Andersson mastered the snowy conditions inside the Karlstad hippodrome, while Sébastien Loeb, the seven-time champion, was back in fifth in in his Citroën.
“I didn’t want to take any risks,” said Frenchman Loeb, the defending champion, who won the Swedish race in 2004 as well as the Rally of Norway two years ago.
Loeb is more adept on gravel, a surface that makes up nine of the 13 legs.
Last year’s runner-up Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland was second in a Ford Fiesta, just ahead of 2003 world champion Petter Solberg of Norway in a privately entered Citroën.
Compatriot Mikko Hirvonen, in another factory Fiesta, was fourth. The first full day of racing takes place on Friday with six stages.
The Swedish event is the only true snow race on the 2011 World Rally Championship’s (WRC) 13-leg circuit. The race features 11 specials over 351km, which are each run twice on snow that is too slippery to walk on, but where the cars are expected to hit a hair-raising 200km/h.
2007 Formula One champion Kimi Räikkönen of Finland is racing alongside Loeb and Solberg for Citroën and finished 10th. The race concludes on Sunday.