The year round comfort of all-wheel drive isn't limited to full-size SUVs and luxury cars. Many new models also offer this all-season feature. We've listed the eight least expensive all-wheel drive cars, giving options to buyers entering a long winter.
1. Suzuki SX4
While Suzuki did leave the US market, its SX4 compact is still at dealers. In fact, there are hundreds of new models listed for sale on AutoTrader.com. Hatchback models have standard all-wheel drive, while sedans offer it as an option. Either way, the SX4 is the least expensive car with this feature, with prices starting from less than $18,000. Budget-minded shoppers will also enjoy the SX4's gas-saving engine. Producing 150 horsepower, it returns up to 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.
2. Subaru Impreza
The compact Subaru Impreza is the least expensive car with standard all-wheel drive. Its base price of just over $18,000 buys a 4-door sedan, while a 5-door hatchback is priced slightly higher. In addition to standard all-wheel drive, the Impreza's 148-hp engine gets 27 mpg city and a strong 36 mpg highway. The Impreza also comes with a long list of features, like side curtain airbags, keyless entry and a USB port for music. Drivers will also like this compact's standard steering wheel audio controls, which is rare for the Impreza's class.
3. Subaru Legacy
With a base price of just over $20,000, the Legacy is the third least expensive new car with all-wheel drive. That will surprise many shoppers, since the Legacy offers all-wheel drive in a midsize package but at a compact car price. The Legacy also touts a standard 170-hp 4-cylinder that reaches 31 mpg on the highway, matching many non-all-wheel drive rivals for gas mileage. Drivers who choose the Legacy for winter duties also receive side curtain airbags, an MP3 player hookup and even automatic lights.
4. Subaru Forester
Subaru strikes again on our list with its compact Forester SUV, which features standard all-wheel drive for under $22,000. All Forester models use the same 170-hp engine as the Legacy, which returns 27 mpg in the larger, heavier Forester. And while the $22,000 base price is for a no-frills, manual transmission model, we think most savvy shoppers will be able to negotiate a good deal on an automatic. That's because Subaru has already revealed that a new Forester is on the way, leading dealers to clear out 2012 and 2013 models before its arrival.
5. Nissan Juke
Nissan's unique Juke offers bold styling and some oddball features. Among them are a G-force meter and color-changing interior lights. But the Juke is also one of the least expensive cars with available all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models start just over $22,000 in base S trim. That trim also includes side curtain airbags, keyless entry and 17-inch alloys. And for shoppers looking to save on fuel, the Juke does just that, pairing a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with a CVT automatic. The result is up to 30 mpg on the highway for all-wheel drive models, or 25 mpg in the city.
6. Toyota Matrix
Essentially a hatchback version of the popular Toyota Corolla, the Matrix starts around $19,000. Choosing optional all-wheel drive bumps that figure slightly to a base price of just over $22,000. That's because all-wheel drive requires an automatic transmission, which achieves 20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy. All-wheel drive Matrix S models also include an iPod hookup, anti-lock brakes and side curtain airbags as standard equipment.
7. Subaru XV Crosstrek
If you like the Impreza but find its styling bland, Subaru has the car for you. The compact XV Crosstrek boasts added ground clearance and several styling changes from the Impreza. Offered only as a hatch, Subaru intends for the Crosstrek to compete with some small SUVs. It's priced right, starting under $23,000 with all-wheel drive. And gas mileage is strong, with the optional automatic reaching 33 mpg on the highway. Best of all, the XV Crosstrek packs many features into its base price. Such items include Bluetooth, keyless entry and 17-in alloy wheels.
8. Kia Sportage
All-wheel drive versions of Kia's compact Sportage start at just over $22,000. That's a good deal for a small crossover that's been lauded for its styling and drivability. We're also impressed with the Sportage's list of features. Standard items include an anti skid system, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a USB port for music. The Sportage also offers a strong base engine. With 176 hp, it propels the crossover to 60 mph in around 8.5 seconds and returns nearly 30 mpg on the highway.
What it means to you: Our list of the least-expensive all-wheel drive cars can help you find an all-weather vehicle that will meet your budget.