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I recommend your correspondent EC considers an Audi A3 Sportback for use in wintry conditions.

Your correspondent EC, via email, appears to have identical needs to mine, except that our dog is a Springer Spaniel, not a Lab. I also drive 12,000 miles a year and make frequent trips to the Scottish Highlands. Living in Cumbria with frequently icy and snowy roads, I convinced myself several years ago that I needed a 4WD SUV and ran a Land Rover Freelander followed by a Volkswagen Tiguan. The latter was certainly the better all-round vehicle, however I found both vehicles unexciting and underpowered for long journeys and even with a “soft-roader”, I felt environmentally “non-PC” albeit getting 38/40 mpg, as both were diesels.

This summer, following a winter when many of our 2WD neighbours were unable to even get out of our village, I changed to a different style 4WD and bought an Audi A3 Sportback TDI 170 Quattro - undoubtedly the best all round package I have ever owned; great performance, 50+mpg economy, permanent 4WD, premium build quality and finish. Also, £1,000 cheaper to buy than the equivalent 2WD Volkswagen Golf and with the same running costs. More compact inside than an SUV but a more practical shaped boot for a dog. I thoroughly recommend it. If more space is required go for the equivalent A4 Quattro Avant, but be prepared for a disproportionate increase in purchase price.

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That's a fair recommendation and A3s are currently showing rock solid residual values. I had a blast of a drive in Northumberland and Durham a few years ago in an S3. As for A4s, the 2.0T quattro Avant was the best of the B7s.
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