles and hybrids for winter driving in Canada include the Tesla Model Y Performance, Ford Mustang Mach-E AWD, Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor AWD, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD, Toyota Prius AWD-e, and the plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. These models offer all-wheel drive combined with advanced traction systems to handle snow and ice very competently for eco-friendly vehicles.

Rural snow-covered roads demand even more winter performance capability. All-wheel drive or four-wheel drive paired with snow tires excel on back roads, along with ample ground clearance to avoid bottoming out. Hill descent control helps drivers navigate steep, slippery slopes at a controlled speed. Heated cameras, sensors, and mirrors with sprayers keep critical systems ice-free as country driving tends to be slower.

Yes, drivers in Canada should carry an emergency kit with supplies like warm blankets, gloves, water, non-perishable snacks, battery jump starter, phone charger, flashlight, shovel, scraper, sand or kitty litter, tow strap, and flares. This allows you to stay safe if stranded in a remote area or caught in a blizzard. Also helpful are extra windshield washer fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, and an ice scraper.

The most winter-friendly minivans and three-row SUVs include the Chrysler Pacifica AWD, Toyota Sienna AWD, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Chevrolet Traverse AWD, Dodge Durango GT AWD, Volkswagen Atlas, Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD, and Buick Enclave Avenir AWD. These models offer ample passenger and cargo room paired with advanced all-wheel drive systems to take on winter roads while keeping the whole family comfortable.

Yes, the best practice is to mount dedicated winter tires onto their own separate steel or alloy rims. This allows for a faster, easier changeover between winter and summer wheels. The second set of rims protects your summer tires from wear and damage during winter storage. Having two sets already mounted also eliminates service delays and the need to remount and rebalance twice per year.

In Canada, Subaru has earned a reputation as the overall most winter-worthy brand thanks to standard all-wheel drive paired with advanced traction systems on all models. Over 90% of Subarus sold in Canada last year came with AWD. The smaller size combined with ample ground clearance, reliability, and reputation for retaining value also make Subarus ideal for tackling tough winter conditions.

To improve visibility while driving in heavy snow, look for features like heated side mirrors, heated windshield wipers, headlight washers, automatic high-beam assist, LED headlights, rear window defrosters, 360-degree exterior cameras with washer jets, and infrared night vision assist. Dedicated HID or LED fog lights also help light up the road better in snowy whiteout conditions. Heads-up displays project key data onto the windshield to reduce looking away.

For a sports car adept at handling Canadian winter roads, the top recommendations are the Subaru BRZ with winter tires, Lotus Evora 400, Audi TT Quattro hardtop, Mazda MX-5 Miata hardtop with winter tire package, BMW M2 Competition xDrive, and Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0 with snow chains permitted. These sporty cars offer winter packages with AWD/4WD, high ground clearance, advanced traction systems, and available creature comforts.

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