I’m gloriously ahead of the game for once. The news broke that the first snow of the season has landed in the UK, and our Mazda 5
is already braced for the cold snap. So I thought I’d better get in gear, too.
That meant loading up the boot with some winter essentials – including a spade and blanket, de-icer, a flask of some sort, and some woollies.
It’s an emergency kit that could mean the difference between delay and disaster if my family gets stranded over the busy festive period.
But as prevention is, of course, the best cure, the only way I could be super-certain that doesn’t happen is to arm the Mazda 5 with the correct ‘footwear’. As Auto Express had spent most of the autumn advising motorists to switch to winter tyres, I decided I ought to lead by example.
Continental came to the rescue with a set of ContiWinterContacts. Add on fitting, wheel balance and tracking at Kwik Fit, and the total bill was just short of £700. It seems steep, but I can already tell that the sure-footed feel you gain from swapping into these grippy boots makes them well worth the investment. Better still, my summer tyres are stashed in the garage, ready to use when the weather warms up, and will cost less than £50 to swap back.
Car group tests
Used car tests
In the meantime, temperatures must drop below seven degrees Celsius for the winter tyres to come into their own. “Let’s just hope the weather gets cold enough!” my KwikFit man quipped, as I buttoned up my cardie. Maybe I’m getting old, but I was already feeling a chill in the air. And by the morning, it was two degrees outside. Bingo!
The new tyres are not the only extra that will bring a smile to my face this winter, though. The 5’s cabin is conveniently kitted out with a heated seat function, which I now flick on by force of habit whenever I climb inside the car. It’s essentially a hot water bottle on tap, and leaves me feeling nice and toasty on cross-country treks.
My only regret is that our car isn’t fitted with Mazda’s heated windscreen option, which clears the ice in moments. Instead, I have a frustratingly long wait for the demister to work.
Still, when I do make it off the drive, I’m looking forward to raising some eyebrows in my village. It’s regularly snowed-in during winter, leaving only the 4x4 drivers wearing smug grins as they power up out of the valley, watching the rest of us skidding around in their rear view mirrors.
Not this year, though. I’m hoping the extra grip from the 5’s tyres will make it more than a match for their all-wheel drive. If they don’t, I’ll eat my woolly hat.
“The winter tyres have definitely softened the Mazda’s sharp handling, but this is a price worth paying for the extra confidence in cold weather. When it’s chilly, the 5 finds grip where cars on summer tyres slither and slip.”
James Disdale, Deputy road test editor