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Do you think "little cars" handle well in deep snow?

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Kolesar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-15-05 09:41 AM
Original message
Do you think "little cars" handle well in deep snow?
Two decades ago, I drove cars the size of the old Corolla. At ~2100 pounds these vehicles got "pushed around" a lot in the deep snow. We get a lot of snow in Cleveland. It is not uncommon to get a foot of snow and have to drive home in it. I would be scared to drive my old B210 if I still had it.

Those little cars had trouble changing lanes when you hit "the wall" of snow outside of the rutted tire paths. Big trucks flung snow all over them. Even in fair weather, those vintage compact cars feel overwhelmed when commuting in the 21st century world of big passenger vehicles (SUVs, pickups, & minivans). The "car talk" guys say buy something that is 3000 pounds or bigger for safety if you have to drive on the highway. However, efficiency in that weight range is notably less than the new economy cars like the Focus, Corolla, and Civic.

So my question is, what would I expect from the 21st century economy cars that weigh 2600 or 2700 pounds? White knuckles or confidence? I know snow tires have improved, but how about the rest of the car? Does all that power help? How about the more responsive steering of modern vehicles? (Have I asked enough questions?)
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jayfish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-15-05 01:20 PM
Response to Original message
1. My Thoughts.
I've been driving in snow since I've had my license and have driven almost any type of car you can think of in the snow. For me it has always been about a cars drive-train. More specifically front-drive v. rear-drive. I have driven small cars with front-drive that handled even the deepest snow with ease. I've driven big cars with rear-drive that were terrifying in the snow. Modern traction control systems my help with some of the rear-drive issues but for me, if your in the snow, it's front-drive no matter the size.

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Kolesar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-15-05 03:57 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. My 2950 pound Celebrity wagon was a world better than the Datsun 210
That is comparing a FWD car vs. a minimalist RWD car with a straight rear axle and leaf springs. I also have a data point of a 1981 Ford Fairmont that I replaced with the Celebrity in 1989. From what I recall, the RWD Fairmont, with the same weight as the Celebrity, was pretty good in the snowy weather. I only drove it two winters and don't recall any scary moments. Then again, that was 16 years ago!

White knuckles was when I drove a RWD 1973 Pontiac Catalina on the freeway in the snow. That monster 400 cu in engine gave the sedan a front heavy weight distribution and I was losing traction often. It had all-season tires, not snow tires. I was also quite inexperienced and had none of the skills and knowledge I have now. That car was in the two ton range, and behemoth weight did not give it the winter advantage it needed.

My GF, who is doing the car shopping now, recalls being happy with her FWD Dodge Charger (the cousin of the Omni) in the snow. I would guess that vehicle was probably 2200 or 2300 pounds. So on the balance, your FWD/RWD opinion seems sound.
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nickinSTL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-16-05 08:19 AM
Response to Original message
3. I had a 1996 Corolla
front wheel drive, traction control wasn't available on Corollas in the mid-'90s.

I slid all over the damn place. Even on wet roads, the tires would spin if I tried to start moving on an incline.

I finally bought a 4WD because we get just enough snow and ice that I didn't feel safe driving it.

However, we briefly had a 1997 Saturn wagon with front wheel drive and traction control, and it was great. We couldn't get the tires to spin even on packed snow/ice.

So, I'd say that as long as you've got traction control, you're probably ok.
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midnight armadillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-28-05 05:54 PM
Response to Original message
4. I never had trouble with little cars
My past cars have included an '85 Nissan Sentra wagon, a '90 Camry (~2900 lbs), and a '93 Corolla. I never had any trouble with snow in any of them, especially with good tires. All were FWD. The Camry with its stick shift was especially good since there was lots of road feedback in the steering & handling (not at all like a recent Camry). No traction control on any of these for Mass. driving.

Just get good tires, and traction control if you can. ABS is more important :-)

The Nokian WR all-season tire is the finest on the market if you want a year-round tire that will kick serious ass in the snow. I have 'em on my Subaru and they're great.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-31-06 01:56 PM
Response to Original message
5. I drove my VW to work during the blizzard of 78
in eastern Massachusetts.

