Should you be thinking about fitting winter tyres? Absolutely. Although there was little in the way of snow last year, the improved performance they offer in typical British winter temperatures makes them hard to ignore.
Winter tyres use a softer rubber compound than summer tyres, and as a result more of the tyre's surface tends to be in contact with the road at any one time. They also have more intricate tread patterns and deeper grooves, helping disperse water, snow and slush.
Met Office figures for last winter show that minimum temperatures for much of the UK from November to March were well below the seven degrees Celsius where winter tyres are the safest option.
And manufacturers have never been in a better position to meet demand, with new tyres and stocks arriving in the UK, plus tyre hotels to store your unused tyres. So which is the one for you this winter?
We put eight winter tyres in the big-selling 205/55R16 size to the test to find out. We didn’t include all season tyres, as these don’t offer the same comprehensive safety benefits as winter tyres, but a summer tyre was tested alongside the winter designs to show just how much it struggles in cold conditions.
All tests were conducted by Auto Express drivers or road tester John Barker from our sister magazine evo, apart from those that required specialist equipment or skills.
To ensure the test is as real-world as possible, we braved the sub-zero temperatures at Continental’s frozen lake and snow handling Skanska track in Arvidsjaur, Sweden, before taking our tyres to the Contidrom near Hanover, Germany, for the wet and dry road assessments.
Drivers all want different things from a tyre, so we try to ensure each test counts the same towards the overall result. We add up the percentage scores from each one, then weight them according to the performance gap. So a test like aquaplaning, where the difference between best and worst can be 40 per cent, has the same impact as one with close results (dry handling or cabin noise). The exception is price, which plays a small role in the final order.
To make things simple, the winner of each test is scored at 100 per cent. We then rank the other tyres relative to this, so each tyre gets a percentage score of its own.
|Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850||(FE) C, (WG) C, (N) 72|
|Dunlop SP Winter Sport 4D||(FE) E, (WG) C, (N) 68|
|Goodyear UltraGrip 8||(FE) E, (WG) C, (N) 69|
|Linglong Winter-Hero Radial 650||(FE) E, (WG) E, (N) 71|
|Michelin Alpin A4||(FE) E, (WG) C, (N) 70|
|Nokian WR D3||(FE) C, (WG) C, (N) 72|
|Pirelli Snowcontrol Serie 3 W210||(FE) E, (WG) B, (N) 72|
|Vredestein Snowtrac 3||(FE) E, (WG) E, (N) 68|
|Continental ContiPremiumContact 2 (Summer)||(FE) E, (WG) B, (N) 71|
All the winter tyres are H speed rated (up to 130mph). The summer is V rated (up to 150mph). Label ratings measure fuel efficiency (FE), wet grip (WG) – rated from A (best) to G (worst) – and pass-by noise (N) in decibels (the lower the better).
To find out how we tested each tyre, click to page two.