12 winter runabouts you can buy for £2000

by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
6 December 2022 7 min read
12 winter runabouts you can buy for £2000
Every car looks better in the snow. Photo: Volvo

You may have read the reports that Britain is facing another ‘Beast from the East’, with snow and freezing temperatures set to hit the country. To paraphrase Michael Fish, if you’re reading this, don’t worry, the ‘Beast from the East’ isn’t coming, but having said that, the weather will be turning colder.

Freezing temperatures come with the risk of ice and a visit from your local authority’s fleet of gritter lorries – conditions not suitable for your precious classic car. Which is why it could be worth investing in a cheap winter runabout to see you through into the spring. Something reasonably interesting, ideal for winter duties and, because we’re all feeling the pinch, available for less than a couple of grand.

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Check out our guides to modern classics for all-weather fun and affordable classic cars you can use all winter, then consider taking your pick from these cheap winter runabouts. When the threat of the ‘Beast from the East’ has gone west, simply sell the car and return to the classic you really care about.

When you’re buying a winter runabout, it’s important to find something you won’t be overly precious about. It’s going to spend its time coated in more salt than your local chippy uses in a month, while the potholes that pockmark our under-siege roads will put a strain on its suspension, steering and wheels. Remember, the beater is facing the winter, so your classic doesn’t have to.

Suzuki Ignis 4Grip

Suzuki Ignis rallying
Rufford Ford, yesterday. Photo: Suzuki

You won’t buy a second-generation Suzuki Ignis for its styling. The cosmetically challenged small car lacks the charm of the current Ignis and the character of the original Ignis Sport. No, you’ll buy it for the availability of a four-wheel drive version, which cranks the want-o-meter up to eleven, or something.

The Ignis 1.5 VVT 4Grip won’t challenge a Land Rover or Land Cruiser when the going gets a bit ‘Billy Ocean’, but if your commute involves single-track roads coated in sheep doodah, it makes a lot of sense. Its 1.5-litre engine produces just 98bhp, but because the Ignis weighs around 1000kg, it never feels that slow. As our photo shows, you can also claim a little Junior World Rally Championship provenance.

Jaguar X-Type AWD

Jaguar X-Type AWD
On Her Majesty’s Snowy Service. Photo: Jaguar

It’s okay that some people are sniffy about the Jaguar X-Type, because it helps to keep prices to a minimum. We can think of worse ways to spend the winter than behind the wheel of a four-wheel drive Jaguar with a 2.5 or 3-litre V6 petrol engine. And it’s not as though its Ford Mondeo heritage is a bad thing; Queen Elizabeth II didn’t care.

You’ll have to stretch the budget a little if you want the HM-endorsed X-Type estate, but a saloon won’t cost a King’s Ransom. The Halewood plant won an award for the quality of the paintwork, which is why even the cheapest X-Types have retained their lustre. We think a polished X-Type AWD wouldn’t look out of place at a winter cars and coffee event. What do you think?

Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback
Just add bad weather. Photo: Subaru

If in doubt, buy a Subaru. A budget of £2k is enough to secure a Forester or a cooking Impreza, but we’re heading into the Outback for some all-weather dependability. Stick a set of winter tyres on an Outback and you’ll keep ploughing on long after a crossover has failed to proceed. Harsh conditions are something you’ll enjoy, rather than endure.

We’ve seen the Outback referred to as a ‘four-wheeled Barbour jacket’, which is a neat way of looking at a car that will look at home anywhere from a country pad to a Waitrose car park. The 3-litre version will be out of reach for £2k, but the 2.5-litre ‘boxer’ engine is cheaper to run and costs significantly less to tax.

Fiat Sedici

Fiat Sedici
Fiat’s Giant Panda 4×4. Photo: Fiat

The Fiat Sedici was the official car of the 2006 Winter Olympics, so you should be, ahem, ski jumping with joy at the prospect of sticking one of these on your driveway. The neat styling was the work of Giorgetto Giugiaro, with the cars built at the Magyar Suzuki factory in Hungary; the Sedici was a joint venture with Suzuki, which offered the SX4.

Unfortunately for Fiat, the Sedici was produced before the crossover craze, so cars didn’t exactly speed-skate out of UK showrooms. Which is a shame, because Autocar described the 1.6-litre version as “a pretty decent thing” and “a guilt-free 4×4”. There are no skeletons in this Fiat’s cupboard, so you’d be curling mad to miss out, or something.

Volvo XC70

Volvo XC70 in mud
A typical daily commute. Photo: Volvo

At the time of writing, there were three Volvo XC70s for sale on Auto Trader, one with 180,000 miles on the clock, another with 189,000 miles, and a third with an impressive 240,000 miles. That’s the equivalent of driving to the moon, which suggests that a well maintained XC70 can go the distance.

