Which winter tyres should I choose?

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

When driving in the winter, the right tyres can offer you efficient performance and grip. As such, it’s important that drivers can readily identify which winter tyres are suitable for them

You should note, however, that there is no such thing as a perfect winter tyre. Every product is a compromise and balance between different parameters and performance characteristics. As you, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Your tyre size, including the respective load index and speed index
  • The tyre price and class
  • Average durability
  • The terrain you are driving in
  • Your driving style
  • The type of vehicle you drive
  • The tread type and pattern
  • Whether or not you are buying two or four winter tyres
  • Independent tests
  • User reviews

As such, you should take some time to consider these factors in your choice. Here, we will discuss each area in a more detail.

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A map of winter tyre obligations in Europe

Tyre size (With speed and load indices)

Before you decide to buy a certain model, you first need to ensure has the correct properties for your car. You should ensure you have the correct tyre size, as there are only a few sizes that are suitable for your vehicle and this will narrow down your search far more easily. Furthermore, even in this size, you need to check the speed and load indices stated by your manufacturer. While you can go higher than this, you cannot go lower than the recommended values given in the car’s manual.

Price: By tyre class

When it comes to winter tyres, like all car tyres, there are three different classes or segments within the market. These are known as:

  • The economy class
  • The medium class
  • The premium class

They are divided due to numerous factors, with the cost being a key indicator. Yet they can also vary in rubber mixture, tread patterns and technological advancement, all of which influence the overall parameters of the tyre.

Here is a quick overview of what defines each class.
 

Economy (budget) class


Economy class products are often the cheapest, utilising older tread designs and rubber compounds. However, they can still have a very low rolling resistance and, consequently, be very economic in the long, suiting a range of typical drivers.

You should buy economy class tyres if you: 

  • Travel short distances
  • Drive mostly in the city
  • Have a small city car
  • You have a calm driving style

debica-frigo-2

Economy class winter tyre

Two popular examples of economy class tyres include the Barum Polaris 2 and the Dębica Frigo 2. In addition to some well known brands specialising in this segment, there are also numerous cheap Chinese brands as well.


Medium-class tyres

Medium class tyres fit the gap in between economic and premium tyres. While they don’t use the latest technology and designs, they are still more advanced than economic products and can handle more moderate driving requirements.

You should buy medium class tyres if you:

  • Expect good performance
  • Drive both around and outside of city environments
  • Have a medium or compact car
  • Have a moderately calm driving style

winter-tyres2

Medium class winter tyre

Some popular examples of medium class tyres include the Firestone Winterhawk 2 EVO, Fulda Kristall Montero 3 and Uniroyal MS Plus 66.

Premium class tyres

The premium segment consists of the most advanced tyres, made with the most modern technological methods and the best designs. As such, they are designed to meet the requirements of modern, powerful cars.

 

You should buy premium class tyres if you:

 

  • Often drive on motorways
  • Have an aggressive and dynamic driving style
  • Have a powerful car

dunlop-sp-winter-sport-3d

Premium class winter tyre

Some examples of premium class tyres include the Bridgestone Blizzak LM35, Continental ContiWinterContact TS830, Goodyear UltraGrip 7+, Michelin Alpin A4 and the Pirelli SnowControl Serie II.

Average Mileage

If you drive less than 3,000 miles in the winter around the city, you can buy economy class tyres. Preferably these should be asymmetrical or directional tread tyres, such as the Nokian WR-G2 and Bridgestone Blizzak LM35.

Terrain

Do you take short trips at moderate speed, but usually sticking to city roads, clear roads or roads that occasionally have slush? In this case, it is best to use tyres that will enable you to brake in an emergency, while also providing other safe driving parameters.

 

Economy or medium class directional tyres should be ideal for this, such as the Dębica Frigo 2, Firestone Winterhawk 2 EVO and Uniroyal MS Plus 66.

 

If you take longer trips at higher speeds and mostly drive outside of the city, occasionally dealing with snow, you need tyres that provide comfort and silent driving. In this case, you should consider asymmetrical medium or premium tyres, or even directional premium tyres. Some good examples are the Goodyear UltraGrip 7+, Continental ContiWinterContact TS830, Michelin Alpin A4, Nokian WR G2 and Pirelli SottoZero 2.

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Winter tyres are created for difficult weather conditions

On the other hand, if you live in more a mountainous or rural environment, where the conditions are much tougher, you should choose directional tyres with an aggressive tread, preferably with a high number of sipes. Try products such as the Pirelli Carving, Dębica Frigo 2 or Kleber Krisalp HP 2.

