Best Winter Cars & SUVs Under $30,000: Our 22 Top Picks
In most of Canada, getting places in the wintertime requires a lot of planning, patience, and a willingness to cancel your plans on account of bad weather.
Naturally, it’s easier to get around in the snow if you ante up for an SUV or crossover with all-wheel drive, but many of the most common models get expensive quickly once you start adding desirable comfort features like heated seats and a heated steering wheel.
And when shopping for a budget-priced vehicle, heated side mirrors are a nice way to ensure good visibility when the weather turns ugly.
While all-wheel drive is an easy solution to the winter driving problem, it’s not the only one. Ground clearance matters just as much when it comes to deep snow, so we’ve included a few affordable car models in this list that make up for their lack of AWD with above-average ground clearance.
If you’re shopping exclusively for an all-wheel drive 4-door sedan, here are our top 10 picks.
Our list of the best cars & crossovers under $30,000 to tackle Canadian winters
This list showcases some more current prices, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you might be able to snag a similar, gently used model at an even better price.
Take a look at all our under $30,000 cars, crossovers, and SUVs here. Every vehicle has completed a 150 Point Inspection, comes with a no-charge 30 Day / 1,500 km warranty, and is covered by our 7-Day money back return policy.
The Kia K5 is the latest generation of the brand’s family sedan, which gained standard all-wheel drive when it replaced the Optima in 2021.
The 2023 K5’s entry-level trim LX trim just squeaks in under our price limit at $29,995 – the lowest MSRP of any 2023 AWD family sedan you can buy today – which includes heated seats and steering wheel, heated side mirrors, and dual-zone climate control. The K5’s performance comes from a 180-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Despite being classed as a crossover, the front-wheel-drive Kia Soul is closer to a small hatchback in its execution, being closely related to the company’s compact car models. Despite lacking all-wheel traction, the Soul benefits from a useful 170 mm of ground clearance.
Inside the Soul’s boxy shape is generous headroom and cargo space, making it useful for small families. And it’s affordable, with a $22,595 starting price for the 2023 model. The entry-level LX trim comes with heated seats and side mirrors, while the EX model adds a heated steering wheel.
At the top of the range, the $29,495 GT-Line Limited gets heated rear seats as well. All Soul variants use a 147-hp engine and a continuously variable transmission.
Mazda3 GS AWD
As a relatively small company, Mazda has to find innovative ways to compete with brands that have bigger R&D budgets. To help its Mazda3 compact car stand out, the company offers it with optional all-wheel drive, which makes the 3 one of just two small AWD cars you can buy today.
For a bit more than $27,000, you can get the mid-range Mazda3 GS with AWD, a 2.5L engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. The 3 GS comes with LED headlights, heated front seats and steering wheel, heated side mirrors, and a full suite of driver safety assists.
Mitsubishi Mirage GT
If you’re a budget shopper looking for an inexpensive winter workhorse, consider the Mitsubishi Mirage. This 78-hp hatchback may not be the most sophisticated car around, but its 160 mm of ground clearance is more than you’ll get in many other compacts, and its skinny tires help the Mirage dig its way out of deep snow. Choose the GT trim to get heated seats and heated side mirrors for less than $21,000.
The Nissan Versa is another entry-level car model with surprising ground clearance, boasting 173 mm between road and chassis – only a few millimetres less than the more expensive Kicks FWD crossover.
The 2022 Versa SV ($20,298) trim is a good winter-driving value, with heated seats and heated side mirrors plus a full package of safety assists. A 1.6L engine provides 122 hp and thrifty fuel economy through either a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission.
Toyota Prius eAWD
In 2019, Toyota added an AWD option to its Prius hybrid for the first time, placing a second electric motor at the rear axle that kicks in when the front wheels spin. While it doesn’t turn the thrifty hybrid into a no-limits off-roader – the Prius rides quite low to the ground for aerodynamic reasons -- it provides all-weather grip with only a marginal hit to the car’s excellent fuel economy.
At $30,390, the Prius eAWD comes in just over our price limit, but if you’re in the market for a winter car with low operating costs, the Prius is a strong contender.
Buick Encore GX
The Buick Encore GX is an affordable small crossover that combines good looks and generous ground clearance with a starting MSRP of $26,198 for the entry-grade Preferred FWD trim level. For that price, you get heated seats/side mirrors, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and passive keyless entry.
You can add AWD for $2,000, and the Select model includes AWD along with a hands-free tailgate and dual-zone A/C for $29,598. All Encore GX trims use three-cylinder turbo engines, with 137 hp in FWD models and 155 hp with AWD.
From its 2018 introduction, the Kona has been a huge success for Hyundai, with its quirky styling and strong value driving sales of this subcompact crossover. For 2023, the Kona starts at $22,349 in Essential FWD trim and comes with heated seats and side mirrors, while a $24,099 Preferred FWD configuration adds a heated steering wheel.
All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to both models. Power is from a 2.0L, 147-hp engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Sporty crossovers and SUVs are common among luxury car brands, but less so in mainstream segments. Key to the Mazda CX-30’s appeal is that it combines an engaging driving feel, standard AWD traction, and upscale fit and finish in a vehicle priced to start at $26,350 for the 2022 model year.
For that price, you get a 155-hp engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and the comfort of heated seats. For $29,350, Mazda adds a 186-hp engine, automatic A/C, a heated steering wheel and heated side mirrors.
As a relatively small player in North America, Mitsubishi doesn’t have the budget to update its vehicles as often as its competitors do. Because of that, the RVR has not changed much since its 2011 introduction, save for styling updates.
