Snowball fights and crisp morning walks might be the pleasant side of the oncoming season, but millions of drivers will be cursing the onset of winter.
There are few more depressing experiences than having to sit in your freezing car, waiting for the screen to clear and the interior to warm up above bone-chilling levels before you can head off to work.
So we decided to look into our industry-leading tests to find out which cars make the morning ritual that little bit easier – by compiling our top five cars with great heaters (we’ve also tracked down the worst, so you’ll know which ones to avoid).
Our car tests are the most thorough in the business – and we don’t skimp on testing a car’s heater. We use a special climate-controlled chamber to see how long a it takes to warm the interior from -10 deg C to a toasty 22 deg C.
But that’s not all – we also award points for how adjustable the heating and air flow is, whether there are separate controls for driver and passenger, and whether the air-conditioning system has an automatic function. Heated seats and other features like good ventilation and window blinds also add to a car’s overall score.
So,which are the best and worst cars for winter? Read on to find out.
Top five cars with great heating
1 BMW 740i
The award for toastiest interior goes to the luxury BMW. Given the amount of toys in the 7 Series, it’s little surprise that the dual-zone, highly-adjustable and powerful heating proves so effective. It took just 11 minutes to heat up from a freezing -10 deg C to a balmy +22 deg C.
2 Ford S-Max
Despite its cavernous interior, the S-Max heats up impressively quickly (12 minutes) if it’s fitted with the 2.5-litre petrol engine. Separate vents for rear passengers will keep the kids warm on the school run.
3 Audi A6 Allroad
Audi’s 4×4-wannabe estate will heat up in 14 minutes – we measured it with the 3.0-litre TDI engine, making it the top-scoring diesel in our tests. The wealth of adjustment on its dual-zone heating system helps, but if you don’t want to go to the trouble of tweaking it, we found the automatic setting really effective.
4 BMW 335d Coupe
The slinky 3-Series warms up in next to no time, say our testers – the 15 minutes it takes to heat up from -10C shows that it’ll prove really effective in winter.
5 Lexus GS
Lexus’s luxury liner has ‘powerful, balanced and fast’ heating, according to our lab tests. It matched the BMW 740i for warm-up time, but it isn’t as feature-heavy or easy to use as the others here.
Five cars with poor heating
1 Fiat Bravo
The wooden spoon for poor heating in our tests goes to the Fiat Bravo 1.6 JTD. It took a glacial 26 minutes to heat up from -10 deg C, and the fiddly controls proved a pain for our testers.
2 Ford Galaxy
What a difference an engine makes. Although it’s a close relative of the Ford S-Max, the Galaxy has one of the worst heaters around when twinned with the 2.0-litre petrol engine. Like the Bravo and Agila, it took 26 minutes to reach 22 deg C.
3 Vauxhall Agila
It’s only small inside, but the Agila 1.3 CDTi still takes 26 minutes to go from -10 deg C to +22 deg C. The clunky and illogical controls don’t help matters.
4 Honda Accord Tourer
Honda may be a master of making cars that run like clockwork, but owners of the Accord Tourer might well dread getting into it on a freezing morning. Taking 25 minutes to heat up to a decent temperature is disappointing for an otherwise excellent car.
5 VW Polo Bluemotion
It’s hard to criticise Volkswagen’s plucky Polo – incredibly low CO2 emissions and great fuel economy are genuine reasons to consider one, but heating is the car’s Achilles’ heel. Air-conditioning is only available in the three-door version, and even then, the adjustment is too hit-and-miss. The warm-up time of 18 minutes is pretty respectable, though.
If you want to see more of our in-depth car reviews, take a look at the Which? Car website.
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