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To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd

London, United...
Level Contributor
17 posts
37 reviews
21 helpful votes
To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd

Hello people

I am visiting Iceland with my mom in winters for 6 days in Dec Feb period. Driving from Airport to Grundarfjörður back to Reykjavik to Skaeftafell glacier.

Doing main road only & the sight seeing spots & waterfalls on the way. No off roading or fancy off beat paths.

Do I need a 4 wheel drive or an SUV? Or should a Suzuki Swift or Hyundai I 30 2wd be enough?


7 replies to this topic
Gardabaer, Iceland
Level Contributor
12,296 posts
4 reviews
4 helpful votes
1. Re: To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd

"Do I need a 4 wheel drive or an SUV?"

- I hear often that in mid winters tourists can be easily identified on the roads being two or more people in the car, slowly moving, hazard lights on, traumatized passengers, and the driver holding onto the steering wheel for dear life.

*imagine Clarkson narrating* There is no "added safety" in a 4WD for those who have never driven on ice and snow. One has to know how to react in icy conditions and that is solely on the drivers skills and has nothing to do with the vehicle type. Do you drive a 4WD on regular basis and are you aware of their limitations ? If not, a SUV is really enough. A large 4WD f.e. takes on more wind (not desireable), has a higher center of gravity [CoG] (not desireable) and spends more of your heard earned cash than you might be comfortable with.

London, United...
Level Contributor
17 posts
37 reviews
21 helpful votes
2. Re: To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd


I dont drive a 4x4 nor an suv. I have never driven in icy conditions.

Would a suzuki swift be ok to drive in these areas? Or suv is recommended?


Salisbury, United...
Level Contributor
13,674 posts
140 reviews
93 helpful votes
3. Re: To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd

If you have never driven in icy conditions you should not be learning in Iceland. You are going to a country which is just below the Arctic Circle, the conditions can be very difficult to drive in. Could you drive in ice, snow, frozen slush,slush and black ice? The winds are also very very strong so this is an added problem.

You are planning a lot of driving and have not taken the weather into account. Last winter we saw 3 cars which had come off the road in icy conditions. They were stuck awaiting a tow truck, all appeared to be driven by tourists. One of the toads looked dry but was covered in patches of black ice. Roads can be lonely, villages are few and far between and there could be a long wait for rescue.

As you have no wi tear driving experience take tours. It's for your safety and other road users.

Level Contributor
47,357 posts
1,243 reviews
321 helpful votes
4. Re: To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd

smudge is correct. In winter you want to leave the driving to experienced professionals. You can take 2 or 3 day tours that include accommodations out of Reykjavik, or a fully escorted 5-6 day tour instead.

Level Contributor
2,864 posts
34 reviews
25 helpful votes
5. Re: To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd

Like Unnar says there is no added safety in a 4WD but there can be a benefit in an AWD. They tend to be smaller than the classic 4WD and therefore offer a good compromise regarding size, wind, gravity…

However I think people should have the following in mind when selecting a rental car:

The main “danger” in driving in Iceland isn’t the unpredictable weather. It’s been ages since someone died because he was stranded in a snow-bank on a mountain pass. Getting caught in a snow-storm, having the paint stripped off the car in a sand-storm or getting blown off the road, missing a flight due to a closed road, wrecking the undercarriage on a rocky path… these are really more expensive inconveniences than serious accidents.

The main danger IMHO is when people with no or limited experience in winter-driving have an agenda they need to stick to and therefore drive way too fast for the conditions they encounter. This leads to:

Not controlling the car on the turns and twists on the road so you fly off the shoulder and flip the car.

Not controlling the car if you hit a patch of ice.

Not controlling the car when the right wheel hits a wet snow-bank but the left is on open road, twisting the car off the shoulder.

Not controlling the car when you encounter a narrow single-lane bridge with another car crossing it.

Not controlling the car when you step on the brakes and start swerving.

Not controlling the car when a gust of wind turns the car off the road.

Not controlling the car when the gust of wind suddenly stops.

The all-too-common outcome in all the above situations is the car and its contents driving off the shoulder of the road at speed, flipping 1-2 times or head-on crashes. It’s these occasions that occur in 9 out of 10 fatalities or serious accidents.

Best way to prevent becoming a statistic are IMHO:

NEVER set off unless you are sure the weather will remain calm (vedur.is).

ALWAYS drive within the legal limit using the required seat-belt for ALL passengers.

NEVER drive faster than conditions allow (this might mean creeping along at 20-30km/h).

ALWAYS make sure beforehand the road is clear (road.is).

To the above I would add that personally I wouldn’t want to be on the roads here on a typical city-car (Aygo, i10, Micra, Yaris…). Select a rental car with substance. The i30 is a lot more car than the Swift. Select a car that has good safety stats for head-on crashes and that would offer you security IF you get blown off the shoulder.

Coggeshall, United...
Level Contributor
2 posts
60 reviews
33 helpful votes
6. Re: To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd

Conditions are hard to predict but, in February, take care and, yes, 4WD is pretty essential as are proper winter tyres with studs for the ice. It is not necessary, if you are renting, to pay the premium for a “large” 4WD - mid size is fine. Invest in an off-road driving course before you go, if you can. Icelandic roads are v good and well maintained and it MAY be straightforward, but Iceland is not the place to chance it in a 2WD car with summer tyres.

Cologne, Germany
Destination Expert
for Iceland
Level Contributor
18,455 posts
118 reviews
97 helpful votes
7. Re: To SUV or not -Driving to Grundarfjörður in Feb - 4wd or 2wd

@Grouchmonkey: this is a three-year old thread, the OP has long come and gone and the recommendation to not drive in winter without significant winter driving experience still stands...

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