With winter fast approaching, it’s time to start looking at the condition of your car tyres and consider fitting new ones if yours are starting to look a bit raggedy.
During the winter months, we rely on our tyres to keep us safe in road conditions that can be very challenging. Wet surfaces, darkness, fog, snow, ice and strong winds are all common and can conspire to make our road journeys a lot more dangerous. Because of that, we need to have the proper tyres installed.
But before you decide which winter tyres to buy, you should make sure that you pick a model that is up to the job and can perform in the best possible way in winter conditions. Based on driver reviews, we compiled a list of 10 safest tyres for winter to help you choose the best tyres for your car.
How do winter tyres help?
There are a few common misconceptions about winter tyres and whether they should be routinely fitted. Some will tell you that you don’t need them if you live in the UK, especially if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, as the extra traction beats having better rubber. Others believe that winter tyres are only worth fitting if you drive on snow or ice. The truth is, however, that the benefit of the extra grip and traction offered by winter tyres over summer tyres is far greater than you may expect.
Winter tyres usually have a softer compound together with deeper grooves – called sipes - built into the tread pattern. These features help disperse the water, slush and snow, improving contact with the road. The benefits are obvious on snow and icy surfaces, but they also work effectively on the cold wet roads and in temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius right down to sub-zero temperatures that punctuate winter.
So, what are the best winter tyres around this season in the different tyre categories?
1. Continental ContiWinterContact TS850 – Average rating: 4.5
Recommended for: Featuring an advanced sipe system that makes it easier to control the vehicle in difficult winter driving conditions.
Manufacturer: Continental are often regarded as one of the best tyre manufacturers out there, with an estimated 1 in 3 vehicles leaving the factory with Continental tyres in place.
Continental tyres always figure highly in performance tests, and it’s no different with their specialist winter offerings either. It is exceptional in the snowy, icy and wet conditions as the TS850 relies on sipe technology which maximises both the tyre grip and braking ability on hard-packed snow and ice. Its water-clearance capabilities keep factors like aquaplaning down to an absolute minimum.
It is especially recommended for the owners of compact and small cars as in the case of such vehicles it is particularly important to keep the car on the road while cornering, and this is ensured by an increased number of notches on the tyre edge.
“I bought Continental ContiWinterContact TS850 and there were no problems in the snow and slush, the car stuck to the road like a train to a track. There was no aquaplaning in the wet and the braking distance was good. I thought ice may have caused a problem like with other tyres, but I was pleasantly surprised in these conditions. The car braked without any real skidding at over 50 mph (with ABS, yes, but this is still ice). They’re really worth their price.”
2. Dunlop Winter Sport 5 – Average rating 4.5
Recommended for: Highly innovative and sharp tread pattern that always ensures excellent grip and effective braking on icy and snow-laden roads.
Manufacturer: Dunlop is one of the most famous tyre manufacturers in the world, who maintain their strong market position despite increasing pressure from other - and new - manufacturers.
Dunlop’s 5 winter tyre was rated very highly by users thanks to its reliability in extremely challenging conditions. The sipes distributed across the tread create a so-called ‘claw effect’ which ensures the appropriate snow traction and a high level of driving comfort. The lateral grip of the Dunlop is excellent on slippery surfaces, and it makes short work of standing water so will defend against aquaplaning in wet conditions. The compound works well on road surfaces, even as the temperature drops, making it sure-footed and steady in the winter months. And all this at a reasonable price too.
“I bought these as the successor to Dunlop WinterSport 4 which I had been very happy with before, especially with wet grip and good feel in wet/poor conditions. Living and driving around Scotland I use the WinterSport as an all-season tyre. The 5's have improved in all areas and especially in dry handling which was a slight let-down with the 4's. Performance now tails off above around 12 degrees ambient, compared to around 7 degrees with the 4's. At high speed in summer the tyres can get a little 'floaty', but for me this is an acceptable compromise to the excellent grip in cold wet conditions.”
3. Nokian WR D3 – Average rating: 4.4
Recommended for: Innovative rubber composition which offers consistent tyre properties in changing and unpredictable conditions.
Manufacturer: Nokian are a specialist Finnish manufacturer who excel in creating tyres for snow and icy road conditions.
The WR D3 is a tyre that has been specially designed for the most atrocious driving conditions. Coming from a Finnish manufacturer, you would expect a tyre like this to perform well in the slippery stuff, and it does, outperforming many other tyres in the field. Compare it to its contemporaries and you can see that it has some outstanding features and siping that make it masterful on dodgy roads.
Thanks to its modern composition, that has been defined by years of research into winter tyres, the WR D3’s are lighter than many of their competitors which translates into a lower rolling resistance and better fuel consumption. With its special tread pattern, wide drainage grooves, and dense grid of sipes, these ensure excellent grip, even on the most demanding terrain and slipperiest conditions, making the Nokian WR D3 irreplaceable on trips to areas covered with snow and ice.