Preferred driving style

In winter, the road has more risks, such as ice, snow and slush. As such, you need tyres that can cope with your driving style. For instance, if you drive moderately with a medium-class vehicle, mostly within the city, you will find directional economy or medium tyres, such as the Barum Polaris 2 and Kleber Krisalp HP 2, should be sufficient.

For aggressive and dynamic driving styles, you should choose at least medium tyres or, preferably, asymmetrical premium tyres. Popular examples include the Bridgestone Blizzak LM30 and Continental ContiWinterContact TS830.
 

Vehicle type and tyres

You also have to consider what vehicle you drive, as this will influence which tyres are best.

 

For smaller cars, you can choose medium or economic class tyres, often with a directional tread. Two good examples include the Fulda Kristall Montero 3 and Dębica Frigo Directional.

 

For medium-class vehicles, you need medium or premium tyres and you can use either directional or asymmetric treads, such as the Uniroyal MS Plus 66 and Goodyear Ultra Grip 7+.

 

For limos, sports vehicles and powerful SUVs, premium tyres are also preferred, as they can handle high perform at high speeds. Two good examples are the Goodyear UG Performance 2 and Michelin Pilot Alpin A3.

Tyres acording to tread pattern

Tyres come in three basic tread patterns: symmetrical, asymmetrical and directional. Each has their own unique properties so it is worth understanding the benefits each tread style has to offer.

Symmetrical tyres

A symmetric tread has an identical block arrangement on both sides of the tread. Symmetrical tyres can be installed any you like, as there is no dedicated rolling direction. It is also the least expensive pattern type to design and does not require any specifically advanced technological solutions.

wintertyres5-201

Symmetrical tyres

trucks. Popular examples of symmetrical tyres include the Cooper Weather-Master S/T 2 and Sava Eskimo S2.

Asymmetrical tyres

An asymmetrical tread has different tread patterns on the internal and external sides of the tyre. These tyres need to be fitted with the external sides on the outside of the car and the sidewall is appropriately marked for this. An “inside” marking means, once installed, this tyre side should face the inside of the vehicle, for instance.

wintertyres6-089

Asymmetrical tyre

The outer part often has bigger blocks, ensuring stability in corners and increase side traction, helping to prevent premature wearing-off. The internal side, on the other hand, is responsible for channelling water and providing longitudinal grip. Due to the nature of an asymmetric tyre, both halves are precisely designed to provide their own parameters. Popular examples of asymmetrical tyres include the Nokian WR-G2, Goodyear UG Performance, Continental ContiWinterContact TS810, Pirelli Sotto Zero 2 and the Dunlop SP Winter Response.

Directional Tyres

A directional tread is the most widely used tread pattern for winter tyres. Such tyres are marked with an arrow on the side, indicating the rolling direction, which the tyre must comply with when fitted to the car.

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Directional tyre

The tread blocks form a distinctive V-shaped pattern. In the winter, the most important benefit of directional tyres is their strong ability to channel water and slush away, as well as providing strong levels of grip. Some great examples of directional tyres include the Barum Polaris 2, Firestone Winterhawk 2 EVO, Uniroyal MS Plus 66, Goodyear Ultra Grip 7+ and Continental ContiWinterContact TS830.
 

Two or four winter tyres?

There is a popular misconception that you only need two winter tyres on your car to ensure reliable driving in the colder months. However, the truth is that only four identical winter tyres will ensure the best performance and safety.

 

It is also highly recommended that you use the same tyre models on both axles of the vehicle. Even though using different tread patterns in the front and the back is not prohibited, you should nonetheless avoid doing so. Two different tyres will react differently in various conditions, which can lead to hazardous situations.

wintertyres8-10

No matter which winter tyres you choose, all 4 should be indentical

Independent Testing

When choosing your tyres, it is best to look at results from independent tyre tests. The most renowned and reliable of these are those conducted by the German ADAC automobile club. ADAC was founded in 1904 and the institute continues to provide a strong focus on road safety, something which is expressed through its ongoing tyre tests. Today, it has around 14 million members.

 

In addition to ADAC’s tests, you should also look at customer reviews. These represent experiences from people driving with the tyres on a daily basis, and they can tell you a lot about a tyre’s natural performance and reliability.

 

In addition to this, you can also look at the EU tyre label on the vehicle. This has been a requirement for all tyres in the EU since November 1st, 2012 and each tyre will highlight three pieces of information:

 

  • Fuel efficiency/rolling resistance
  • Grip on wet surfaces
  • Noise levels

 

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Example of a tyre label - obligatory part

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when it comes to determining which winter tyres are best for you. However, each factor will help reduce your search. Once you know what tread pattern and tyre class you need, you can further use reviews and test results to refine your search!

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