Which spacious, reliable vehicle offers good performance in winter?

I currently drive a Volvo V50 which is perfect for me and four dogs, however winter conditions pose problems. I live in a rural and hilly part of Devon and in 2010 and 2011 I couldn't leave the village for a week, and even the comparatively light snowfall of recent weeks made getting up the driveway an adventure, and hill starts well just forget it. I had decided to bite the bullet and buy a 4x4 but after reading that a better bet might be a 2-wheel-drive and winter tyres, I am confused. I need a spacious interior and a bit of power to cope with the locality. As a woman on her own who knows nothing about mechanics, reliability is important and I have a budget of around £26,000. I really need some independent advice before I hit the showrooms.

Asked on 9 March 2013 by LK, Colyton, Devon

Answered by Honest John
Generally, good winter tyres on a front drive car are more effective than four-wheel drive. But obviously good winter tyres on a four-wheel-drive car are even more effective. A Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv diesel 4WD might suit you, fitted with Continental WinterContact TS850 tyres. One school of thought says these tyres perform so well in warmer conditions they can be left on the car all year round, so they are effectively 'all weather tyres' even though they are not designated as such.
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