Consider the positives. Like the Outback, it’s utterly classless, so it’ll look great parked at the point-to-point or when ferrying you and your better half to the winter ball. The interior has aged beautifully and is blissfully free of touchscreens and other such nonsense. Instead, you get a neat cupholder, a banging stereo system and the all-important heated seats. Oh, and let’s not forget the appeal of a five-pot engine…

Saab 9-5

Saab 9-5 Aero wagon
The best Athena poster never printed. Photo: Saab

This photo is an entirely accurate depiction of what you’ll look like on a typical trip to Sainsbury’s. Indeed, we’re pretty sure the photo was taken in Surbiton, last weekend. Why buy a crossover when you can own a Saab estate?

Okay, so the 9-5s we found on Auto Trader are more ‘shabby’ than they are ‘Chamonix’, but these things were built to survive the Swedish winter, so they should be able to cope with a light dusting of snow and the occasional frost. Your author spent a winter running a 9000i on Goodyear Ultragrip 8 tyres and he was happier than a snowman in a snowstorm. Heated velour seats for the win.

Land Rover Freelander

Land Rover Freelander in the snow
Ski Sunday driver. Photo: Land Rover

The Land Rover Freelander arrived in October 1997, which means it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary. If that doesn’t make you feel old, nothing will. It was a significant car for Land Rover, with the Freelander wading into the uncharted waters of the lifestyle SUV market. Some 200,000 examples of the first-generation (L314) Freelander were sold, making it Land Rover’s most successful vehicle.

At the time of writing there were around 30 original Freelanders available within budget, and even the odd Freelander 2, with most being the popular five-door model. The soft-top is the rarest, but it could be ideal if you fancy making the most of the winter sun. 

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep Grand Cherokee in the rain
Photo: Jeep

If we’re honest, we’d prefer a Jeep Cherokee XJ, but £2000 doesn’t go a long way when you’re buying one of these classics. Which is why it makes sense, of sorts, to opt for a Grand Cherokee WJ, which was available from 1999 until 2005. You won’t find a V8 for this budget (sorry), but a 4-litre six-cylinder petrol could be a good substitute. Alternatively, if you’ll be doing many miles and have got one eye on the fuel bills – who hasn’t? – it’d be worth considering the 2.7-litre CRD diesel.

Parts and servicing can be expensive, while buying a Grand Cherokee to deal with a few wet leaves and the odd puddle is probably overkill. However, if you’re intent on giving Discos a run for their money on an off-road day, the Jeep is a formidable weapon, especially with a few mods.

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 Mk2
Photo: Mazda

Even in the winter, the answer is always Miata. No, we haven’t forgotten that the MX-5 NB has a reputation for terminal corrosion, but the most affordable version of Mazda’s sports car is even cheaper in the winter. Invest in some rustproofing or budget for some serious welding in the new year.

There’s nothing quite like driving a sports car in the winter. Roof down, heater on full and head to toe clothing that makes you look like you’ve just stepped out of a Millets photoshoot. Stick a set of winter tyres on an MX-5 and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

Audi TT

Audi TT in the snow
Photo: Audi

If winter driving in an MX-5 is too hardcore for you, take a look at the Audi TT. It made our list of the best modern classics for all-weather fun, and we’re more than happy to include it on our list of budget winter runabouts. That’s because the TT is still criminally cheap for a design classic, with prices starting from just £1500.

Quattro four-wheel drive is desirable, especially if you intend to use the TT in all weathers, but there’s good news if you opt for a TT Roadster, because all cars came with an electric roof and heated leather seats. 

Ford Focus

Ford Focus Mk2
Photo: Ford

The Ford Focus is the default choice for an enthusiast looking for a dynamically sorted car on a budget. The original Focus made the 2021 Bull Market list of Britain’s hottest collectable cars, with the Hagerty Valuation Team saying: “We believe [£1400) is a very small outlay for a piece of automotive history”.

In the spirit of our list of winter runabouts, we’re recommending the Mk2 Focus, which was on sale from 2004 until 2011. Find a Zetec Climate to enjoy of the benefits of Ford’s Quickclear heated windscreen, which will make you the envy of your neighbours. Better still, opt for the Focus Ghia, which adds heated washer jets to the mix. Plush.

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V Mk1
Okay, who left the shower on? Photo: Honda

The original Honda CR-V was one of the country’s first lifestyle SUVs and it soon became one of the darlings of the school run. Based on a strengthened Civic chassis, it was powered by a 2.0-litre 16-valve engine, with eight inches of ground clearance added to deal with the raised kerb outside the school gate.

It ticked many of the lifestyle boxes, including pull-out cupholders, a foldaway tray between the front seats, removable picnic table and an underfloor waterproof compartment. But there’s more because buyers could opt for an electric shower. Not much use on the school run, but perfect for dealing with muddy boots and dirty bikes. Kudos points will be awarded to anyone who turns up at next year’s Festival of the Unexceptional with a shower-enriched CR-V.

Read more

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10 Sought-after Utility Vehicles
Royal runaround: Queen Elizabeth II’s Jaguar X-Type Estate to be auctioned

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  • Colin+Burton says:

    All TT roadsters do not have heated seats!

    I have one which does not have them the heated seat controls are blanked.

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