Top 11 SUVs for Winter Driving in Canada

By Kijiji Autos
Close up of driver pumping gas at gas station - post pandemic car shopping and gas price hacks

Canadian winters produce some of the most beautiful frozen landscapes anywhere in the world with blankets of snow and frozen lakes providing the perfect environment for skating, sledding, skiing and snowboarding. Winter in Canada can also provide extremely challenging conditions for drivers with reduced grip and unpredictable traction causing havoc on the nation's highways.

SUVs are some of the best-suited vehicles for these conditions with a wealth of standard and available features to help you stay in control and get where you're going when the temperature plummets below zero.

In no particular order, the most popular SUVs for Canadian winters and for snow & ice driving are:

  1. Toyota RAV4
  2. Subaru Forester
  3. Honda CR-V
  4. Mazda CX-30
  5. Hyundai Santa Fe
  6. Jeep Grand Cherokee
  7. Ford Bronco
  8. Volvo XC60
  9. Ford Expedition
  10. Land Rover Discovery
  11. Chevrolet Tahoe

What to look for when choosing an SUV for Canadian winters

While it's not necessary to check off all these features when purchasing an SUV to keep you safe on the roads during Canada's winter months, the more of them your vehicle comes with, the smoother your driving experience will be:


All-wheel drive systems send the engine's power to all four wheels by monitoring where the most traction is at any one time. On-demand or part-time AWD systems, while capable of driving each wheel when needed, tend to operate as front-wheel drive under normal driving conditions.

This saves fuel by leaving the rear wheels to spin freely. Once sensors detect wheelspin or a reduction in traction these systems engage to give extra grip in slippery conditions.


Four-wheel drive can be thought of as all-wheel drive's more specialized cousin, and provides even more traction in slippery conditions by locking a vehicle's front and rear driveshafts so that they rotate at the same speed. Four-wheel drive systems are more rugged than all-wheel drive. They rely on mechanical connections over computer control to provide the most traction possible by powering all four wheels equally.

Emergency braking

Often the best way to avoid an accident is simply to stop before you get to it by leaving enough room between your vehicle and the one in front. SUVs are heavier than other vehicles and therefore require more distance to stop, though this is aided by bigger brakes and larger tires which have a bigger contact area with the road, providing more traction.

Factor in anti-lock braking systems and winter tires and you've got a much better chance of slowing down and stopping before you arrive at an accident.

SUV ground clearance

SUVs, especially the larger ones towards the end of our list, generally feature higher ride heights than other types of vehicles like sedans, wagons, and minivans. This is helpful for winter driving in a couple of ways.

First, a higher ride height allows an SUV to clamber over obstacles such as the deep snow that's often left at the bottom of driveways by passing plow trucks.

Second, being higher off the ground can help prevent SUVs from becoming 'beached' in deep snow, allowing you to make it safely back to bigger highways that get plowed more frequently.

Collision warning

Auto manufacturers understand that drivers can't stay entirely vigilant 100% of the time. Passengers (especially young children) and other factors can distract us from the road ahead and increase the risk of accidents. This is where collision warning systems come in.

Using sensors positioned around the vehicle, collision warning systems can detect incoming vehicles from the front, rear and sides and alert the driver so they can take proper evasive action.

Automatic emergency braking

Dependable braking performance is absolutely essential to driving safety in any conditions, and especially so when temperatures drop and roads become slippery with snow and ice.

All but one of the SUVs listed below come standard with automatic emergency braking systems (it's an optional extra on the one outlier) which use cameras and/or sensors in the front of the vehicle to detect when an accident is about to occur and apply the brakes to prevent or mitigate a crash.

Lane departure warning

Lane departure warning does exactly what it says on the tin: warns the driver if the vehicle starts to stray out of its current lane.

Lane departure warning systems can:

  • display flashing alerts in a vehicle's gauge cluster
  • play an audible tone
  • cause the steering wheel to vibrate
  • any combination of the above.

The semi-autonomous driving modes available in some of the vehicles below can avoid accidents by steering the vehicle back into the correct lane.

Adaptive headlights

Adaptive headlights allow the headlights to turn with the steering wheel, helping drivers to better see around corners when driving at night. They may not sound like much, but if you've ever driven a vehicle with adaptive headlights you'll know the confidence that these types of headlights inspire.

LED tail lights

LED tail lights have a number of advantages over traditional incandescent bulbs, with the main one being that they shine brighter allowing other drivers to see your vehicle better in snowy or rainy conditions.

LEDs last longer than traditional bulbs, use less power and stand up to the freezing cold and soaking wet punishment that comes with spending extended periods on the roads during a Canadian winter.

Traction control

Traction control systems are an industry standard that detect when a wheel is starting to slip and reduce the power sent to it until it regains traction. Spinning tires may look cool in YouTube videos but out in the real world they indicate a loss of control and an increased risk of an accident.

A good traction control system is essential to driving safely during winter in Canada, where snow, ice and freezing rain can quickly cause road conditions to deteriorate.


