Each year, for the upcoming winter and summer seasons, independent industry publications and testing organizations conduct independent research of tires’ performance meant to help motorists with choosing their next set of tires because all they have left to do then is use the provided information correctly.
Each year, getting together the results of numerous tests, we determine the best tires of the season.
While we already sorted out the best spiked tires 2019/2020, coming up next are the best studless Scandinavian winter tires, meant for confident driving on icy and snowy roads at temperatures well below the freezing point. These are also referred to as «Scandinavians», «friction tires» or «Nordic-type» tires.
Scandinavian winter tire tests 2019/2020
For the winter season 2019–2020, six tests involving studless tires were made, and this is almost twice as little as last year: some testing organizations joined their efforts, and some, for reasons unknown, sank into oblivion. Totally, the tests involved 27 Scandinavian models from 23 tire brands.
- Teknikens Värld (225/50 R17)
- Test World (205/55 R16)
- Vi Bilägare (225/50 R17)
- Za Rulem (195/65 R15)
- Auto Review (225/50 R17)
- Autocenter (195/65 R15)
At the same time, it must be noted that these tests involved only one new model and only one debutant. This essentially guaranteed a situation when all of the models would maintain «status quo». In addition, the struggle for the right to be called «best Scandinavian winter tire 2019» did not involve the models Bridgestone Blizzak WS80, Cordiant Winter Drive (PW-1), and Yokohama IceGuard iG50 Plus. But first things first!
To ruin all the suspense, let’s just say at once that the title «best studless winter tire of the Nordic type 2019/2020» goes to Continental VikingContact 7, which only maintained its last year’s status.
So far, competing with this tire is a hard thing to do, if possible at all: it became the leader in three Scandinavian tire tests of the season, while in the mixed tests performed by Teknikens Värld and Test World, which also involved spiked tires, Viking Contact 7 not just surpassed its «toothy» rivals but was able to score the top places in a few disciplines.
In addition, it is worth mentioning the Vi Bilägare studless winter tire test 2019, which involved Continental VikingContact 7 for reference purposes. This Scandinavian tire was not only able to cope with all of the challenges, but won the bronze in the final standings, leaving behind the last year’s champion among the spiked tires, Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9!
Meanwhile, one might want to remember ContiVikingContact 6. In spite of the fact that the testers are putting their main focus on its successor, Continental VikingContact 7, this tire does pop up now and then in the tests conducted by the industry publications. For example, in 2019, Conti Viking Contact 6 was tested by the Autocenter magazine in size 195/65 R15, and even scored the third place, losing only 0.1 points to the «senior citizen» Michelin Xi3.
The leadership group
The «leadership group», whose members can, by a certain stretch of imagination, be considered to be the «best tires», has undergone a few changes. Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3, which has now obviously cheered up, improved its results compared to last year. In the season 2019/2020, it scored an indisputable second place. This is something that is confirmed by both Russian tests done by Za Rulem and Autoreview, and by the experts of Northern Europe.
The testers of Ukraine’s Autocenter, however, seem to be of a different opinion: the Nokian model is «holding its position of the leader among Scandinavian tires». Well, they must have their own figures. So many men, so many minds.
Michelin X-ice Xi3 not only managed to stay in the leadership group but also improved its results, which was thanks to the second place in the Autocenter test and higher positions that it scored in the tests conducted by Test World and Teknikens Värld.
We will emphasize here that Michelin Xi3 has been manufactured since 2012, and, in spite of its inconsistent results in the tests, about which we wrote in our separate article devoted to the unexpected failure of X–Ice 3 in the Motor tests, the French still don’t seem to be in a hurry to launch the fourth generation of their Nordic studless tires. Can it be it’s really too early for that? There is only one problem: when the results shown by Michelin Xi3 hop up and down from test to test, buying these tires turns into a game of chance.
The Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2 model, which, for all intents and purposes, has long since been due to be renewed, keeps on scoring the winners’ pedestals in various tests. Even in spite of the fact that during the actual winter season this model was not to be interested to the testers at all, and even in spite of the fact that it’s gradually losing its ground! Well, the old age is doing its job anyway. Nevertheless, it scored two confident third places.
