All-season tyre test 2018/2019: top all-weather tyres tested

Should you fit all-season tyres for 12 months instead of switching from summer to winter tyres? Our test has the answer

Just as car manufacturers are rushing out as many variants of SUVs as they can manage, so tyre makers are renewing and updating their all-season line-ups. One of the motivators is drivers wanting the security of better performance in increasingly extreme weather, without the expense and complication of changing tyres.

There has also been a shift in the focus of all-season tyres, which was pioneered by our 2017 test winner Michelin. While the French maker refuses to call its CrossClimate an all-season tyre, the product is designed to be left on the car throughout the year. It also has a better dry and wet road performance than traditional designs, which focused on snow grip and were similar to winter patterns.

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So which of the latest crop of all-season tyres has the best approach to keeping you safe throughout the extremes of UK weather? We returned to the big-selling 225/45 R17 size found on many family saloons and hatchbacks to find out. Snow testing was carried out with the help of Goodyear at its Arctic Centre in Saariselka, northern Finland, while the wet and dry testing was done with Continental near Hanover, Germany, and the rolling resistance at its nearby R&D facility. All our assessments were carried out by Auto Express drivers wherever possible.

What we tested

We’re only testing six brands, but just the top two from our 2016 test in this size – Goodyear and Nokian – return this year. Since then, Continental has produced an all-season tyre, despite its previous policy of dedicated winter and summer designs. Michelin now has the CrossClimate +, and will hope to repeat 2017’s victory in 16-inch form. Falken joins the test, and we have Tristar as a budget pick. Our winning summer and winter tyres are here as benchmarks.

Imminent new tyres or spec changes meant Hankook, Kumho, Vredestein and Nankang couldn’t take part. And while Pirelli has a new all-season product, it opted to stick with its policy of changing tyre types for the seasons here.

Each all-season tyre had a 94 weight rating and a speed rating of V (up to 150mph) and W (up to 168mph). Below we list their EU label ratings. These assess fuel economy (FE) and wet grip (WG) – rated A-G, with A the best – and pass-by noise (N), in decibels.

All Season
Continental AllSeasonContact 94 V(FE) C  (WG) B  (N) 72 Falken Euroall Season AS200 94 V (FE) F  (WG) C  (N) 69 Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-2 94 W(FE) C  (WG) B  (N) 69 Michelin CrossClimate + 94 W(FE) C  (WG) B  (N) 69 Nokian Weatherproof 94 V(FE) C  (WG) A  (N) 69 Tristar Ecopower 4S 94 W(FE) E  (WG) C  (N) 69

Winter
Continental WinterContact TS 860 91 H(FE) E  (WG) B  (N) 72

Summer
Continental PremiumContact 6 94 Y(FE) C  (WG) A  (N) 72

How we pick Britain’s top all year-round tyre

For years, Auto Express has been publishing the most comprehensive tyre tests in the business, helping motorists choose the right products for their car. And our all-season tyre test is no different, as we assess each design in a range of key criteria, so drivers can focus on what matters most to them when buying.

There are a total of 13 categories, spread mainly over snow, wet and dry surfaces, with price making up a small part of our overall ranking.

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The top-performing tyre in each category is awarded a score of 100 per cent, with the rest ranked relative to that. To calculate the overall champion in our all-season tyre test, we simply add up the scores, and weight them to guarantee that an assessment with a big difference in performance counts for the same as one in which the tyres are evenly matched.

To ensure we tested products you can buy, manufacturers nominated a tyre, which we then bought in the wholesale market.

Snow

Increased safety on snow is one of the main reasons behind drivers moving away from just using conventional ‘summer’ tyres. And this requirement is why many all-season designs closely resemble winter tyres. The trick is to combine that snow grip with performing well in the wet and, crucially, in the heat on dry roads in summer.

To measure the snow performance we assessed cornering on the handling circuit, plus on the circle. Both were based on an average of lap times. On the circle we lined up on the inner edge and accelerated until the nose started to push wide. Around the handling circuit traction and braking also come in to play, because the tyres need to work in all circumstances: tight turns, fast sweeps and quick direction changes. To ensure repeatable results, the snow was graded after each tyre.

The main difference between summer and winter tyres on snow can be seen in a straight line when accelerating and braking. These were assessed at the same time using conventional GPS-based road test equipment. This measured the distance needed to get from 5mph to 19mph using full throttle and traction control.

The car was then taken to 35mph and braked, triggering the anti-lock system, with the GPS measuring the distance taken to slow from 31mph to 3mph, avoiding inconsistencies in the final moments before stopping. An average of multiple runs gave the result, and graded snow was used for each attempt. 

Wet

Last year we assessed wet performance in the temperature-dependent tests – braking, circle and handling – in both cold and warm conditions. We couldn’t do that this time round, because the temperatures for the cold testing were above the seven degrees Centigrade crossover point where the advantage shifts from summer to winter-focused tyres.

As on snow, handling was based on an average of lap times around the sweeps, hairpins and direction changes of the 1.8km Contidrom track. It was the same with the circle. Our technique was identical; we completed up to 10 circuits before heading to the handling track. 

Braking is done on a rail system that ensures the same piece of track is used for every stop. We measured the distance needed to stop from 50mph, using an average of several runs to get the final result. 

Aquaplaning checks how a tyre copes with deep water. For the longitudinal assessment the car is placed on the rail system, but this time with one wheel in the water. The vehicle is accelerated hard through the flooded section, and the speed measured when the wheel in the water is spinning 15 per cent faster than the other. Several runs make up the result.

For the lateral test the car is driven in a circle with one section flooded to 5mm at ever higher speeds. The lateral G-force generated is measured until all grip is lost. This forms the basis of the result.

Dry

All-season tyres need to perform well not just at low temperatures, but also in the dry during a hot summer like much of the UK enjoyed this year. We measured dry braking and handling.

The former was done from 62mph to a halt using an average of multiple stops. Fast direction changes and long sweeps dominate the part of the handling track we timed to assess dry grip. We made several attempts and took an average.

Cabin noise

For many readers the amount of noise inside the cabin is a key factor, if our inbox is any guide. And your messages suggest you are unconcerned about the EU label rating, which measures pass-by noise, but rather what you experience inside the car.

We coasted down from 50mph over concrete paving, plus smooth and rough tarmac, measuring the average noise within the vehicle. We did two runs over each surface and then calculated the average figure.

Rolling resistance

Shaving a few quid off the purchase price can soon be wiped out by poor fuel economy, which the rolling resistance test measures.

Carried out to industry standards, our assessment judges the force needed to roll a loaded tyre. Two tyres were tested to get the result, and around a five per cent difference in rolling resistance equates to a one per cent change in fuel use.

Price

Tyres should be bought based on performance rather than price, so how much they cost plays a small part in our overall calculations.

Our figures are supplied by our online tyre retailer test winner Black Circles and were correct at the time of calculating the results. They include fitting and are what the company charges, or what it would charge if the tyre tested is not part of its range.

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