Tyre of the Year 2023: The top 10 winter tyres for your car

Tyre of the Year 2023: The top 10 winter tyres for your car

WhatTyre’s comprehensive tyre market survey shows which top performing winter tyres you should consider fitting to your car

(Photo: Continental)

Winter tyres are a very small part of the UK tyre market compared to their year-round alternative, all-season tyres. But if you want to guarantee traction in the most extreme cold weather, they remain the best tool for the job. WhatTyre’s Winter Tyre of the Year 2023 shortlist offers the ten best-performing options for an optimal cold weather driving experience. The ten tyres selected represent the best the winter tyre market has to offer, according to both the latest seasons of the best independent European tyre tests and our newest algorithm, Tyrescore 2.2 “Bugatti”.

The latest iteration of our dynamic tyre rating gives an indicative mark out of 10 to every tyre available in the UK market. Its special formula takes into account tyre labelling grades for safety, fuel economy and noise, and more than 8,000 independent tyre test results. The 2.0 version of the algorithm added credit for tyre models that are chosen by car manufacturers for factory fitment or approval. Version 2.1 also considered the provenance of the tyre, with additional credit available for tyre makers who could demonstrate their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) responsibility via independent accreditation – an increasingly important consideration for consumers. In the current 2.2 iteration, we have also developed a new way to include data relating to tyre manufacturers’ sustainability credentials, crediting product makers for lower environmental impact and more ethical production.

What are winter tyres?

Safe driving on snow and ice has been a winter tyre’s primary feature, though winter tyres can improve vehicle performance in dry and wet conditions when the temperature drops (Photo: David Mark; Pixabay)

Winter tyres differ from all-season tyres in that they are manufactured to operate specifically at low temperatures – generally quoted at under 7 degrees Celsius, though in reality they come into their own in freezing conditions and on snow and ice. These products will ensure your car will stay mobile in the harshest possible cold weather conditions. In a temperate climate like the UK’s these tyres are usually found in very hilly or mountainous regions, or on vehicles that must guarantee the ability to get around even with a thick covering of snow and ice, like the ambulance service. While the UK maintains steady tyre sales throughout the year, many continental European countries have a seasonal market, due to legislation requiring tyres certified for winter use. This is indicated by the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall – found on any true winter tyre sold in the European market. In practice, the latest generations of all-season tyres developed for Europe also carry the certification, overcoming the inconvenience of changing tyres by offering winter performance that will generally suit most drivers commuting or doing the school run on major or busy roads.

If you want the best possible safety performance on ice and snow though, WhatTyre’s list of the best ten winter tyres to buy in 2023 guides you towards a selection of the top performers in this market segment.

WhatTyre Winter Tyre of the Year 2023

While many tyres challenged across the Winter 2022 testing season, the Bridgestone Blizzak LM-005 continues its dominance over this category, making it a three-time WhatTyre Winter Tyre of the Year.

Bridgestone Blizzak LM-005

Launched in early-2019. the Blizzak LM-005 has a new tread pattern and Bridgestone’s new Nano Pro-tech compound, features that help it rank among the best available tyres in snow and ice braking and wet grip according to TÜV SÜD tests. This high silica compound increases winter traction by staying soft at very low temperatures – a result of the company’s compound mixing technology, which disperses silica more consistently. The tyre’s tread is designed to increase the amount of snow it can trap, increasing friction and grip in these conditions. It simultaneously removes water effectively, which leads to its excellent wet-weather performance. In certain sizes, the tyre also comes with DriveGuard, Bridgestone’s runflat technology for conventional tyres – this allows drivers to continue moving with a puncture for another 50 miles. The tyre has been recommended repeatedly by leading independent testers.

Against stiff competition, in particular from our Highly Recommended products, the LM-005’s tyre labelling results also help set it apart from the crowd, with A-grade wet grip a key indicator of its appeal. This is especially true in the UK; what our winters lack in sustained periods of snow, they most certainly make up for in wet weather. This combination of factors prompted Auto Express to say “the Blizzak is an ideal tyre for British winters” after its victory in the 2020 comparative test. The magazine pushed the tyre down to second in its most recent test, though Tyre Reviews continued to endorse the tyre as its number one. The Bridgestone tyre also got top marks from Autozeitung and, tested in larger 19” fitments, from Auto Motor und Sport and AutoBild Sportscars, showing it can mix it with even high-performance oriented products.

WhatTyre’s Highly Recommended winter tyres 2023

The Continental WinterContact TS 870 continues to draw very favourable reviews since its elongated launch post 2020. Auto Express called it “a pretty special tyre” pre-launch thanks to its combination of “remarkable” snow performance, “pace-setting” wet grip and “excellent” fuel economy. It followed this early assessment by winning the UK magazine’s 2022 winter tyre test thanks to ultimately superior grip on snow to the Bridgestone LM005, showing that the gap has narrowed on our perennial champion. 2022 testing also saw the TS 870 pick up top marks from Autozeitung. These followed up a successful round of tests in 2021, during which  the tyre was declared the winner and “Eco master” of the AutoBild test. The tyre’s sustainable credentials come from the new “Cool Chili” polymer compound. It’s optimised crosslink density – the increases in links between the elements of the compound – help the tyre to be more flexible. This improves the quality of the contact between tyre and road, reduces abrasion, increases the tyre’s mileage, and reduces its rolling resistance, meaning a lower total cost of ownership across the life of the tyre.