All-wheel drive with all-season tires is no match for a good set of winter tires.

Winter tires are made from a softer rubber compound than all-season and summer tires which helps them grip the road better when temperatures plummet below zero. Winter tires also feature specially designed tread patterns which are deeper than those found on tires meant for the warmer months. These tread patterns help the tire to bite into snow giving you extra grip. You can still exceed the grip limits of a winter tire, but they certainly provide more stability and driver confidence during the winter months.

Heated seats and steering wheel

Heated seats and steering wheels are a welcome addition to any vehicle that operates in freezing conditions. Your vehicle's heater uses warmth generated by the engine to keep the cabin at a comfortable temperature, but this can take a while to get going when starting your car on a freezing winter's morning.

Heated seats and steering wheels make use of an electric heating element to warm you up faster, with a heated steering wheel providing the added bonus of being more grippy than an ice-cold one.

Remote start

Another feature that provides a little extra luxury while keeping your vehicle happy as well, remote starters allow you to start your engine, you guessed it, remotely from inside your house before you get in to drive.

Not only do remote starters allow you to get into a pre-warmed cabin when heading out for a drive, but they also allow your SUV's engine, transmission and other major components more time to get up to their intended operating temperatures. This can save on wear and tear in the long run.

Top 11 SUVs for winter driving in Canada

Keeping all of the above features in mind, these are 11 great SUVs for winter driving, in no particular order:

1. Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 is a perennial bestseller and a staple of the small SUV segment. Pairing a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic gearbox allows the Toyota RAV4 to be frugal with fuel, while a spacious and practical interior allows it to handle anything you can throw at it with ease. The Toyota RAV4 comes with front-wheel drive as standard. All-wheel drive systems are available which allow the Toyota RAV4 to disconnect its rear wheels when extra traction is not needed to save on fuel. SUV ground clearance and a wealth of standard and available safety technology make the Toyota RAV4 an excellent choice for a winter vehicle.

The Toyota RAV4 earns a 5-Star safety rating from the NHTSA as well as a 2022 Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, meaning that it passes all of the Institute's tests with flying colours. While winter-ready all-wheel drive is an optional extra, the Toyota RAV4 comes with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection as standard.

2. Subaru Forester

Subarus have long held a reputation for being dependable winter transport with the ability to traverse the iciest of roads thanks to their full-time all-wheel drive. The Subaru Forester continues this tradition and brings the practicality of a compact SUV to the table to boot.

All models come with Subaru's EyeSight suite of driver-assistance technology as standard and feature a large rear cargo area perfect for transporting skis, snowboards, toboggans and anything else you need to move during the winter. The Subaru Forester comes with a 2.5-litre flat-four engine that makes 182 horsepower and gives it the ability to tow up to 1500 pounds. Its engine design gives it a lower centre of gravity which leads to more assured handling, while excellent outward visibility gives drivers the ability to see anything that winter's roads may throw at them.

Like the Toyota RAV4, the Subaru Forester earns a 5-Star rating from the NHTSA and a 2022 Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS. Included with Subaru's EyeSight suite of camera-based safety systems are standard automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.

3. Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is another example of a best-selling compact SUV featuring refined road manners and plenty of space for passengers and their cargo. The newest Honda CR-V features a slightly longer wheelbase than previous versions and provides even more room inside. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine comes as standard, while a hybrid powertrain is available as an optional extra. Front-wheel drive is also standard with all-wheel drive available as an option and included as part of the top trim level. Every Honda CR-V comes with hill-descent control which helps drivers maintain control on slippery hills often encountered during Canadian winters.

All versions of the 2022 Honda CR-V received a 5-Star crash safety rating from the NHTSA (the 2023 model has not yet been tested) and a 2022 Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. Every Honda CR-V comes with a wealth of standard safety systems including blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The Honda CR-V goes further than many SUVs on this list and includes driver-attention monitoring, traffic sign recognition and a back seat reminder system ensuring you don't accidentally leave precious cargo unattended.

4. Mazda CX-30

The Mazda CX-30 brings upmarket style and exciting driving dynamics to the compact SUV segment for a very reasonable price. All-wheel drive is standard on all versions of the Mazda CX-30 and its suspension is tuned to smooth out the bumps of winter's potholes while remaining enjoyable through the corners. The interior, while not the largest on this list, still provides a good degree of practicality and features thoughtful design and quality materials.

Like the Honda CR-V the Mazda CX-30 brings a long list of standard safety features to the table with an even more extensive list of available options. It adds automatic high-beam headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers to the list of standard equipment, while rear cross-traffic alert, a surround-view parking camera system, front and rear parking sensors and reverse automatic emergency braking are optional extras. The Mazda CX-30 receives a 5-Star crash safety rating from the NHTSA and a 2022 Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS.

5. Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Santa Fe offers a reasonably priced entry to the mid-size SUV market and comes equipped with useful features at all trim levels. With a range of powertrain options available and a smooth ride the Hyundai Santa Fe could be exactly what you're looking for if you have a larger family or more people to move about.

