I would strongly suggest not going with the Ford C-Max. Those cars are unreliable. I wouldn't go with any new Fords for that matter. The Kia Niro seems like a nice car, but no one has any reliability data on it yet, being very new. If you decide on the Niro, take a look at the Hyundai Ioniq with which it shares parts with.
If you are looking to keep your car until it dies, it may be a good idea to avoid turbocharged engines as they require additional maintenance and can fail. They are much better than the turbos of 20+ years ago, but still, they are another thing to break.
Buicks are generally reliable, but FYI NormT only recommends GM cars (seriously) and is biased with his answers. Buicks are pretty good cars, but the Encore does have a turbo and you are paying for a luxury badge that doesn't have the best reputation.
If you are thinking of a front wheel drive hybrid, go with the Prius, which has the best reputation of any hybrid car and some of the highest owner satisfaction ratings. My 2005 Prius has 250k miles and has had minimal problems. Most reliable car I've ever owned (I'm keeping it until it dies). My 2016 Prius I got last year is a really good value. You could maybe find a Prius for under $20k. My 2016 gets 56-58 MPG with my lead foot. With light acceleration, you can get 60+ MPG easily. I live in Southern CA where the temp is usually 75 degrees, so I have little experience in the snow with the Prius, but I do know that the Prius' powertrain and battery do hold up to tough and cold winters. My uncle owns a 2010 Prius and lives in a place that snows a lot. He says it's fine for driving in the snow (and he also has a Subaru). If you get a Prius, the 2016 was the big redesign, while 2012 was the refresh for the previous generation. At least get a top trim 2012 I'd say because those years saw 54 MPG at least. They are very roomy, comfortable cars. The ones before 2016 were not that fun to drive, but that's not the point when driving in the snow. The Prius is one of the only cars where you can easily exceed the EPA mileage rating; many owners are seeing 65+ MPG. Hybrid powertrains do in fact perform well in the snow. The only impact with a hybrid in the snow is maybe a 2-4 MPG hit. If you could get a 2017 Two (bottom of the line), you would get all the active safety features standard (added for 2017 as standard), a nice standard features list, and a good driving experience.
Other FWD cars worth taking a look at are the 2016 Honda Civic (fun and comfortable, pretty reliable), 2016 Toyota Corolla (because all safety features are standard, reliability is top-notch), and the 2014+ Mazda3 (fun and reliable).
For AWD, look at the Subaru Crosstrek (good in the snow), 2016 Honda HR-V AWD (good value and features for money), and Mazda CX-3 AWD (fun to drive, may be a little cramped inside). All the cars I've recommended are reliable.