Verging on divorce....which is the best 4x4 for the Piemonte winter snow??

08/28/2009 - 07:57

So who out there has any information regarding my big issue of buying a suitable second hand 4x4 for the rugged landscape and inclement weather?? last winter, in Piemonte, we had the worst for locals/best for skiers, snow for over 30 years, I was told!! It left us unable to access the local shops for several days unti they cleared it and without electricity for  over a week one long time! Great....but you may say surely you had snow chains....oh yes but they only work on snow and not on ice down/up a 1:3 hill to our lovely azienda on a hillside.  You know the sort of thing, there are loads of them around the Piemonte region. The other question is as we stay in the region for two month shots and then return home to the UK, we need something comfortable that we can drive to and from the UK as necessary.  Shank's pony  up and down that horrendous 200 metre incline is ok for the strong willed but I am not a spring chicken in body, more in mind!  We keep going through all the different models available and have narrowed it down to these needs.......comfort with lumbar support, excellent energy to mile ratio and as green as possible, 4x4 with excellent traction control, large enough to take a lot of bits and pieces over, cruise control, air con, sat nav, looks and sex appeal (no that's my husband), no older than 2005 and a bargain to boot!!!  Anyway, that will save our marriage and if there is anyone out there who needs a great Renault Trafic, which is now redundant since we have taken all the big stuff over, then get in touch!!!!!!  Our retreat is magical and I wouldn't move for the world I just want to be able to move around with more ease in the winter months.  



Round our way (also in the mountains with planty of snow) the best vehicle is a Panda 4x4 or a Suzuki jeep. They get everywhere and are light. That is really important when it is snowy and icy. We had a Toyota Hilux 4x4 which was all the other requirements you describe (except economical!) but in the icy weather it was so heavy it slid around and frightened the pants off me  If I was buying for the purposes you describe, I'd buy a Renault Kangoo 4 x 4 (cheaper) or a Volvo AWD estate or a Subaru Forrester (dearer).

Theres only one 4x4 good enough for Italian snow, think forestali, caribiniere... my landrover is 25 yrs old and can still get out of my field when the snow is covering the wheels.You won't need snow chains just good tyres, and you will never have a problem getting parts.If you contact your local caribiniere they will be able to tell you where they sell the old ones, so you could find a well maintained, low milage bargain!

The carabiniere, both of them, in the village are quite friendly and I could ask for their advice when I am in the position of buying one over there.  The Nissan sounds like the best one for us at the moment and so I am giving that one serious consideration and hope to have one by the time we return in the near future.

The Landrover is obviously great off road and in snow, but reliability? The Fiat Panda ditto, not sure about the Kangoo as there is only one round us. Essentially, the first two are second cars and would thus require all the faffing around of taxing and insuring in Italy seen elsewhere on the forum. However, if the requirement is for coping with the snow and ice and also the journey to and from the UK, then you need something good on and off road and reasonably economical. Might I suggest the Nissan X-Trail, which is probably the best of the Soft roaders in snow and ice, is considerable cheaper / more reliable than a Freelander and has switchable 4WD, so the economy is not bad. If dosh is no object then a Volvo XC90, but then that is not a very green solution. In winter, we tend to hire as Alan says a 4WD at the airport and use the normal car / van outside the winter period as the slog down from the Channel Ports in the winter months is not much fun. But for two month slots, it will get a touch expensive and when the weather gets bad, hire 4WD's become a very rare species indeed.  I'm afraid we haven't helped much, best start sourcing a good divorce lawyer and make sure you get the Azienda!  

In reply to by Sibillini

Thanks for your input.  It is really appreciated and something I do bank on when using this site.We have actually been looking at the Nissan X trail Aventura as you mention and now I am becoming even more sure that this is the one.  Can you get one free or for as little as possible??  I bet this site doesn't do that!!  Anyway joking aside and relistically, we have around the 9k mark to buy something around the 4/5 year mark. The Fiat Panda is the obvious 4x4 of choice around the paese but having helped a guy on the kerb recently, in no go mode, I am not too keen. During last January I flew out with my offspring, without my other half, for a white week and we hired a Renault Koleos 4x4 which was great and brand new during the first few days.  However it had an innovative strange handbraking and ignition system which I found difficult to remember to use properly especially on hill starts when the brake did not disengage when I wanted it to and did its own thing! Unfortunately snow cascading down onto the parked car from a building dented the roof  and with a 'shame face' we had to return it damaged...not in the least bit gutted I might add, since we paid the extra fully comp everything included insurance. So the lesson is....... Don't park under a overhanging snow laden roof during snow spells and  take care when in a brand new 4x4 up our 3:1 approach. Damage may  be imminent as it slips and slides against snow and hard banked up ice walls and it may not even get you up because the handbrake engages automatically for no reason!!  What a wonderful life we have chosen to live, but I wouldn't change it for the world!!Hope that Dubai holds hidden promises for you during these hard financial times (I read your profile, hope you don't mind)

