With rising fuel and energy prices a number of car shopping folks opt to go with a smaller vehicle then they otherwise would in order to save on annual fuel costs. The trouble with a lot of these small vehicles is that they don’t do very well in slippery conditions like heavy rain or the regular snows that fall in the Northern parts of the United States. So can you find good, small 4 wheel drive vehicles that will help you save money at the gas station but also get you up your slick icy driveway in the middle of winter?
There have been various small 4 wheel drive vehicles on the market going back for some years but they weren’t always the most exciting models or the most high quality for that matter. Remember the Ford Tempo? It was available in an all wheel drive model at one point despite already having a severe lack of power in it’s 2WD form and a definite lack of status. These days there are a number of small to mid-size AWD models to choose from and some are very quality and performance oriented. There have also been a number of innovations in the types of four wheel drive systems used in vehicles of all types.
Most modern cars use some type of ‘intelligent’ central control system that helps to control how power is distributed to the wheels in order to get the best possible traction in any given situation. Some automakers are better at creating a system that actually works well in practice than others but generally it seems safe to say that any system on the market today is more sophisticated and has improvements over what was available 20-30 years ago.
So who makes a nice, small AWD car? Let’s list a few models off to get started:
- 2011 BMW 328i xDrive & 335i xDrive (Coupe & Sedan)
- 2011 Audi A3 Quattro
- 2011 Audi A4 Quattro
- 2011 Subaru Impreza
- 2011 Mini Countryman Cooper S ALL4
- 2010 Jeep Compass 4×4
- 2011 Mercedes Benz C300 4Matic
- 2011 Saab 9-3 XWD
- 2011 Ford Fusion
Some of these models are larger than others and there is considerable variation in the target markets, quality and performance characteristics but each of them shares the ability to deliver better traction than the average car. Many of them have fairly high EPA fuel economy estimates. The Saab, for example, is rated at 20/29 city/hwy. Probably one of the models with the highest rating is the MINI Countryman S ALL4 which is estimated to deliver 25MPG in city driving and 31MPG on open roads. Some owners report achieving as high as 36MPG on some tanks.
As you can see nowadays your options are much better. If you move up market into larger vehicles there are even more compelling options but of course they aren’t small 4 wheel drive vehicles anymore then are they? One last thing to note is that even though all the vehicles listed here are new models if you are shopping for a used car to save on the purchase price all is not lost. You can still get a great small AWD car for a good price in the used car market.
To get started check out models from Audi, Subaru and BMW. The A4, Impreza and 3 Series are all popular models and you’ll find that all wheel drive versions of them are fairly common. In the case of the Impreza AWD is the only version you’ll find. Happy shopping!