Snow, mud, or ice? Here are the cheapest ways to get four-wheel grip.
It’s the time of year when ice, snow, and slush cover the roads in most of the country. While a proper set of winter tires is the best solution for winter traction, no matter what type of vehicle you own, it’s no secret that having four driven wheels can help with snowy driving. And if you must drive on roads that are poorly maintained or rarely plowed, all-wheel drive can be a lifesaver. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get that feature, either. These are the ten most affordable new cars you can buy today with all-wheel drive. For clarity, all prices include destination charges and represent the cheapest version of each model available with AWD.
Subaru has staked much of its reputation on all-wheel drive – BRZ sports car excepted – so it’s no surprise that the outdoorsy brand features on this list no fewer than three times. The Impreza is the cheapest of that Subie trio. It’s newly redesigned, with a fresh platform and a host of revisions that we said “puts Subaru right near the top of the compact car class” in our First Drive. While the stick-shift base sedan is the most affordable, it’s no secret that many buyers will want a two-pedal solution. The Impreza sedan can be had with a CVT from $20,215; if you want the ultra-practical hatchback, you’ll pay only $500 more than an equivalent sedan.
2017 Jeep Renegade Sport 4x4, $20,990
Jeep’s entry into the subcompact crossover class is affordable yet still plenty capable. In fact, the Renegade actually offers two different all-wheel-drive systems. On the Renegade Trailhawk (and available as an option on other trims), the Jeep Active Drive Low arrangement has a 20:1 low-range crawl ratio for off-roading. But even without that, the Jeep Renegade is affordable, reasonably good on gas, and has enough ground clearance (8.0-8.7 inches for 4x4 models) and driven wheels to keep you going through winter.
2017 Jeep Patriot Sport 4x4, $21,035
Though it’ll soon be replaced by the new Compass, the Jeep Patriot remains a very affordable and reasonably capable small crossover. On the positives side for winter-weather driving, you get 8.1 inches of ground clearance, and a choice of two different four-wheel-drive systems. On the negatives side, the Patriot is old and lacks a lot of the coolest tech you’ll find in rival small crossovers. It’s also thirsty, with the most efficient 4WD version of the Patriot returning only 27 mpg on the highway.
2017 Mitsubishi Lancer ES 2.4 AWC, $21,130
Get it while you still can, as Mitsubishi plans to end production of the Lancer by August.
Until then, the dated Lancer is a cheap entry into all-wheel-drive traction. The car’s All Wheel Control (AWC) label means it drives all four wheels. Our favorite AWD Lancer was, of course, the dearly departed Evolution rally-bred monster. But the regular Lancer ES 2.4 comes with an inline-four engine rated for just 168 hp. The Lancer feels and drives like it’s way beyond its sell-by date, but for now, it’s still an affordable way to get some extra winter grip.
2017 Mazda CX-3 Sport AWD, $22,110
Another subcompact crossover, this time essentially based on the Mazda2 (which is sold in the U.S. only as the Toyota Yaris iA). Though extremely stylish and imbued with Mazda’s typical above-average level of driving fun, the CX-3 is pretty cramped. It’s got less cargo room, whether the seats are up or down, than a Mazda3 hatchback. In Sport AWD form, though, all-weather mobility comes very affordably. There’s just one engine choice no matter which trim level you pick, a 2.0-liter inline-four that returns 146 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque.
2017 Honda HR-V LX AWD, $22,365
What Honda’s take on the subcompact class, the HR-V, lacks in style or driving excitement is more than outweighed by its immense practicality. All-wheel-drive models have 23.2 cubic feet of storage space with the back seats up and an impressive 57.6 with them down – huge figures for such a small car. While you can get a six-speed manual transmission with the front-wheel-drive version, opting for AWD requires that the 1.8-liter inline-four engine mate with a CVT. Fuel economy, like cargo space, is impressive, at 27 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with AWD.
2017 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i, $22,570
The Crosstrek is based on the last-generation Impreza, but it’s specifically designed for keeping going when the going gets tough. With standard all-wheel drive on all trim levels and 8.7 inches of ground clearance – versus 5.1 inches in the 2017 Impreza – it’ll bound over snow, mud, or other obstacles that might confound lesser vehicles. Hey, if it’s capable of 600 miles through Patagonia, the Crosstrek should easily get you home in a snowstorm.
2017 Subaru Legacy 2.5i, $22,815
The Legacy is one of the few midsize sedans to offer all-wheel drive, and by far the most affordable to do so. Based on the same platform as the Outback crossover (which is too expensive for this list, at $26,520), the Legacy sedan is a step up in terms of size, power, and refinement compared to the Impreza. It packs a 2.5-liter flat-four engine good for 175 hp and 174 lb-ft as standard, along with a CVT. Moving up to the 3.6-liter flat-six model brings 256 hp, but a notable hit in fuel economy.
2017 Jeep Compass Sport 4x4, $22,935
This is not the brand-new Jeep Compass that was introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show, but rather its very dated predecessor, which shares its platform with the aforementioned Patriot. The new Compass will arrive to replace it very soon, but for now you can still find the outgoing Compass on dealer lots. In Sport trim, it comes with four-wheel drive for a very affordable price – though we’d rather wait for the newer, more modern Compass.
2017 Nissan Juke S AWD, $23,040
The funky Juke was ahead of the curve, as it hit the U.S. market before the subcompact crossover craze exploded. Even more than six years on, it’s still a great little car, whether you get the standard, Nismo, or even hotter Nismo RS variant. Although an excellent six-speed manual is available, all all-wheel-drive Juke comes with a CVT mated to a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. The high-riding Nissan isn’t the roomiest inside – just 10.5 cubic feet of trunk space and so-so rear headroom due to the sloping roofline – but it looks cool, drives well, and offers AWD traction for a reasonable price. Nissan quotes 6.6 inches of ground clearance for the AWD model, plenty for tackling a snowy commute.