The Hyundai Santa Fe's base engine is a 2.5-litre four cylinder, while turbocharging and hybrid systems are available as options. Every version is available with all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive is standard. The Hyundai Santa Fe features confident handling to keep you safe in winter months and excite you when warmer temperatures arrive.

The Hyundai Santa Fe receives a 5-Star rating from the NHTSA and a 2022 Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology and lane-departure warning systems all standard. The Hyundai Santa Fe also features a Dynamic Brake Support system which recognizes when the driver's braking input is not sufficient to avoid a crash and adds extra braking force to keep its passengers safe.

6. Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee builds on the rugged reputation of its Jeep stablemates and adds luxury vehicle equipment across a wide range of trim packages. Engine options include a V6, V8 and a plug-in hybrid system with two rows of passenger seating in the Jeep Grand Cherokee's spacious and luxurious interior. Despite its legitimate off-road ability all-wheel drive is an optional extra with rear-wheel drive as standard on V6 models. Several all-wheel drive setups are available depending on how far off-grid you want to go, and these come standard on V8 and plug-in hybrid models. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is composed and smooth on the road.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee receives a 5-Star crash safety score from the NHTSA and features safety systems such as automated braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control all coming as standard.

7. Ford Bronco

The Ford Bronco is positioned to take on the off-road ready Jeep Wrangler with genuine off-road chops and a ride quality that allows it to be used everyday. Despite its proclivity for clambering over snow and ice, the Ford Bronco is perfectly civilized on paved roads and features a huge range of customization options.

The Ford Bronco features classic SUV styling, four-wheel drive and the choice of a 300 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder or a 330 horsepower twin-turbo V6 engine. The Ford Bronco's pleasant on-road handling is partly down to its independent front suspension, while electronically locking front and rear differentials are available as options. The Ford Bronco can also feature rubberized floor mats and vinyl upholstery to stand up to anything winter can throw at it.

The Ford Bronco receives a 4-Star front driver's side rating and a 5-Star passenger side rating from the NHTSA. It also receives awards from the IIHS on its frontal crash protection in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian scenarios. Forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist are available as options.

8. Volvo XC60

The Volvo XC60 brings premium Scandinavian style to the mid-size SUV segment and comes equipped with a range of efficient four-cylinder engines boosted by turbos and supercharging. Volvo, coming from a country with winters much like our own, has always placed emphasis on winter safety with all-wheel drive coming as standard on all trims. The Volvo XC60 features confident, planted handling and the agility required to change direction quickly when called upon to do so.

The Volvo XC60 earns a 5-Star safety rating from the NHTSA and is named a 2022 Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS. Volvo's focus on safety means that the Volvo XC60 comes with a wealth of standard safety equipment and features such as automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. The Volvo XC60 also features a semi-autonomous driving mode which is especially helpful in stop-start traffic.

9. Ford Expedition

We begin our foray into the full-size SUV segment with the Ford Expedition, a spacious three-row SUV with the ability to tow up to 9000 lbs. Rear-wheel drive is standard while all-wheel drive is available as an option. The Ford Expedition is powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 engine which puts out 440 horsepower in range-topping trim. Independent rear suspension is fitted to every Ford Expedition which provides capable handling and extra interior space.

The Ford Expedition earns a 5-Star rating from the NHTSA and has not been tested by the IIHS. Forward-collision warning and automatic braking come standard, while lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control are options. The Ford Expedition Platinum comes with Ford's hands-free "BlueCruise" driving system.

10. Land Rover Discovery

The Land Rover Discovery brings proven off-road ability to the full-size SUV segment along with a well-equipped cabin with room for seven across three rows of seating. Four- and six-cylinder engines are available, both turbocharged, and a two-speed transfer case is available for drivers heading off the beaten path. Full-time all-wheel drive is standard.

The Land Rover Discovery has not been rated by the NHTSA or IIHS, but comes with automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control as standard. Land Rover offers lane-keeping assist and a 360-degree camera system as optional extras.

11. Chevrolet Tahoe

The Chevrolet Tahoe is available with a V8 gas engine or an inline six-cylinder diesel and provides buyers with an extremely spacious interior. Rear-wheel drive is standard, as is blind-spot monitoring and heating for the steering wheel and first two rows of seats. Four-wheel drive is available as an option and comes standard on the off-road focused Z71 model.

The Chevrolet Tahoe comes equipped with forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist as standard. Adaptive cruise control is available as an option, as is GM's Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system.

Whatever your transportation needs look like, an SUV is perhaps the best-suited vehicle to get you through the Canadian winter. With a long list of standard and available safety features plus all-wheel drive and a ride height that allows you to overcome deep snow, an SUV can help you get where you need to go no matter the conditions. Kijiji Autos has a huge range of new and used SUVs for sale in markets across the country, helping you to find your perfect ride quickly and easily. Start your search for an SUV with Kijiji Autos today.

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