Through the thorough, real-world testing undertaken by our sister publication, Auto Zeitung in Germany, we can report the best performing winter tyres for 2022. But first, some questions to answer.
What are winter tyres?
Winter tyres are not off-road tyres with massive tractor-like tread. Winter tyres are designed to work in low temperatures and over a range of surfaces, be that wet roads, dry roads, or ice and snow-covered roads.
Winter tyres achieve this by containing more natural rubber and are made from a lower compound (i.e. are softer) than normal tyres. This lets them stay supple and, well, rubbery, when temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius. Normal summer tyres become harder and less grippy below this temperature.
If you inspect a winter tyre you can see the difference between it and a regular tyre: it has more little grooves in it called sipes to help warm them up and provides increased tread. The downside of winter tyres compared to regular ones is that they do not perform as well in milder temperatures.
Should you buy winter tyres?
Winter tyres certainly offer better performance (a two-wheel-drive car with winter tyres performs better than a four-wheel-drive one without) and therefore safer driving. However, the cold weather in which they excel is not guaranteed in much of the temperate UK. What's more, while the grip is improved, handling does suffer somewhat, as does ride and comfort.
Ultimately, it's a question of budget and storage space. If you can afford both, winter tyres do a lot to keep you mobile if a nasty Arctic snap blunders into your neck of the woods. If you can't, consider snow chains. Where winter tyres work in any cold conditions, snow chains are for snow only. So they aren't as widely useable but they are much more affordable.
How the tyres were tested
All tyres were bought anonymously from independent retailers; there was no help from manufacturers.
Each tyre was examined through several driving manoeuvres at the limit on snow, wet, and dry surfaces, both with and without ESP stability control engaged. This shows how a tyre performs during a spontaneous evasive manoeuvre.
Tyres' comfort properties were subjectively evaluated.
Each tyre had its rolling resistance tested.
Designing winter tyres
Official labels on tyres categorise efficiency, wet grip for braking and rolling noise, and are represented by letters. Auto Zeitung tested a range of parameters including deceleration, traction, steering precision and driving stability on various surfaces and under the same parallel conditions. Comfort and resistance to aquaplaning (when the tyre floats on standing water, losing grip) was also tested.
Designing a winter tyre that can excel in every discipline is quite a challenge. Tyre makers have to juggle compound, tread design and overall construction to find the elusive sweet spot where the rubber can cut through ice and slush, find grip in all conditions - whether slippery or dry - and serve up ride comfort and peace and quiet for drivers. On top of this, tyres must also last a long time and not disintegrate when the temperature climbs.
All these different requirements conflict with each other. If you improve a tyre’s efficiency, for example, grip in wet conditions decreases. If you reduce the profile depth to gain steering precision, the tyre will float faster. If you design more slats in the profile to improve grip on snow, dry grip suffers. Designing all-rounders is extremely difficult.
The best winter tyres for 2022
Auto Zeitung tested 10 winter tyres and the results are as follows:
Bridgestone BLIZZAK LM005
The best winter tyre 2022
Unbeatable wet performance; very good dry performance; good on snow too.
Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV
Best for snow
This is the best tyre for snow and is great for overall winter safety.
Continental WinterContact TS 850 P
Lowest rolling resistance
A good all-rounder which offers the lowest rolling resistance and is safe on any surface.
Vredestein Wintrac Pro
Very good on snow and wet surfaces; good on dry surfaces; great value.
Firestone Winterhawk 4
Good results for snow and wet surfaces; average performance in the dry.
Goodyear UltraGrip Performance
Solid performance all-round; master of none.
Nokian WR SUV 4
Decent grip on snow and good in the dry; not so good in the wet.
Pirelli Scorpion Winter
Good in the dry; not the best in the snow or the wet.
Hankook Winter ICept Evo 3 X
Good in the snow and on dry surfaces; not very good in the rain.
Falken Eurowinter HS01 SUV
Not very grippy in any environment; highest rolling resistance too.
Finding the correct tyres for your car
Whatever online tyre retailer you wish to use, including Amazon and Halfords, will have a search tool that allows you to filter the relevant tyre sizes, either by entering your car registration number or the tyre details.