All-wheel-drive is a boon if you live where the weather is bad, plus it does wonders for dry-road handling by improving the car’s grip on the road. AWD need not be an expensive option. Here are 10 of the least-expensive cars that offer optional all-wheel-drive.
10 Cheapest Cars with AWD
Photo Credit: Subaru
The Subaru nameplate has become synonymous with all-wheel drive; all of their vehicles save the BRZ sports car deliver power to all four wheels. That means you don’t need to opt for a more expensive model to get your Impreza with AWD—it’s standard, even the base model. And the punchline here is that the Impreza really isn’t much more expensive than its front-wheel drive competitors. There’s a lot to like about the Impreza: It’s good to drive (if a bit pokey) and very practical, offering a choice of sedan or hatchback versions. Note that Subaru has an all-new version of the Impreza waiting in the wings for 2017, but it’s not quite here yet, so now is a good time to get a deal on remaining 2016 models.
Photo Credit: Mitsubishi
For years, Mitsubishi battled it out with Subaru in the high-performance arena, their lightning-fast Lancer Evolution competing with Subaru’s hot-rod WRX STI. Mitsubishi has since pulled the plug on the “Evo," but they are still picking away at Subaru by offering all-wheel drive in the regular Lancer, making it a direct competitor to the aforementioned Impreza. The Lancer has its drawbacks: It’s an older design with cheap interior plastics and a rather chintzy feel overall. But Mitsubishi’s All Wheel Control AWD system is incredibly smart, and while we’ve yet to drive the Lancer in a blizzard or a rainstorm, we expect it to be incredibly sure-footed, even compared to other all-wheel drive cars. The AWD Lancer’s list price is higher than that of the Impreza, but Mitsubishi usually offers incentives that will lower the price you pay. If you’re looking for AWD on the cheap, the Lancer is a good place to start.
The Juke is nothing if not controversial: Its styling is unlike anything else on the road, and while some find it unforgivably ugly, there are plenty who like the fact that it stands out from other cars. Nissan bills the Juke as a crossover, but given its low height and small, easy-to-park size, we’ll count it as a car. Back seat and trunk space aren’t great unless you combine them by folding the seat down, and the ride is geared towards sport rather than comfort. But if you like to drive, you’ll enjoy the Juke’s energetic 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and its sharp handling, which is supplemented by the extra grip of the optional all-wheel drive system. And if the styling isn’t quite your speed, just think of how easy it will be to find your Juke in a crowded parking lot.
Photo Credit: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
It’s rare for an American automaker to offer an all-wheel drive variant of a front-wheel drive car; the Detroit mentality says that front-drive is good enough for snow, so only rear-drivers need an AWD variant. Nevertheless, Chrysler’s 200 somehow slipped through the net. The 200 hasn’t been a strong seller, likely because it’s severely lacking in back-seat space compared to other midsize cars. That’s a shame, because there’s so much to like about the 200: It’s handsomely styled and it has a lovely, high-quality interior (quite the contrast from Chryslers of just a few years ago). All-wheel drive is offered in the 200S and 200C Platinum models; the former has a Sport mode that forces a rear-bias setup, meaning that more power is directed to the rear wheels, which really ups the fun factor on a curvy road. The 200 faces an uncertain future, so if you’re interested, it might be a good idea to get yours soon.
Photo Credit: Subaru
If you need an affordable midsize sedan with all-wheel drive, it should come as no surprise that we are once again directing you to Subaru. Just as the Impreza comes standard with AWD, so too does the Legacy, using the same basic system combined with a larger and more powerful engine (and an optional 6-cylinder engine, if that’s your sort of thing). The Legacy was once known for its quirks, but Subaru has updated the design to be more mainstream, and we dare say that there’s every bit as much to like about the Legacy as there is about its competitors from Toyota and Honda… and you’ll like it a heck of a lot better the first time the roads are slick with rain, snow or ice. By the way, if you like the Legacy but need a more cargo room, consider Subaru’s legendary Outback: It’s essentially a station-wagon version of the Legacy.
Photo Credit: Ford
Another American all-wheel drive entry is the Ford Fusion—though one might be more accurate to call this a European car, as its design is heavily influenced by Ford’s European division, which sells it as the Mondeo. But the size of the car was clearly dictated by the Americans, as the Fusion has lots of room in the back seat and trunk. Ford doesn’t offer all-wheel drive on the base-model Fusion, but you can get it on the SE, Platinum and Titanium models; it comes paired with Ford’s powerful 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which is very quick but can get rather thirsty if you can’t keep your foot off of the accelerator. For 2017, Ford is offering a new all-wheel drive variant called the Fusion Sport; it comes paired with Ford’s 325-hp twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, and it promises to be a real cracker.
Photo Credit: MINI
The diminutive MINI might not be the first car you think of as having all-wheel drive, but it is indeed on offer in the extended-length Clubman ALL4 model—and at a price not too much higher than the base-model front-drive Clubman. The Clubman is the most practical version of the MINI, with four doors and an extended cargo bay. MINI also offers ALL4 all-wheel drive in the SUV-like Countryman and the soon-to-be-discontinued Paceman (essentially a 2-door version of the Countryman). And if you want something extra-sporty, try the John Cooper Works version of the Clubman, which gets a 228-horsepower version of MINI’s 2.0-liter engine and all-wheel drive.
Photo Credit: Subaru
Most people equate all-wheel drive with foul-weather driving, but it also has huge performance potential—a point driven home to American drivers with the advent of the Subaru WRX some twenty years ago. The latest iteration packs a 268-horsepower flat-4 engine delivering power to all four wheels, and it perfectly illustrates the prospect that there is more to performance than speed: Yes, it’s quick in the straights, but it’s in the turns that the WRX really shines. 2-wheel-drive cars aren’t great at powering out of corners; front-drivers tend to spin their inside front wheel and rear-drivers will break loose and try to go sideways, but all-wheel-drivers like the WRX grip the pavement and fire out of the curves like they were shot from a cannon. Subaru makes a more powerful version called the STI; if you’re on a budget, the WRX packs enough grins for most drivers. But do stick with the manual transmission version—the automatic WRX uses a type of transmission called a CVT, which isn’t a great choice for a performance car.
Photo Credit: Buick
The Regal is one of the most underrated cars on the market, perhaps because it carries the Buick nameplate on its rump. The Regal was actually designed by GM’s European division; it’s sold in the Old World as the Opel Insignia, and the Buick version isn’t much changed from its German cousin. Back seat space is tight and the interior looks a bit dated now, but the Regal is great fun to drive. Buick pairs the all-wheel drive system with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, and all-wheel drive models get the same suspension improvements as previously fitted to the hot-rod GS model. If you never thought you would consider a Buick, we recommend a Regal test drive—you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
The joys of powerful, rear-wheel drive cars is often lost on folks who live in the Rust Belt, because big power and rear-wheel drive can spell disaster when the roads get slick. That’s why it’s so cool that Dodge offers an all-wheel drive version of the attitude-laden Charger sedan. And while many all-wheel drivers reserve that option for pricier models, Dodge actually goes the other way—you can only get all-wheel drive in the affordable SE and SXT trims. Dodge only pairs all-wheel drive with their entry-level 3.6-liter V6 engine; big V8s are offered exclusively in rear-drive form. But even the Charger’s “base” engine delivers nearly 300 horsepower, and while it may not howl like the big V8s, it certainly moves the Charger along with plenty of haste. The Charger’s AWD system features a unique system that disconnects the front axle from the driveline when AWD isn’t needed, which helps to save fuel.