Don’t let that turn you off, though: The RVR is a strong value, boasting heated seats, heated side mirrors, and automatic A/C even in its $23,828 entry-level ES FWD configuration. You can option the ES with AWD for $26,328, and the SEL AWD model adds a heated steering wheel and a 168-hp engine for just over our $30,000 threshold.
Nissan tends to load up its offerings with generous interior space and standard features at accessible prices. The Qashqai is a great example: For 2022, its base S model comes with FWD for $25,098 and adds AWD for $26,598, and includes heated seats and heated mirrors. The mid-range SV AWD just squeaks in under $30,000 with dual-zone A/C and a heated steering wheel. All Qashqai models use a continuously variable automatic transmission and a 2.0L engine with 141 hp.
The Subaru Crosstrek crossover builds on the brand’s Impreza compact car with 221 mm of ground clearance (91 mm more than the Impreza), rugged-looking styling cues, and structural enhancements to help it traverse rough terrain. Convenience trim’s $24,995 starting price includes heated side mirrors, and the $27,595 Touring package adds heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Convenience, Touring, and Sport trim levels start with a manual transmission, making the Crosstrek the only subcompact AWD crossover that doesn’t default to an automatic.
Subaru Impreza Touring with EyeSight
For well under $30K, you can get one of the highest-rated cars for the snow, and a trim level higher than base. The Subaru Impreza Touring with EyeSight 5-door is listed at $24,795 and is powered by a BOXER engine with 152hp and the smooth acceleration of a CVT transmission.
The most impressive feature for winter drivers is the standard equipment Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Along with dominating traction, the Touring trim with EyeSight includes driver-assist technology, heated seats, and pretty awesome in-vehicle infotainment.
Mitsubishi RVR ES AWC
If a compact SUV is your style, Mitsubishi has an affordable option with equipment to cut the chills. The Mitsubishi RVR ES with All-Wheel Control (AWC) gives you pretty much everything you need to trek through snowy conditions. A 2.0L MIVEC four-cylinder and a CVT transmission along with all-wheel drive make the RVR ES a mechanically-sound package.
The ES trim includes heated front seats, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and plenty of hands-free phone functions that can be controlled without taking your gloves off.
Toyota RAV4 LE AWD
You’ll need to keep your eye out for a promotion to keep the price under $30k for the RAV4 LE AWD, but it’s possible. It’s one of the most popular crossovers in Canada because it’s such a reliable vehicle no matter the season.
The RAV4 LE trim includes heated front seats, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 technologies along with Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, as well as a 203hp 2.5L engine. With the RAV4, you’ll stick to the road thanks to Active Torque AWD.
Honda HR-V LX AWD
A serious contender in the subcompact crossover segment should be the Honda HR-V. It drives like a car with the capability of an SUV. The HR-V LX trim offers Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, and Lane Keeping Assist as standard, along with interior comforts like heated front seats and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The HR-V is spectacular with Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System, and it’s a good deal at under $30K.
Jeep Compass Sport 4x4
The name ‘Jeep’ inspires confidence in rough driving conditions, so the Jeep Compass is definitely a contender. The Compass Sport trim is the entry level, but it gives you the essentials, albeit pushing you slightly over budget.
A 2.4L four-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission, push-button start, and power windows are included along with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. With Jeep’s Active Drive 4x4, you’ll get into the iconic Jeep brand for just over $30,000.
Hyundai Tucson Essential AWD
Hyundai is well known to be among the best value for your money, and the Tucson proves it. For just over $28K, you enter the slightly larger crossover market and still benefit from a plethora of standard features.
The Essential AWD trim comes with a full suite of driver-assistive features including Blind Spot Collision Warning, plus heated front seats, fog lights, and 7-inch touchscreen radio. It's powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine.
Ford Ecosport SES
If you’re a Blue Oval aficionado, we’ve got an option for you as well. The Ford Ecosport SES gets in well under the $30,000 mark and is perfect for Canadian winters. For that dollar figure, the Ecosport SES is powered by a 2.0L I-4 and has Ford’s Intelligent 4WD system as standard equipment.
Being an upper trim level, you get a bunch of fun equipment like alloy wheels, 8-inch touchscreen with SYNC 3, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start.
Also, FordPass Connect allows you to remote start your engine if you have a cell signal.
Not too shabby, eh?
Chevrolet Trax LT AWD
Carrying on the theme of small crossovers, the Chevy Trax LT AWD is another popular choice.
Stepping up from the LS trim to the LT gets you remote engine start and heated outside mirrors, although the Premier trim is where heated seats and steering wheel come into play. Still, the AWD system included in the Trax LT AWD package means you’re getting great value.
Mazda CX-3 GS I-ACTIV AWD
Mazda seems to know what Canadians want and the CX-30 is proof. Heated front seats come standard, as does the 8.8-inch Mazda Connect display that works with gloved hands as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
That’s all in addition to the performance and fuel efficiency you can expect from the Skyactiv-G 155-hp engine and the intuitive traction from I-ACTIV AWD. The CX-30 is a 2020 IIHS Top Safety Pick and a true bargain at just over $28,000.
Kia Soul EX Limited
You don’t necessarily need 4WD or AWD to drive confidently in the winter. The Kia Soul proves it with nearly six inches of ground clearance.
And because you don’t need to pay for AWD, you can get more toys and equipment in your car. Things like leather upholstery, heated front and rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel, premium Harman Kardon sound, and even a Heads-Up Display are included with the Kia Soul EX Limited.
Shop for a great winter car under $30,000
If you're ready buy a used vehicle with all the features to conquer harsh Canadian winters without breaking the bank, view the cars from this list and more here.
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