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Best all-season tyres 2021: tyre brands reviewed and UK prices compared

The UK’s variable weather makes it a prime market for all-season tyres, but which set is best? We test them back-to-back.

There’s never been more interest in all-season tyres, as drivers seek to find a one-stop solution that will provide safe motoring in all conditions.

The rise of SUVs, with their often less-than-sharp handling, has also fuelled the rise of the all-season tyre, because drivers are more prepared to accept compromises in the dry for substantially more grip when the temperatures drop and snow covers our roads. Tyre makers reflect that interest with new all-season options appearing far more frequently than before as they try to meet the demands of the market.

This all makes this a key test for many drivers, and one we were determined to complete in 2021, despite strict travel restrictions early in the year.

Our planned trip to Hankook’s facilities in Ivalo, Finland, was impossible, so the firm’s engineers did the objective traction and braking tests. Continental carried out the wet and dry objective testing before restrictions were relaxed just in time for us to complete the handling assessments.

We returned to the popular 205/55R16 size this year and asked producers to supply samples on the understanding we would carry out tests to ensure the top finishers were the same as the ones we bought in the wholesale market. A wet-braking comparison proved our top two were the same as those purchased.

So which of our contenders is the best tyre at providing you with all-year-round protection? We tried eight to find out. 

What we tested...

Unusually, Continental and Hankook are the only makers returning with the same design we tested when we last looked at this size in 2019. 

There are new tyres from Goodyear, Pirelli and Bridgestone, although we did see the Vector 4Seasons Gen-3 in 2020. Vredestein returns with the Quatrac and is joined by Maxxis, while Cooper wanted to see how its Avon offering fared. Sadly, Michelin’s new CrossClimate 2 tyre was not available when our testing began. 

We’ve listed the tyres tested with their speed (H or V) and weight ratings (91 or 94) below and included their label ratings. In wet grip (WG) and fuel economy (RR), A is the top rating, while pass-by noise (N) is in decibels, so less is best.

Tyre ratings     
TyreLoadSpeedEconomy / Rolling Resistance (RR)Wet grip (WG)Noise (N - decibels)
Avon AS7 94VCB72
Bridgestone Weather Control A005 EVO91HCA71
Continental AllSeasonContact94VBB72
Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-391VCB70
Hankook Kinergy 4S294VCB72
Maxxis Premitra All-Season AP394VCC70
Pirelli Cinturato All Season SF 294V SF 2BB68
Vredestein Quatrac94VCB70

How we tested the tyres

While snow is often the main driver for buyers looking at all-season tyres, in the UK we spend more time in the dry and wet. Wet conditions are where most of us will get closest to or exceed the limit, and this is reflected in our testing. 

Wet

We tested lateral grip on a tarmac circle, measuring lap times while keeping the car tucked close to the inner edge.

Braking was assessed on the Contidrom rail system, which ensures the same piece of track is used for every stop, measured from 50mph to zero. To see how the tyres fared in deeper water we used the rail again, but this time with one wheel in water. The car was accelerated and the point at which the wheel in the water was spinning 15 per cent more than the one in the dry measured. To see how the tread works when distorted in corners we used a flooded section of the large tarmac circle. Lateral force was measured as the car was driven through the water at ever-higher speeds until all grip was lost.

All of these elements were then combined in our laps of the wet handling track where we recorded lap times. 

Snow

Our snow testing was truncated due to travel restrictions, but the key traction and braking tests were completed by Hankook’s testers. In the former, we measured the time taken to accelerate from 5-40kph (3-25mph), and recorded the distance needed to slow between the same speeds for braking.

Dry

The distance taken to stop from 62mph was measured in the braking test, while we took a 1,650-metre section of the handling track to assess cornering through long sweeps and quick direction changes. 

Noise

Our test focused on cabin noise and measured levels at 100kph (62mph) when driving on smooth tarmac. 

Rolling resistance

There can be major differences between how much fuel tyres consume as manufacturers strike a balance between wet grip and rolling resistance. Our test is to industry standards and measures the power needed to turn a loaded tyre at different speeds. Around a five per cent difference in rolling resistance results in a one per cent shift in fuel consumption.

All our tests are done multiple times, with an average taken to get a repeatable result.

Price

Our figures, supplied by Black Circles, are what it charged at the time of writing. If a tyre was not part of its line-up, the figure is what it would charge. Prices are only valid for the specific tyres we tested, and costs for other sizes or specifications may be different.

Calculating a winner

To provide a fair reflection of the bulk of the UK’s weather, the wet tests account for half of the overall results. Snow forms 10 per cent and dry 35, while the rest of the result is split between fuel economy and cabin noise, with price playing only a minimal role. Within the wet and dry tests we focused on braking and handling. 

To correctly reflect the differences in performance, the results from each test were converted to percentages, with each tyre’s result in a test ranked relative to the best performer in that test.

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