“As soon as I bought my new tyres, I noticed slightly better acceleration and lower resistance on straight roads and corners. I’m comparing these tyres to Hankook, which were fitted on my car as standard. Generally, the noise is not much higher and fuel consumption seems to be a bit lower. I’ve already travelled over 13,000 km on my winter tyres and I am very satisfied. The winter was quite mild, but there were also blizzards and thaws. Even during a thaw, I could travel quite confidently. I didn’t experience any serious skidding or any trouble in getting up an icy or snowy hill.”
4. Uniroyal MS Plus 77 - Average rating: 4.3
Recommended for: Suitable for almost any type of vehicle being driven in icy or snowy conditions, these offer a safe and comfortable ride on difficult road surfaces.
Manufacturer: Uniroyal is a brand whose products are seen on a huge range of road and off-road vehicles.
This model is designed to deliver an equally high performance on the snowy, cold and wet conditions found in the winter months. The M77 features a selection of wide grooves as part of its unique tread pattern which quickly disperse surface water and slush, thereby reducing the risk of aquaplaning. A special wet-weather compound is used in the tyres construction which effectively grips the road in treacherous conditions. A solid moulded-in shoulder also helps to reduce the chances of deformation of the tyre when cornering, giving a stable and reliable performance on every bend in the road. The M77 also includes a higher density of sipes in the tyre to facilitate better grip when snow is present.
“I needed winter tyres as I travel approximately 160 miles/day across motorways and country lanes. After researching I decided on these based-on ratings and reviews, and was not disappointed at all, very good grip wet or dry and especially on very early starts on cold mornings. The summer tyres lacked grip until well warmed up but the MS77's feel stuck to the road right from the start where other cars I note are spinning their wheels pulling into traffic - not good! Noise levels are OK, not too intrusive at all. Haven’t had the chance to try them in snow/icy conditions yet but hopefully they will perform as well as expected and will be far safer than summer tyres.”
1. Hankook Winter i*cept RS2 W452 – average rating: 5.1
Recommended for: High steerability, grip and predictable operation in poor road conditions.
Manufacturer: Hankook is a Korean manufacturer ranked 6th globally. For several years the company has been revolutionising their production line trying to join the premium class, and they are now getting there.
Hankook Winter i*cept RS2 W452 is the successor of the excellent i*cept RS W442. Compared to the previous model, the company improved key parameters such as braking distance, winter traction and rolling resistance. The tyre performs great in both the city and on more challenging country routes. It ranked highly in terms of snow behaviour among the models assessed by our customers.
Its modern tread is provided with oblique and deep grooves, patterned in a V-shape. The model uses an innovative edging system which supplies the tread with mode independent 3D components that increase the overall grip.
“Great tyres. The car goes smoothly and is also very stable on the road, which is not so easy for small cars in winter. I can recommend them with all my heart!”
"The tyres performed well even in the mountains where there was a lot of snow. The road was slippery and I didn’t have chains!”
"The tyres are sensational. My child was travelling with me and the car didn’t bury itself even once and there was not a single skid. I recommend these tyres to everyone.”
2. Fulda KRISTALL MONTERO 3 – Average rating: 4.2
Recommended for: Excellent performance on wet and snowy surfaces, low skidding and reduced braking distance in poor condition.
Manufacturer: Fulda tyres are the German manufacturing arm of the Goodyear tyre company, and that makes them part of one of the biggest tyre manufacturing operations in the world.
“I have used the Fulda tyres before (the vehicle was bigger and heavier) and was always very satisfied with them. This time I use them on my Golf Plus. With this car, too, I have a very positive impression. Very good driving behaviour in snow, wet and dry conditions, comparatively calm for a winter tyre. I'm very satisfied.”
3. Firestone Winterhawk 2 EVO – user rating: 4.0
Recommended for: Short braking distance, efficient tread drying and abrasion resistance.
Manufacturer: Firestone is an American group owned by Bridgestone. They started in the town of Akron, which is considered to be the heart of the American tyre industry. This Ohio location is also the home of Goodyear and BF Goodrich.
The Winterhawk 2 EVO is a great winter tyre that has been designed with a large contact area to maximise winter driving grip. The V-shaped grooves that surround the outer edge of the tyre help dispel snow and water effectively, and ensure stability under treacherous driving conditions. The company’s innovative rubber compound used to manufacture the tyres ensures outstanding flexibility, even at very low temperatures, giving the driver confidence on even very slippery surfaces.
