Auto Express all-season tyre test 2016
Products continue to represent a ‘compromise’
Recognising the attractiveness of all-season tyres to the majority of the UK market, leading weekly magazine Auto Express has conducted its second comparative test of six products in the segment. Testing on the bestselling 17” size, 225/45R17, the magazine used the independent Test World facility, with support from Hankook, to test in snow, and Continental’s Contidrom to test in cold and wet conditions to represent winter, and dry conditions to represent summer. The full test also included two leading seasonal tyres, the Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Gen-1 winter tyre and the Continental ContiSportContact 5 summer tyre, which showed that all-season products continue to represent “a compromise,” in tester Kim Adams’ words; however the performance gaps in the tests most relevant to UK drivers may surprise critics of year-round tyres.
The all-season tyres tested, in order of their finishing position, were:
- Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-2
- Nokian Weatherproof
- Michelin CrossClimate (which, Auto Express explains, was submitted for the test despite the manufacturer’s insistence that it is “a summer tyre with winter capability”)
- Hankook Kinergy 4S
- Vredestein Quatrac
- Star Performer Winter SPTS AS
The winner and runner-up in the 2016 all-season tyre test are reversed from the 2015 edition, which was conducted on the smaller 205/55R16 size. The margin of victory for the Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-2 was very slight, at 0.2 per cent, but their switched positions seems to come as a result of Auto Express’s revision of the weighting of snow tests (see below for more on this).
Auto Express tested the top three tyres from 2015 in the 2016 test, but the introduction of the newer Michelin and Hankook models appears to have shown that the overall standard of premium and near-premium all-season tyres has risen, as the Vredestein Quatrac goes from third to fifth. It is worth recognising that, with a margin of only 2.8 per cent in overall performance, the Vredestein is not far behind the test winner.
The sixth placed tyre, from Delticom private brand Star Performer (manufactured by Nankang), was much further off the pace. Bought for £58.78, it was nearly half the price of the test winner (£113.94), and this discrepancy was felt most in the wet and rolling resistance tests. Yet Auto Express also said the tyre felt “much safer” than summer tyres on snow. Overall it was ranked only 7.1 per cent behind the Goodyear, though this was enough for Auto Express to call the tyre “a poor choice”. Auto Express called the Hankook and Vredestein tyres “decent budget options”, though this stretches the definition of “budget”, especially considering the Michelin CrossClimate was £1 cheaper than the Hankook. Combined with the fourth-place finish of the Maxxis Allseason AP2 in the 2015 edition, testing lower-priced tyres seems worthwhile, and it would be interesting to see how more mid-range products compare with the premium brands.
New methodology reflects UK all-season application
In order to reflect the application of all-season tyres in the UK, Auto Express made a welcome change to its assessment criteria for its second test of this segment. Instead of weighting scores equally across snow, wet, and dry, snow tests counted for 10 per cent of the final mark. While snow performance is ultimately critical in providing guaranteed year-round mobility, UK drivers spend very little time on snow each year – the majority of the population encounters any lying snow on fewer than 10 days per year, and even taking into account more sparsely populated regions, there are still only an average of 15.6 days a year in which snow settles, according to Met Office figures. Therefore, it makes sense to reduce the importance of snow performance accordingly in assessing all-weather products.
Additionally, the constituent tests in each of these three categories were themselves differently weighted in order to ensure tests with wider performance gaps – curved aquaplaning usually proves to be the best example of this – did not skew the overall results. This also makes sense because the widest performance gaps are found in tests which examine behaviour in the most extreme conditions; like snow, these are more rarely part of a typical UK motorist’s year.
Finally, Auto Express’s attitude to pricing as a test category is pragmatic, acknowledging it has a “minor” influence, while stating “tyres should primarily be bought on performance”. Using prices found on Blackcircles.com, the category’s ranking suggests that, as Auto Express said in 2015, you get what you pay for, with one exception. Michelin’s CrossClimate cost less than the Hankook Kinergy 4S, and therefore finished third least expensive, but otherwise the table is the reverse of the overall test results.