 sheet ice on a steep hill like yours is not for the faint hearted...however before you go spending money on anything you should realise that even the best four x four will not do you that much good if it is not wearing the right tyres...firstly i would find a garage that you have faith in before i bought any off road vehicle here... and buy it throuhg them... with a degree of guarantee...that they will know the owner and the car...  i say this because as most of you know from driving here the majority of Italians know very litlle about  taking care of vehicles or their capacities... and if you think the second hand car market in the UK is somewhat outside normal laws and consumer rights double that risk here ... secondly i would only buy a vehicle that has all the electronic computersied systems that engage / dis engage wheels as they loose grip...  basically most four wheel drives now run in auto mode... meaning in most cases the front wheels do the work in all normal conditions... if the computer senses any loss of grip it transfers drive to any wheel which needs it and or locks the diff.... to allow traction in slipery conditions...  its a pretty basic requirment now of all modern 4 x 4 vehicles...the other thing is that many do not have low ratio selctors... for you that will be essential ... so make sure it has a switch on it...again electronic to move you into a low ratio drive systemback to tyres... the most effective thing on ice is studs after your sentence saying that chains did not work is to my mind the cause for concern... chains should grip on ice....  studs are generally illegal in most areas where there is not a continuos snow covering...  and in reallity are only used by people living on tops of mountains and fitted to cars that never leave those areas... 4 x 4 vehicles do a bit better in snow than normal vehicles... but not that much especialley if going down hill... they are in geneal very much heavier than the two wheel drive vehicles so momentum generally when you apply brakes in slippery condition make them even more likely to skid off a surface...  so buy one with at the very least ABS and at best with EPS... a sort of computersied system which tries to correct skidding and keep the car in a steerable state....finally tyres... some people do not like snow tyres and thats been argued enough... however living on a hill like yours i would say they would be essential... basically high grip tyres made of rubber which does not harden up so much in cold and so maintains grip...  better than chains because you put them on at the start of winter and take them off at the end...or when the snow goes and temps are higher... you in your situation would be well advised to still have chains in the boot...well you would have to in ice... what this means are two sets of tyres... each set about 800 euro... but in a sense they last you in general 3 seasons depending of course on use... so after the initial outlay it costs no more... than having one set... the only car mentioned that i could even come close to agreeing with is the nissan x trail although parts for nissan and their availability here in Italy are hugely expensive and at times hard to find...  the top one would be the subaru i guess...thats what our carbineri drive.... dont forget 4 x 4 vehicles have bigger more costley parts in any case and because of the extra drive even more parts to go wrong...most of the others mentioned are one purpose vehicles...  the best of which is most probaley the suzuki or pand... not the new models ... but you will get your back shot to pieces and they would take a week to get you back to the UK...  a landrover... even the most modern like a defender is about the most basic vehicle for that sort of money anybody could buy... an old one is a walking environmental disater... plus it might take you two weeks to get back to the uk...i would also suggest heated seat, heated mirrors and heated winscreen as additional requirements...  anyway thats the d criteria in essence we used for when we chnaged our old misubishi along with high rating in the ncap regarding occupant safety... fifth gear did a program the other day showing the fallacy of the big is better arguement regarding older vehicles with less safety specs... something like a landrover was crashed into a small high rated car of today... and the landrover driver would have had no legs left...  the door on the smaller car still opened and there was no entry of the engine into the passenger space...choose things like old pandas or suzukis and the stats get even more research... look for thigs like car of the year in the four wheel drive section for the year you are looking at... they will generally be the best... of that generation and see if you can get one for the money you want to spend via a garage you knowi would expect to pay here something around the 12000 - 20000 euro for anything decent  in the sense of your specs and my additional essentials...     

 Adriatica, are you Jeremy Clarkson in disguise?  I saw that 5th gear and the Landrover crash test was salutary! Complimenti on your knowledge of tyres too - it makes depressing reading for me, Im just glad that here in Sicily we don't even need antifreeze or de-icer for the windscreens! 

 I have an X Trail Auto. ,5 years old with 34000 miles on clock ,Right hand drive .. .petrol, just bought a Hyundai diesel  so only need one 4x4.....anyone interested ......make an offer.Mon

... no mentions for the RAV4 so far... this is a very car like 4x4 which with the 177bhp turbo diesel goes like stink but still is pretty much best in class for economy. 6 gears give quiet long legs for big journeys. masses of airbags and anti-skid stability system makes it as fool proof as they come. Mine is great on snow and drives happily around other cars which are sliding around doing the Torvill and Dean thing.As for how to ascend your hill... it seems that there is no tyre or chain that is good enough so perhaps you should change the nature of the hill - seriously - a nice grippy rough laid concrete surface with regular salt for example. You can't beat the laws of physics but if you are that close to the limits you'll have to keep a snowmobile in a shed at the bottom of the hill.

 Hi, Firstly  - its got to be a diesel. Secondly I would question the value of the latest compromise 4x4's (meaning electronic 4x4). There is only one hope of ascending or descending the sort of hill you talk about and that is low range with diff locks, proper snow tyers, preferably chains and most important of all -  Evel Kneivel levels of bottle - trust me crawling down a hill like that at 2mph is probably one of the scariest things you can do. Personally I have a Jeep Cherokee, does about 30 on a run (20 if your lucky round town) and during the recent weather here in the UK I was seriously thinking about fitting a snow plough to the front and hiring myself out. The perfromance was unquestionable. Seroulsly thou, you will either have to compromise on long haul travel or 4X4 effectiveness - its as simple as that

  I think Adriatica, has given you very good advice concerning the tyres issue, 4x4 is all well and good but that alone will not guarantee you a safe journey. Whatever 4x4 you decide on a different/spare set of snow derived tyres is very important.

Tyres are important, whichever 4x4 you decide on for the winter months. We have as the 2nd car, a old Mitsubishi Pajero LWB diesel. It does have selectable 2 or 4wd in either high or low mode, plus the diff lock. So far it has managed to plough through snow drifts etc without any problems. The tyres we use are Cooper M&S, which cope very well with all the situations we have come across so far. At about £400 a set, we just leave them on all the time. Okay, they may wear out a little sooner, but it is not worth the hastle unless you are covering thousands of miles each year to keep changing the tyres.