“I've been driving on these tyres for the whole winter season and I'm really surprised. From about 8 degrees it gets slightly louder but has good wet grip and good handling in the snow. Absolutely suitable for everyday use. My tire dealer who mounted it on the rim also admired the smooth running and clean workmanship. If my steel rims weren't so bad, I wouldn't need much weight to balance the tyre”.
1. Sava Eskimo S3 – Average rating: 4.2
Recommended for: Braking distance, useful winter life and overall reliability.
Manufacturer: The group takes its name from the Sava, the longest river in the Balkans. The tyres are produced in factories located in Slovenia and Poland, at Dębica plants. Both brands are owned by the Goodyear Dunlop group. Sava is one of the largest industrial groups in Slovenia and has a wide range of specialities, from tyre manufacturing, through finance and medicine, and even to a chain of hotels.
The Sava Eskimo S3 is a winter tyre designed for cars with high power engine capacities. The tyre is equipped with a unique directional tread pattern which gives it excellent wet performance and fantastic traction regardless of the weather conditions. Thanks to the design which optimises the distribution of pressure inside the Sava Eskimo S3, the tyre wears out slowly and evenly, ensuring maximum performance throughout its whole life.
“I used this tyre in the winter season and I am positively surprised with its capabilities. It performed great in challenging winter conditions. Its greatest quality is its very good grip on wet surfaces.”
“The tyre is worth recommending, it deals very well with winter conditions. Good cushioning and lateral holding on snow and ice."
“Anyone who’s looking for a great winter tyre should choose Sava. Excellent value at a very good price. Using this tyre in winter, I felt comfortable and safe on the road.”
2. Yokohama W Drive - Average rating: 4.0
Recommended for: High durability, driving stability and economical driving.
Manufacturer: Yokohama is a premiere Japanese company and the only manufacturer in the world that custom-builds tyres to meet the most demanding needs of individual businesses operating in the harshest of environments.
The Yokohama W Drive has an optimal layout of the main longitudinal grooves which enables the outflow of the melting snow and ice and also helps maintain the maximum amount of tyre contact on all kinds of road surfaces. Optimised grooves width between the blocks enables the outflow of the melting snow ensuring additional adhesion by the reinforced edge effect, further helping with adhesion on cold and wet winter roads.
“Excellent performance at highway cruising speed on cold roads with light snow and occasional patches of ice. Very quiet on dry roads. Confidence inspiring on twisting two lane mountain roads heading to the ski resort. Very predictable and linear steering response. Don't see much of a drop off in performance on dry roads between these and the OEM summer tires which came on the Panamera. Treadwear is an issue but I suspect this has more to do with my aggressive driving style and would be the same with any performance winter snow. None of my tires tend to last very long anyway. Highly recommended.
3. Nexen WINGUARD SPORT – average rating: 4.0
Recommended for: Adaptation for the SUV vehicle segment, low tyre noise level and stable, consistent performance.
Manufacturer: ’Next Century’ – the combination of these two words not only forms the name of Nexen but also defines the nature of the entire group. The essence of this brand is the continuous development and adaptation to the changing needs and requirements of customers on all continents. This South Korean brand is also engaged in sports promotion, for example as the naming rights sponsor of the Nexen Heroes baseball team.
The last economy-class tyre distinguished by our customers for safety on snow represents the SUV segment: Nexen WINGUARD SPORT. The model is designed for large high-power vehicles, which can be noticed in the first few kilometres. The tyre maintains high stability and improves driving comfort. Additionally, it stands out for its very low noise level.
“The tyres perform excellently in the city, on motorways and off-road. So far, I haven’t noticed any visible signs of wear after the distance I travelled. They are quiet for winter tyres and I haven’t been disappointed on snowy or wet surfaces.”
“A really good tyre. I must admit that it deals surprisingly well in any conditions. I mostly drove on paved roads, where there were no serious problems, whether it was on ice or slush.”
“I am surprised with the quality of this tyre which comes at such a low price. This winter season, I didn’t have to put on the chains even once! Excellent traction and towing power on the snow.”
Choosing winter tyres is an important decision
Winter tyres are not a legal requirement in milder climates such as the UK but their distinct advantages may turn out to be well worth it, especially if we experience a prolonged cold snap. With the advanced sipes and ability to displace standing water, they offer you much more safety when dealing with the wet days and icy mornings that the UK does experience during the winter months. Preventing issues such as aquaplaning makes winter tyres worthwhile alone, not to mention any more problematic circumstances.
Which winter tyre model is right for your vehicle will depend very much upon the type of car and roads you regularly drive on. Country roads, for example, are unlikely to be cleared of snow and ice quickly so you should definitely consider winter tyres if you use these. Motorway drivers will see less snow and ice as it is cleared as it appears. However, driving speeds are generally higher on motorways so high water-clearance abilities also make much sense here.