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Advice needed on hatchbacks that perform decently in winter weather

I have owned a Mazda 2 hatchback since Nov. 2015, live in Boston and work N of the city. The Mazda just got totaled in an accident, so I need to buy a used car hopefully under $10K. The Mazda did fine in the winter and I’d like another hatchback (love the rear wiper, good visibility, etc.). However I’d like something with a little more room in the passenger seat and will also perform decently in winter weather. A few models I’m considering:

Honda Fit
Toyota Prius*
Ford Focus
Kia Rio

Any opinions on how Priuses perform in inclement weather would be most welcome* I ask because I know someone in the Boston area who owned a Prius and liked it but felt she needed winter tires. However, having to switch to winter tires is probably a deal breaker as I don’t know where I’d store tires.

Thanks for any advice you can offer!

There is not going to much difference for any of the front wheel drive vehicles as long as the tires are good. All you can do is look at vehicles ,find one you like and then have a mechanic inspect it for possible problems. Your friend thought she needed winter tires because she had LRR ( low rolling resistant ) tires on her Prius .

My opinion ( others might not agree ) is that any hybrid you purchase for 10000.00 is going to be an expensive to maintain vehicle .


Thank you very much for the advice, Volvo_V70.

I agree with that.

Jazzhands - How about a Subaru? AWD and plenty of hatchback/wagon options (Forester, Outback, Impreza, Crosstrek).

A friend did quite well in winter snow and ice with a Mazda 3 hatchback for several years and now has a Mazda CX5 which has more room and very good handling in winter conditions with all season tires.

I’d steer away from the Ford Focus and add Mazda3, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Corolla to the list.

Install good winter tires and all these vehicles will perform just fine.

Well, I’d sure hope so!

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Then buy all-season tires that rate better than others on ice and snow. I chose General Altimax RT43 largely because of that. They are doing well here in MN and WI, in all seasons.

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Any car of your choice with winter tires will work.

OP does not want winter tires because of problem storing them. It’s not a good thing to run winter tires all year long. Therefore, all-seasons with better than average snow and ice performance are a wise choice.

“Your friend thought she needed winter tires because she had LRR ( low rolling resistant ) tires on her Prius .” This may be a dumb question, but I’ll ask it anyway: Does a Prius need LRR tires? I am still looking for a used car and have counted out the Prius unless I could run all-season tires in the winter as I have no place to store snow tires.
Thanks to all for your feedback!

Thanks for the suggestion. I was thinking of a Subaru Impreza but the passenger seat/compartment was relatively narrow and uncomfortable. Even the Subaru salesman said that the next smallest Subaru model would have essentially the same design for the passenger seat. My girlfriend and I often take six hour drives from MA to NJ and I don’t want her to be uncomfortable.
I have to buy a relatively small car so I can park it in the city and also get decent fuel economy.

We have a 2013 Honda Fit purchased new. The Dunlop tires it came with were less than ideal but when they wore out we replaced them with a different brand of all seasons that are remarkably better in the snow. I will have to see what brand they are when I get home.

I live in the Boston suburbs too.
Just use good quality all -season tires. Good tread depth. have used Tiger Paw for instance.
They use chemicals to excess here so you rarely drive through snow. ( but I have a few times)
I do not know if Hyundai 's 14 inch tires are comparable in the winter.
The Focus is another story I can tell you about.

The new thing for me will be driving in the winter with alloy wheels as they are lighter than steel ???

Alloy / Steel - will not make any difference .

Not necessarily the case. Usually when there is a steel/alloy option on a car, the alloy wheel is a larger diameter and wider. They take a lower profile and wider tire. The overall weight is greater, which has effects on handling, acceleration, and braking. If the winter tires are wide to fit the alloy rim, the extra width compared to a narrower tire on the steel rim means they have less traction on ice and snow.

There may be exceptions, but winter tires on OEM size steel wheels are a smart choice, when available. Alloy wheels cost more and confer no functional advantage.

You can put any tires you want that will fit on it. You are not required to put LRR’s on, but your mileage will suffer slightly (a worthwhile tradeoff in my opinion).


Thanks, Shanonia. If I have all-season tires that perform decently in snow e.g. the General Altimax (?) you have recommended, does it matter whether I have alloy wheels or steel wheels?
I may buy a used Honda Fit, but some have alloy wheels. If alloy wheels will not perform as well as steel wheels in winter conditions, I will avoid them. I don’t have the option of using winter tires because I have nowhere to store them.
Thanks so much!

No it does not . The only reason for people using steel wheels and winter tires is that steel wheel are cheaper to buy. I actually answered that question for your 3 days ago.

Steel wheels are cheaper, true. But in many cases you can get them narrower, so use a narrower winter tire, giving better snow and ice traction. Steel wheels are usually smaller in diameter than alloys. If the steel wheels can clear the brakes and have the correct offset, you end up with a higher profile tire. That means a smoother ride and less risk of pothole damage. The downside is handling isn’t as crisp, and the ultimate cornering traction is probably going to be less.

If I were in Jazzhands’ place and wanted a used car with good winter traction using only one set of tires year-round, I would not rule out alloy wheels, but would prefer steel. If the car you like comes with alloys, get good all-season tires that fit those wheels, tires that rate well in snow and ice compared to other all-seasons.