Over the last year, Hankook Winter i*Cept iZ2 W616 soared sky-high, leaping from the «something’s missing» subgroup to the leadership one. In this, it was helped by the Russian test experts, who praised its snow and ice performance, notes the technical expert of Shina Guide. As for the Finns from the Test World, they are adamant: Hankook W616 in size 205/55 R16 is just another average tire model.
Only the fact that it scored the third place allowed the Nokian Nordman RS2 model to secure its leadership position. Another interesting fact: essentially, Nordman RS2 is the new name for the «old girl» Nokian Hakkapeliitta R, which, thanks to its once-groundbreaking innovations, is quite capable of competing with the newer (and seemingly technologically more advanced) rivals. The people at Nokian definitely know a thing or two about making winter tires for harsh weather conditions. One of the indisputable upsides of this model is its price.
Pirelli Ice Zero FR, although managed to stay in the leadership group, seems to slow down a little, judging by the results of the tests done by Za Rulem and Test World. In both of these tests, compared to the winter season 2018/2019, Pirelli’s lost several positions at once. At the same time, by Finnish standards, these tires are just an acceptable option, while for the Russian testers Ice Zero FR in the 195/65 R15 fitment is a premium class winter tire. The only complaints that arose in the latter case were about the ride smoothness and acoustic comfort.
When something is missing
Behold a blast from a very remote past — this year the comparative tests involved neither more nor less than a 2011 model Premiorri ViaMaggiore. In the Autocenter test, mentioned earlier (with bronze won by ContiVikingContact 6) this tire scored the fourth place.
This excellent result does have a rational explanation, though. The test was a mixed one, and it involved four Scandinavian tires versus three European ones. At the finish line, the Premiorri product was turned out to be the last of the Scandinavian tires, and with a pretty large gap, too. However, it was surely able to outstrip the tires engineered to be used in mild weather conditions, because in the final standings the maximum weight was assigned to the tire’s ice performance (40%). Some math for you. Or a drawing class, perhaps?
It may come as a surprise but Yokohama iceGUARD iG60 is probably the only model that showed a one hundred percent consistent performance. This tire holds its place exactly where it has always been — in the middle of the tournament brackets, yet still a little closer to the bottom. Respect to the tire developers for such consistency (the fifth and sixth places, just like in the season 2018/2019).
We have finally reached the newcomer of this season — the Toyo Observe GSi-6 model was most likely sent to the Za Rulem and Autoreview tests by the tire manufacturer itself. This is probably the only rational explanation for the fact that this new tire, which was only presented in the Russian Federation in the beginning of 2019, got involved in the test that was conducted right about the same time.
One way or another, the opinions of the test groups did split. The test experts of Za Rulem magazine said that Toyo Observe GSi impressed them with rather decent grip on ice and snow, while the test experts of Autoreview named these same properties as being the model’s weak sides. But then again, optionally, such a difference in the results can be attributed to the difference in the size of tested tires.
The middle of the tournament brackets of the tests is the habitat of the winter tires Sava Eskimo Ice (the 5th place out of 8 in the Vi Bilägare test) and Gislaved Soft*Frost 200 (6th place out of 12 in the Za Rulem test). Taking into account their affordable prices and quite acceptable performance, one must recognize that these two models have a very good price/quality ratio.
A roadside picnic
The debut in the tests by Bridgestone Blizzak Ice (in Japan, the country of its origin, this model is called Bridgestone Blizzak VRX2) can hardly be considered a success. It was only tested by Autoreview, however, it’s highly questionable whether this model’s winter performance satisfied its test experts. n spite of its name, Blizzak Ice was only able to demonstrate effective braking performance on wet and dry pavement; snow and ice, putting it mildly, is not quite its thing. The Bridgestone model was only able to score the sixth place out of the possible seven.
Below, we have gathered all of the models of the Scandinavian type, which, just like Blizzak Ice from Bridgestone, can hardly be considered the best by any stretch of the imagination. However, it still will not hurt to name them: possibly they may still become an option for some drivers.
The most important thing that we must note when summing up the results is that the pool of the best Scandinavian models is dominated by premium class tires. And this means that your peace of mind comes at a price. Safety first! Do not jeopardize your health and lives, and those of the other travelers.
Just as with Scandinavian tires, the title of «best spiked tires 2019/2020» goes to Continental.