Continental’s WinterContact TS 870 P, a bigger brother of the regular TS 870 made for larger performance vehicles also makes it to the upper echelons of our winter tyre recommendations. The tyre got top “exemplary” and “very good” ratings from performance car testers, winning the AutoBild Sportscars test. The magazine said the tyre offers “stable driving qualities in all weather conditions, very good winter properties with short braking distances and sporty dynamic handling, quiet rolling noise, and fuel-saving rolling resistance.”

Hankook Winter i*Cept RS3

The new Hankook Winter i*cept RS3 builds on the performance of the RS2, offering shorter braking distances on snow-covered surfaces and improved handling on icy and wet roads. The tyre immediately performed well in the leading UK tyre tests, with both Auto Express and Tyre Reviews praising the tyre’s performance characteristics and enjoyable drive. The tyre’s tread features an inverted ‘V’ pattern and this, together with 3D sipes, provides more stable braking performance and shorter braking distances on snowy roads. Hankook claims that compared to the previous tyre, the Winter i*cept RS3 offers up to four per cent shorter braking distances on snow-covered roads.

Seven Commended products

After the top prizes, WhatTyre can commend a further seven winter tyres worth considering, all of which offer very high quality cold-weather specialist performance.

The Michelin Alpin 6 continues to offer strong competition with plenty of podium finishes in independent tyre tests. While Auto Express’s 2022 test saw the tyre finish a little way down the pack, the testers at AutoBild and Autozeitung helped the tyre maintain its strong placement. Tests have noted that the tyre possesses good wear properties; Michelin targets performance when worn in the development of its tyres. The winter tyre features Michelin’s Evergrip technology, which helps optimise control and safety on snow, even when the tyres have worn down considerably from new. AutoBild returned another “exemplary” rating in 2022, said the tyre offers balanced performance and high mileage. Auto Express and Tyre Reviews were more sceptical of the tyre’s abilities on snow and higher rolling resistance, though its dry performance outperforms most other winter tyres.

Also from Michelin, but in more performance-oriented sizes is the Pilot Alpin 5. Targeting a similar segment to the Continental TS 870 P, the tyre got leading ratings from Auto Motor und Sport and AutoBild Allrad in 2022, following up its 2021 Sportauto test win. Testers said that the tyre offers precise and dynamic driving on dry roads, and performance among the best in the snow, though its wet braking prevented it from joining our top tyre recommendations.

The Dunlop SP Winter Sport 5 was launched in 2015, a fifth-generation product built to continue the success of the line of previous Winter Sports, but the tyre is still able to gain grades in the upper reaches of tests, including an “exemplary” rating from AutoBild in the 2022 edition. Based on quality independent test performances, the tyre continues to be an easy one to recommend, with extremely positive comments in tests as recent as 2020. Designed to help drivers navigate unforeseen winter roads and conditions, including black ice, slush, icy patches, melting snow and puddles, the tyre has an increased number of tyre blocks for enhanced snow performance and angled centre sipes, which provide more lateral grip on slippery surfaces.

The Goodyear Ultragrip Performance + took on the mantle from the test-conquering Gen-1 in 2019, offering improved wet, dry and winter performance and shorter braking distances on wet and dry roads. Its compound features a new traction resin, which improves the de- and reformation capabilities of the tyre. The tyre has several test wins under its belt too. Most recently, Auto Bild Sportscars praised the tyre for its “Sporty driving qualities” and “low rolling resistance”. The tyre has a very wide size range, with larger dimensions suited to sportier cars particularly featured. As such, it is particularly commended for more powerful cars wanting winter performance from their tyres.

Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2

The Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 follows up the manufacturer’s previous winter tyre for smaller models and electric vehicles in style, as WhatTyre predicted in 2022. The tyre gained a top ranking from AutoBild and a more solid review from Auto Express as it took the reins from its predecessor. Snow performance was where the tyre particularly succeeded in 2022 tests, with Tyre Reviews noting how good the tyre was to drive, while it is also also a quiet tyre, making it great for comfort. However, its rolling resistance has been described as “elevated”, meaning its fuel economy may not match the benefits offered by other tyres.

The final tyre to make our 2023 winter tyre commendations is Vredestein’s Wintrac Pro. The historically Dutch brand, owned by Indian tyre manufacturer Apollo, makes some very well-regarded winter-oriented products that achieve excellent results on tyre tests. With the regular Wintrac aimed at cars with smaller tyre dimensions, the Wintrac Pro offers winter performance to larger, more powerful vehicles. The tyre has been particularly highly rated for its dry performance, and is no slouch in normal wet conditions, though it couldn’t keep up with the other models for its more average snow performance.

Should I buy winter tyres?

There are great reasons to fit winter tyres between around October and March. In tests they clearly demonstrate significantly better performance than all-season tyres on snow and ice. Specialist winter tyres contain “sipes”, small slits in the tread blocks, which bite into snow and ice. They are also made with rubber compounds offering better performance under 7°C, the average temperature in commuting hours for up to half the year in the UK. Fitted and maintained in conjunction with quality summer tyres, drivers can expect the best possible performance and maximum longevity year-round.

How about if your car has 4-wheel drive? If the postcard-sized tyre contact patches cannot generate grip, four-wheel drive is not much more helpful than two. Braking distances are decreased greatly on the slipperiest winter surfaces with winter tyres. At only 30mph, a car on summer tyres will take around two more car lengths to come to a halt versus one on quality winter tyres.

Overall, if guaranteed mobility in harsh cold conditions is essential, winter tyres are the best possible option.

Having said all this, all-season tyres are increasingly seen as a preferable option, especially in moderate climates like the UK’s – they also mean there is no need to change tyres twice a year, or to store a second set of tyres (and rims, if you want an optimal seasonal tyre experience). WhatTyre offers guides to the best all-season tyres for cars and for SUVs in this year’s award series.


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