*If you’ve read this post and you’re looking for the tire reviews, you can find them here.
With winter approaching, CARS has teamed up with L’Automobile magazine in Quebec to conduct one of the largest tire tests ever done in this country. Senior editor Michel Poirier-Defoy and contributor Jean-François Guay took to the road with two Honda Civics equipped with a bank of computers and dB meters. Over four different weeks in 2015 and 2016, they put 40 winter tires from 21 manufacturers to the test, checking their performance during acceleration, braking and slaloming. All tests were conducted in similar weather and track conditions. Here are their findings.
Although it’s great to have a comprehensive test of a wide range of tires, it’s important not to get overwhelmed by the choices out there.
The bottom line – for your shop and your customer alike – is to fit the right tire to the right vehicle, depending on how it is driven, where it is driven, and what the customer’s budget allows.
We spent a lot of time in vehicles, putting a wide assortment of tires through their paces, and after we crunched the data and deliberated for hours, we managed to split them into seven different groups.
If you’re looking for winners, they would have to be the Bridgestone Blizzak WS-80, and the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8/R2. They get our “top rating” with scores of 90%.
Perhaps that is no surprise, given the history these manufacturers have made. Bridgestone started the winter tire revolution in 1991. And Nokian has set the pace for decades, winning tons of tests, with or without studs.
Among the “highly recommended” we found a number of popular products that stand out well above average.
Michelin shows a few wrinkles but still gets the job done with its X-Ice Xi3.
Continental finally mastered the Canadian winter, first with its Extreme and now the Winter Contact Si.
In a nutshell, Toyo did very well with its one-size-fits-all GSi 5, from sedan to minivan.
The Pirelli Ice Zero is the best Italian job ever made for our northern climate.
Gislaved has a long history of research and development in winter products, benefiting a great number of import vehicles. We were impressed with its NorFrost 100 offering.
Yokohama’s technology provides grip and durability in its Ice GUARD iG52c / W Drive 905.
We can still “recommend” products that scored in the low-70s through to the low-80s, offering a bit less grip but interesting prices for the consumer. Matching the driving profile is the key element in selling these tires.
The Nordman 5 is Nokian’s entry level sibling to the pricy Hakka.
Russia’s Hercules Avalanche RG2 offers a cost-benefit knock-out.
The Vredestein SnowTrac 5 is a more expensive niche tire appreciated by a luxury car clientele.
Cooper, Goodyear, General Tire and Dunlop represent the American big four… and their products are based on security, longevity and remarkable performance.
Products that scored in the low- to high-60s (even as high as 70 for the Hankook iPike / iCept Evo2) are quite acceptable. Here we are starting to notice a lack of research and development. Newer generations in these product lines would be appreciated.
Toyo purposely made its G3-Ice as an entry-level offering.
The Firestone Winter Force and BFG Winter Slalom definitely show their age.
And the Goodyear Nordic (made exclusively for CTC) is closer to a Kelly standard.
Following those mid-level performers, we find the tires that cater to the “budget challenged” clientele. Price is usually the first (and perhaps only) reason why consumers want them. This is where we found a lot of the Chinese offerings that deserve consideration. They’re second generation tires where components and technology were taken into account.
Among them, GT Radial is the most promising, with products that improve regularly. Starfire (Cooper) and Laufen (Hankook) are the new kids on the block. Uniroyal is now considered in the entry level line-up. MaxTrek and Sailun are established brands that provide fair performance altogether.
Near the bottom of the assessment are the “winter” tires that are actually closer to “four-season” tires. There are also those that are legal, but not recommended. Hundreds of products originate from the Chinese factories: they all have great cosmetic looks but the compounds simply do not rise to the challenge. Brands and models come and go in these low-end categories.
Finally, the “All-Weather” tire segment is still growing – intended for consumers who drive limited winter miles. Some of these tires perform quite well in cold weather, while still being able to handle the heat of summer. It’s no surprise that Nokian has dominated this category over the years. But the new Toyo Celsius is a better-priced strong competitor. The Vredestein has some merits, but winter capacities could improve. And, the Hankook Optimo 4S (exclusive to CTC), is just a wink better than a regular four-season offering.
Check out the full evaluation with detailed comments on each product, including pictures here.
Michel Poirier-Defoy and contributor Jean-François Guay are tire experts who have conducted tire tests for a wide range of publications over the last 25 years.