With winter in full swing and much of the nation bracing for snow, many drivers are undoubtedly looking to trade in their old car for a new one that's more capable in inclement weather. While many car shoppers think that means switching to a big, expensive SUV that burns through gas, we've compiled a list of six less expensive alternatives for car shoppers who need an all-weather vehicle that won't break the bank.
Although many consumers don't realize it, Ford's midsize Fusion trumps front-wheel drive competitors like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry by offering available all-wheel drive for less than $30,000 on its upscale SEL trim level. In addition to featuring standard Bluetooth and SYNC, Ford's interactive infotainment system, the all-wheel drive Fusion SEL offers a 6-speed automatic transmission and a powerful 3.0-liter V6 capable of nearly 30 miles per gallon in highway driving. And while the Fusion is Ford's smallest car available with all-wheel drive, the automaker also offers the capable system on its larger Taurus sedan from around $31,000 including destination.
Honda's compact CR-V is proof that not all SUVs are expensive to buy - or to fuel. With a starting price of less than $24,000 including destination, all-wheel drive versions of the CR-V are certainly inexpensive considering the SUV's cavernous interior, terrain-tackling ground clearance and all-weather capabilities. The CR-V also offers a long list of standard features, including a CD/MP3 player with an iPod connection, cruise control, remote keyless entry and side curtain airbags. Best of all, the compact SUV features a standard 5-speed automatic transmission which mates with a dependable 180-horsepower four-cylinder engine to return an impressive 27 miles per gallon in highway driving.
While it's hard to believe you can get a luxurious all-wheel drive sport sedan for less than $36,000, Infiniti's upscale G25x is just that. Featuring a standard 218-horsepower 2.5-liter V6, the G25x is capable of up to 27 miles per gallon in highway driving thanks to a smooth new 7-speed automatic transmission. But that doesn't mean the G25x skimps on performance, returning 0-to-60 mph acceleration times of around 7.5 seconds and offering sporty rear-wheel drive until the sedan's all-wheel drive system detects wheel slippage. Best of all, the G25x offers a generous list of standard features that includes automatic climate control, keyless starting, Xenon headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels, making it a great bargain for consumers looking for all-wheel drive capability in a high-end wrapper.
Subaru is well-known for offering all-wheel drive on every vehicle in its lineup - even its least expensive model, the compact Impreza. Starting around $18,000 including destination and recently redesigned for 2012, the Impreza offers all-weather capabilities lacked by many rivals and comes in four-door sedan or cavernous five-door hatchback body styles. The capable Subaru compact also includes a surprisingly peppy 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood, which achieves 27 miles per gallon in city driving and an impressive 36 mpg on the highway with the automaker's optional continuously variable automatic transmission.
Although Suzuki's midsize Kizashi sedan is overlooked by many consumers, the handsome four-door should be added to more shopping lists thanks to its smart combination of impressive fuel economy, generous standard features and - most importantly - available all-wheel drive. For a base price of around $23,000 including destination, the all-wheel drive Kizashi S offers curtain side airbags, keyless starting and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Upscale SLS models, which barely crest $28,000, feature laundry list of luxuries including a navigation system, a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery with heated front seats, a power sunroof, automatic headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels. Icing on the cake is a 185-horsepower four-cylinder powerplant that propels the Kizashi to 60 mph in around 8 seconds while still returning more than 30 miles per gallon in highway driving.
If you think you need to buy a large SUV in order to fit the whole family in an all-wheel drive vehicle, think again. Toyota's popular Sienna is the only minivan that offers the feature, which is available on mid-level LE models for as little as $33,000 including destination. That's a great deal considering the all-wheel drive minivan offers standard seven-passenger seating, power sliding doors, a rearview camera and a muscular 266-horsepower V6 capable of more than 20 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. By comparison, seven-seater versions of Toyota's midsize Highlander SUV are only around $1,000 cheaper, but return 15 percent lower fuel economy lack many of the Sienna's standard features.
What it means to you: All-weather capability isn't just limited to big SUVs and high-end luxury cars.