I didn't find out the Gov had shut the state down until I got there.
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sam sarrha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-22-06 12:43 PM
Response to Original message
6. it has a lot to do with the tires.. i prefer front wheel drive. my 65 VW
was like a little tank in mud and snow.. it went anywhere..

my 1956 1100 104D Fiat had high clearance and 14 inch tires.. and a reverse gear lower than granny low.. what i couldnt drive up i backed up.. i used it for scrambling around the high sierra fire roads.. if i got in sand or gravel and spun out i jacked it up and pushed it foward off the jack again and again till i got out of the bad patch and went on.. it was like a jeep.. just amazing.

i have a 1589cc 1987 Nissan Sentra.. and i just love it, it is quite abit like driving a vw..
i lived in Tahoe for several years, i had a set of knobby snow tires for winter.. no problem, but regular tires were a pain..
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Ready4Change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-01-06 03:52 PM
Response to Original message
7. To me, tires make the largest difference.
2600, 2700 lbs is heavy. compared to smaller cars of yesteryear. Snow tires have become wonderfull. (REAL snow tires, not all seasons.) Todays new cars are nearly all better controlled than older cars. Power does NOT help in the snow. You can't ask too many questions.

Too much weight can be a detriment in snow. If you don't have extra traction to counter it, that weight makes it harder to stop, harder to turn, and easier to sink in and get stuck.

Good snow tires can turn a winter garage queen into a virtual Jeep. Bad tires can turn a Jeep into a winter garage queen.

Snow driving is an art, that needs to be practiced. Each year I find an empty parking lot and practice in the first snow fall, to re-awaken old skills. Snow driving takes focus and awareness. Driving to slowly or too timidly is almost as bad as too fast and too aggressive. Approach it as a skill to be mastered, rather than a challenge to be feared.

When the snow gets taller than your ground clearance you've got problems. This is, IMO, the ONLY time bigger cars have an advantage in the snow.

To me, RWD and FWD are different, not better or worse. AWD has an advantage, but it's not enough if you've got rotten tires, can't drive, or the snow is too deep.

My evidence? I used to drive my old '69 MGB around in the snow, looking for 4WD pickups stuck in ditches who I could help get back up on the roads. Most of those guys would turn down my offers to help. Oh well!
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nerddem Donating Member (366 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-20-07 05:30 AM
Response to Reply #7
9. haha, i can relate
this past winter i drove around in and after one of the blizzards that hit philadelphia in a 96 z3 with shitty tires, but i was able to parallel park and everything
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kysrsoze Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-09-07 01:35 AM
Response to Original message
8. I think small FWD cars are great in snow
My fiance's last car was a VW Jetta and it was great in snow - like a little tank. My friend and I had twin cars - a '93 Eagle Summit and Mistubishi Mirage. We drove both of them back from spring break through the 13" snowfall in Alabama. We had 13" wheels with tires about 6 inches wide. We made it ALL the way home - driving across medians filled with snow and passing some jeeps people had driven into ditches. Small, fairly light FWD cars are great in snow as long as they have decent tread - it's all about having weight on the wheels. My current RWD car is OK on snow, but only b/c I have good all-season tires on it. My fiance now has an Acura TSX and it's decent, but no great in snow - most likely b/c it has wide performance tires.
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safeinOhio Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-02-07 04:28 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. Tire width on small cars
I had an Escort the first year they came out. Was great in snow. The newer ones and Focus have wide profile tires that tend to float on top of the snow. The old narrow tires would cut in and give you some bite. Anyone else remember the "good ole days"?
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benEzra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-16-08 08:25 PM
Response to Original message
11. Lightweight FWD cars work pretty well in the snow...
Edited on Sat Feb-16-08 08:42 PM by benEzra
and small AWD cars work almost as well as 4-wheel-drive SUV's (the only real difference is ground clearance).

This is a little heavier than you were looking at, but it's an excellent performer in the snow with AWD: /

If you get one with performance tires, you'd definitely want to get some cheap wheels and skinnier winter tires from Tire Rack, though.
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old mark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-19-08 06:33 AM
Response to Original message
12. I have a 2000 Hyundai Elantra, 5 speed.
Edited on Sat Jul-19-08 06:33 AM by old mark
Bought it new. Got snowed in exactly once, and it was an ice/snow storm, with the car resting on a 2 inch thick ice sheet under snow. After a little digging, I got the car out and made it to work.
It was the only time I have had any type of trouble getting the car stuck in any weather. I have good quality year round mud and snow tires on it, and it handles very well.

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Pierre.Suave Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-20-08 10:21 AM
Response to Original message
13. Tires, Tires, Tires
they make all the difference in the world because they are the ONLY link your car has to the ground.

You can have a jeep with shitty tires and go nowhere, and you can have a Miata with snow tires and drive right on by the jeep.

Those car talk guys are not always right.

My advice, buy the civic and budget some for dedicated winter tires ( for ALL 4 wheels :eyes:) and you will be fine.
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