The last couple of years have given rise to a huge debate over the merits of driving a 4×4 over winter. With the UK coming to a standstill for weeks on end during January and February, many motorists are wondering whether they should trade in their city run-around for a lean, mean, snow-crushing machine.
But let’s not get carried away here. Whilst absolute carnage was unleashed on both A roads and B roads last winter, I seem to recall spotting a fair number of Land Rovers, Jeeps and Mitsubishis scattered around the roads too, sitting helplessly alongside Ford Focus’, Peugeot 207s and Kia Picantos. The fact is that if you’re caught in a snow-induced jam, often nothing less than a monster truck will be able to get you out of it.
Sales of 4x4s and SUVs rose significantly in the wake of Christmassy chaos and I’m certain that since then, many 4×4 owners have cruised past other less fortunate car drivers with their wheels stuck in a ditch, but has their investment really been worth it?
The fact is that 4x4s have a bad rap, they are fuel-hungry, carbon un-friendly and generally charged with being the biggest bully in the playground; driven by drivers who have never driven ‘off road’ in their lives. With the majority of the UK population living in urban areas, the amount of drivers who benefit from a 4×4 all year round is relatively small. So what do we do? Stick with our run-arounds and sports cars and put up with a few weeks of mayhem every year? Or trade them in for a 4×4 and line the tax mans pockets with our hard-earned cash as punishment for high-emissions and low fuel economy?
Luckily for urbanites, the solution lies in the increasingly popular Crossover vehicle. Crossover SUVs are a much better deal for city-dwellers and townsfolk who are looking for a way to avoid a winter meltdown without being inconvenienced for the remainder of the year. Whilst Joe Public may find it difficult to distinguish between a 4×4 and a crossover, there are some key differences, namely in the driving performance and their carbon efficiency. Crossover SUVs combine the driving comfort and practicality of a road car, offering space and agility for busy mums and dads rushing around town, with off-road capabilities such as higher ground clearance and four wheel drive or grip.
Some crossover SUVs also offer many more miles per gallon than traditional 4x4s. Take the Volvo XC90 for example, which offers 34mpg compared to 30mpg for the Land Rover Discovery. The Volvo XC90 also has a lower carbon footprint and attracts less road tax than both the Discovery and the Range Rover. And whilst providing the same fuel efficiency and same annual road tax as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the XC90 is significantly cheaper and ‘A’ Road friendlier.
Hugely popular crossover SUVs are the Peugeot 3008, which won What Cars? Crossover of the year award; the sporty Mazda CX-7 and the value for money Ford Kuga which has more than proven its off-road abilities in snow and ice.
There is no doubt that January and February can strike fear into the hearts of many UK road users who may be tempted to leap immediately into 4×4 ownership; but it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. So before you decide to buy, ask yourself whether the winter months really warrant the investment and think about opting for a more practical solution…