An absence of alps, infrequent sub-zero temperatures and scant snowfalls make winter tyres a hard sell in the UK. And as we’re not legally required to fit our cars with them, we generally don’t. A minority of British motorists nevertheless fit winter tyres for a range of reasons, and when purchase time comes around it is important for them to make informed choices.
European tyre tests are a useful source of knowledge. Auto Bild Allrad has released the results of its 2020 winter tyre test, and it’s warned its readers to be particularly wary of budget brands and their enticing low purchase prices. As the German publication observed, the adage “buy cheap, buy twice” hardly ever applies to tyre purchases. Instead, motorists typically live with the poor tyre choices they make, driving for mile after disgruntled, slippery mile on their disappointing and potentially unsafe low-cost rubber.
The ten tyres that Auto Bild Allrad examined are size 225/55 R17 101V, products worn by smaller SUVs such as the BMW X1. Testing followed the tried and true format of evaluating each tyre’s performance in a range of conditions and giving the results a percentage value that reflects each individual test’s importance.
4 top-rated tyres
Auto Bild Allrad’s test team gave four tyres their highest test rating of ‘exemplary’ but there could only be one winner, and this was the Goodyear UltraGrip Performance+. In addition to being an excellent performer in the snow, the Goodyear tyre helped the BMW X1 steer and brake almost as well on wet and dry surfaces as when it was fitted with summer tyres. Wet and dry performance can represent an area of weakness for winter tyres, prompting Auto Bild Allrad’s testers to comment that “good winter tyres have one thing in common: When there’s no snow, you hardly notice any difference to summer tyres.”
Goodyear UltraGrip Performance+ – test winner
+ Top qualities on snow, high steering precision & dynamic handling characteristics in all weather conditions, short braking distances on snow & in the wet, good ride comfort.
Bridgestone Blizzak LM005
+ Convincing all-round tyre with balanced performance potential, precise steering behaviour, short snow & wet braking distances, dynamic dry handling, low external noise, good value for money.
Michelin Alpin 6
+ Stable handling characteristics in all weather conditions, top lateral control on wet surfaces, precise turn-in with good response.
– High purchase price, elevated drive-by noise
Vredestein Wintrac Pro
+ Balanced winter tyre with dynamic driving characteristics on wet surfaces, high aquaplaning safety reserves, short wet braking distances, good comfort.
– Slightly raised rolling resistance.
2 tyres rated ‘good’
Dunlop Winter Sport 5
+ Winter king with top driving performance on snow, high aquaplaning safety reserves, precise turn-in, dynamic handling in the wet.
– Slightly lengthened braking distance in dry conditions.
Toyo Observe S944
+ Balanced winter tyre with stable driving characteristics on snowy & wet surfaces, good aquaplaning safety reserves.
– Delayed steering response and understeer in wet conditions.
2 ‘satisfactory’ tyres
Uniroyal MS plus 77
+ Strong winter performer with very good driving characteristics on firmly-packed snow, low rolling resistance.
– Wet grip only satisfactory, lengthened braking distances in wet & dry conditions, understeer in the wet.
Maxxis Premitra Snow WP6
+ Top aquaplaning characteristics, short braking distance on snow, stable dry handling, affordable price.
– Slightly lengthened braking distance on wet surfaces, delayed steering response, raised rolling resistance.
2 tyres ‘not recommended’
Syron Everest 1 Plus
+ Good winter qualities, low noise, affordable price.
– Delayed steering response, mediocre grip & understeer in the wet, lengthy braking distances in dry conditions, raised rolling resistance.
Duraturn Mozzo Winter
+ Affordable winter tyre with good characteristics in the snow.
– Limited drivability on wet roads, low aquaplaning safety reserves, diffuse steering response, dangerously lengthy wet & dry braking distances.
The tyre that gained Auto Bild Allrad’s wooden spoon was the cheapest tested by a wide margin, costing well under half as much as the top-placed brands. But in its results summary, Auto Bild Allrad’s testers stress that this certainly represents a case of getting what you pay for: “Budget tyres from no-name brands are often not worth it, at least if you value safety. Braking distance in wet conditions is often the problem with winter tyres. Here the no-names fail and the (more) expensive brands win.”