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In Yakutsk, Russia, everything has to be prepared for cold winter weather, even your cars, trucks, and SUVs. Known as the coldest place on earth, temperatures can get down to −64.4 °C (−83.9 °F) in extreme weather situations. How can an SUV survive, let alone a person? Let’s look at some of the best cars and SUVs for winter driving in the world’s coldest city and what features are most important.

Two people discuss the best SUVs for cold weather in front of a blanketed vehicle
Two people talk on a street in the center of the eastern Siberian town of Yakutsk with the air temperature at about -39°C | Mladen Antonov / AFP via Getty Images

You will see two types of vehicles in Yakutsk: ultra-compact sedans and SUVs. According to Russia Beyond, some of the most popular cars and SUVs come from Toyota. These are right-hand drive models, with the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado being popular. In some areas of Russia, the most popular automaker is AvtoVaz, also known as Lada. The SUVs for winter driving will probably be used since Toyota is no longer producing and selling vehicles in the country.

Models like the Toyota Vitz, the Corolla Fielder, and the Ipsum cover all the bases. From a station wagon to a sedan and even a minivan, Toyota has an option for everyone. Smaller and ultra-compact sedans are also popular as these are usually more affordable. These vehicles perform well in winter but get good fuel economy. Good fuel economy is incredibly important when you consider the fact that some people leave the engines running for months at a time.

Many people leave the engine running for months at a time to prevent it from freezing. Some folks also use a large blanket to cover the vehicle to keep it warm. In combination, leaving the engine running and keeping the blanket on can help keep the vehicle in good shape over the colder months. Yakutsk has difficult weather and challenging terrain, so most people will need a car or SUV to get around.

Features to look for in an SUV for cold weather driving

The SUVs for winter driving are not pictured above with a man walking in the cold
A man is surrounded by dogs as he walks on the main street of the settlement of Oy, some 70 km south of Yakutsk, with the air temperature at about -41°C | Mladen Antonov / AFP via Getty Images

One of the reasons SUVs are popular in Yakutsk is because of their versatility. With plenty of space in the cabin and cargo area, your SUV can be used for commuting, errands, family trips, or just getting around when the weather is extreme. Temperatures in the summer can reach +30 °C (86 °F), which means you need a vehicle that can do both!

Drivers want a vehicle with all-wheel drive to keep traction in the snow. Most of the city is built on permafrost, meaning slick roads are common. Since the area is so remote, long commutes are very common.

High-ground clearance helps traverse snow-covered roads and can be beneficial for visibility. The winter months will be more bearable if you can find an SUV with heated seats and a steering wheel. Even better, finding a vehicle with a remote start feature is helpful. This can start heating the cabin before you get into it to make things more comfortable.

Tips from Yakutsk drivers on choosing the best SUV


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Some drivers in Yakutsk suggest avoiding cars and SUVs with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Switching gears can be tricky if the components start to freeze. You must find a vehicle with good snow tires and drive slowly.

Driving might be a bit easier if you can find a vehicle with systems like anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC). These days, there might be fewer new cars to choose from. Finding a used vehicle might work, but try to find one with some of the important safety and convenience features listed here. If nothing else, all-wheel drive and a good set of winter tires are probably the most important.

People who live in this Siberian land have adapted and overcome the cold weather with small modifications to survive the colder months. It isn’t for everyone, but it works for those who live in Yakutsk!