2011 Winter Tyre Buying Guide

Due to two unusually harsh winters, interest in winter, or cold weather tyres has never been higher in the UK. The benefits are now being understood - while winter tyres naturally work wonders in snow, they also work extremely well any time the average temperature is below 7c, often out performing summer tyres even in the dry. During early morning commutes, where the road temperature is around freezing they can offer noticeable more grip than a summer tyre in the same conditions, allowing you to make progress safely, and can stop over 5 meters shorter than the equivalent summer tyre from 62mph.

What type of cold weather tyres?

The wide array of winter tyres can be boggling! Premium, budget, studded, Nordic, European, stud-less ice and snow... the list goes on! The tyres we recommend are premium European winter tyres. While budget winter tyres can offer vastly superior snow performance to any summer tyre, budget winter tyres can struggle when the roads are wet or warm. Premium manufactuers spend hundreds of millions of pounds a year on R&D and testing, ensuring their tyres can meet the demands of one criteria, without significantly sacrificing other performance. With the average winter in the UK being 40% dry, 45% wet and 15% snow, we'd think twice before fitting a budget winter tyre which might only be an advantage for 15% of the winter!

Availability

As many people experienced last year winter tyres sold out as the first snow fell. With the total units sold last year being 350,000, and demand far outstripping supply, you'd think the tyre manufacturers would be forecasting millions of units this year. Unfortunately the industry prediction is only 500,000 units, so if we experience another harsh winter (as predicted by almost every forecast) expect supply to be limited again. Buy early.

Winter tyre recommendations

Goodyear UltraGrip 81st: Goodyear UltraGrip 8
Overall: The Goodyear Ultragrip 7+ was an award winning tyre last year, and its successor, the new Ultra Grip 8 is carrying on its winning tradition by winning the first 2 european tyre tests published. Slightly better than the Ultra Grip 7 in every way, the Ultra Grip 8 is the tyre to be on if you have a medium size, or family car.

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Dunlop SP WinterSport 4D2nd: Dunlop SP WinterSport 4D
Overall: Like the Goodyear, the Dunlop Winter Sport 3D was one of the leading winter tyres last year, winning 4 of the 6 winter tyre tests in 2010! This year, Dunlop have released a new version, the Dunlop Winter Sport 4D which promises to offer its predecessors excellent sporty characteristics along with slightly improved grip all round.

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Nokian WR A33rd: Nokian WR A3
Overall: The Nokian WR G2 was a Tyre Reviews favourite last year thanks to its "slush optimised" design and excellent wet and dry performance being perfect for the UK climate. The new version, the WR A3 (And its little brother - WR D3) again promises to improve on the G2 in every way. Like last year with the WR G2, supply will be extremely limited this year.

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Continental WinterContact TS 830 P4th: Continental WinterContact TS 830 P
Overall: Conitnental's flagship winter tyre, the Winter Contact TS830 P is one of the best winter tyres for ultra high performance cars. Unfortunately with demand already outstripping supply , especially in the larger tyre sizes (17"+) get them if you can find them.

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Michelin Alpin A45th: Michelin Alpin A4
Overall: While not the sportiest winter tyre on the market, the Alpin A4 is a solid all round performer and perfectly suited to family cars. Its dry bias ensure it works well in the UK climate.

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What about all season tyres?

Traditionally "all season" tyres have simply been tyres with a less sporty tread pattern, and might not have worked any better in the snow than their summer counter parts. Fortunately there are now a number of all season options that have excellent snow properties and are extremely suited to the UK climate, perfect if you don’t fancy changing your tyres twice a year.

All Season Recommendations

Goodyear UltraGrip 8 1st: Bridgestone A001
Overall: The new Bridgestone A001 was designed specifically for the UK market, and as such offers excellent year round performance while keeping vastly superior snow performance when compared to summer tyres. Currently unproven in group tests, it's one to watch.

Goodyear UltraGrip 8 1st: Goodyear Vector 4Seasons
Overall: The Goodyear Vector 4Seasons is another of the "new breed" all season tyres. When compared to full winter tyres in a winter tyre group test last year it offered 90% of the snow grip (much more than a summer tyre), equal wet performance and leading dry weather properties



Other Winter Tyres

As mentioned above, demand is once again likely to outstrip supply this year so getting one of the above tyres in your size could prove difficult. As with any tyre, you largely get what you pay for but there are a few other good winter brands you can trust.

Vredestein - Specialising in winter tyres the Wintrac Extreme is an extremely popular tyre. Unfortunately supply problems stopped it being in the recommended list above.

Fulda - While being largely ignored in the UK, Fulda are a near premium brand in Germany and make excellent quality tyres. The Fulda Kristall Montero is another capable tyre, if you can find it.

Hankook - The Optimo 4S is an excellent all season tyre, again hard to find.

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