205/55R16

Moottori 2021: Winter Studded Tire Test in Size 205/55 R16

The two new spiked models from Goodyear and Nokian came to grips in the very first test of the season

List of models tested:

In the new test conducted by Finland’s Mottori, three out of eight tires are newcomers of the season. Recently, Goodyear presented its new UltraGrip Arctic 2 model, and, according to experts, the first-generation tire (UltraGrip Ice Arctic), released nine years ago, has been waiting to be replaced because it could no longer score high positions in tire tests. Right about that time, Nokian presented Hakkapeliitta 10, even though the Nine still remains the leader of independent tests. We also add that the Finns have already tested the version of this new model designed for the domestic market; there is also a dedicated version for Russia, called Hakkapeliitta 10p, equipped with extra-long spikes.

The third newcomer was Nordman 8, again, from Nokian. Compared to Nordman 7, the number of studs was raised from 130 to 190 (in size 205/55 R16, which was the size picked for the tests), which must potentially boost ice grip. With the Hakkapeliitta model, the number of studs also grew — from 190 to 220 — and now, by this parameter, Nokian has almost caught up with the Michelin X–Ice North 4 (featuring 250 studs per tire), which was also included in the test.

The test also involved the Continental IceContact 3, which earlier showed very good results in the Finnish tests, as well as three tires from subsidiary brands of major market players — BFGoodrich G-Force Stud from Michelin, Gislaved Nord*Frost 200 from Continental, and Sava Eskimo Stud from Goodyear. The Gislaved and Sava tires feature 130 studs each, and the BFGoodrich model, released more than 10 years ago, has only 114 of them.

Ice

In the first discipline — ice traction — the Nokian tire comes first, while the new Goodyear model, although also capable of showing pretty good results, falls behind Michelin, and, surprisingly, behind the Nordman model from the less expensive price segment. The biggest surprise was the performance of the Continental model, which during previous tests was very good on ice, but this time around was only able to score the sixth line, letting Gislaved get ahead. In turn, BFGoodrich and Sava were both clearly weaker than their rivals.

The ice braking test was won by Goodyear, closely followed by Nokian, Michelin, and Nordman. The Continental tire again fell behind the leading group, while the braking distances demonstrated by the BFGoodrich and Sava models were characterized as «dangerously long».

 

In ice slalom, the best lap time was again demonstrated by the Nokian model, and the experts noted that after a slight shift of the rear axle, caused by high speed, the Nokian tire would effectively regain grip. The Michelin X–Ice North 4, presented three years ago, again demonstrated excellent ice performance, scoring second place. According to the testers, the grip delivered by the front wheels was not as high as that of Nokian’s, but, on the plus side, the Michelin tires were much less prone to skidding on the rear axle. The top three also included the new Goodyear model that significantly surpassed its predecessor in terms of ice braking. At the same time, the Goodyear tire had only so much lateral grip, and at large sliding angles it was not as reliable as Nokian or Michelin.

The BFGoodrich model showed itself to the best advantage this time. In corners, this tire maintains reasonable grip, and, once it reaches the threshold, a slight understeer appears, and you can easily regain grip simply by taking your foot off the gas pedal. At the same time, BFGoodrich clearly fell behind the leaders due to insufficiently effective braking performance. The Gislaved model surpasses BFGoodrich in terms of acceleration and braking, but it is clearly prone to understeer, and it is also slow to regain grip once it is lost.

As for the Nordman tire, the experts noted that it had a lot in common with the previous Hakkapeliitta generations, which comes as no surprise. It is more prone to skidding than the top three tires, but, unlike Goodyear, this tire is equally good at resisting lateral skid regardless of the drifting angle. The Nordman tire is followed by Continental, for whom this is not the most habitual place in the tournament bracket. The testers said that it was better to refrain from developing high speeds while cornering because the tire may lose grip, and it will take a longer time to regain it than the tires in the top lines of the tournament bracket. In smooth high-speed curves, the tire is prone to understeer, which can abruptly turn to its direct opposite because the grip on the front axle is slightly weaker. The last place was scored by the Sava model, whose age is probably taking its toll. The loss of grip happens abruptly, and the tire is slow to regain it, so you must take extra care driving on these tires.

Snow

On snow, the studs are not as crucially important as they are on ice — here the tread pattern, along with some other technical factors, becomes the game changer, and, hence, the differences in the tires’ performance were smaller. The best acceleration on ice was 82% faster than that of the tire that scored the last place, while on snow this difference shrank to a little over 9%; in terms of braking performance this gap was reduced from 50 to 5%. Just as on ice, the best traction was demonstrated by Nokian, Michelin, and Nordman, while the quickest tires to stop the car were BFGoodrich, Michelin, and Continental. The worst results in both disciplines were shown by Sava, while the new Goodyear model demonstrated average performance.

The best lap time on a snow track was shown by Nokian and Michelin that demonstrated virtually identical results. Thanks to the high grip on the front axle, the Nokian tire maintains precise trajectory when entering a corner, and tight turns can be managed with a controlled skid. At a small drift angle, the tire, like the previous model, regains grip either independently or by counter-steering. The Michelin model is not as good at holding the trajectory in corners, and its understeer occurs at even lower speeds. At the same time, the Michelin model is better at resisting oversteer, and is quicker to regain the lost grip.

 

After the disappointing results on ice, Continental returns to a more habitual third place. According to the experts, in sharp corners, the tire is very good at holding grip; it also surpasses Nokian and Michelin in terms of tackling high-speed cornering, which makes driving on these tires extremely safe, even though a little boring. Commenting on the new Goodyear tire, the Moottori experts noted that its grip on the front axle is stronger than that of Continental, which allows it to tackle high-speed cornering, while the BFGoodrich tire in a correct speed mode behaves in a very stable way, but, if the speed exceeds a certain limit, the grip goes abruptly, and the tire regains it slower than its «older brother» Michelin.

The Nordman tire showed virtually identical lap time as the BFGoodrich model, but on the whole its behavior again was similar to that of previous-generation Hakkapeliittas, from which it inherited the tread pattern. The powerful grip on the front axle and a slightly weaker grip on the rear one makes cornering easy, but sometimes you will have to get out of a skid by counter-steering.

The Gislaved tire slightly resembled Continental, but the grip on the front axle was not as good, due to which the tire was more prone to understeer. At the same time, the Gislaved tire tackled skids on the rear axle reasonably well.

The Sava tire once again had to settle for the last place — because its grip was simply not good enough. The tire is strongly prone to understeer, and it takes forever to regain the lost grip. If, however, by a sheer stroke of luck, the front wheels did manage to hold grip when entering a corner, this Sava model may surprise the driver with an abrupt skid on the rear axle, and driving on these tires requires a lot of caution.

Asphalt

Studded tires are not designed to yield maximum performance on asphalt, and in such tests tires by premium brands can easily score the last lines of the tournament bracket. One way or another, the best braking performance on dry and wet pavement was shown by the BFGoodrich and Goodyear tires respectively.

 

In the wet handling test, the best results were shown by Goodyear and Continental, which maintained their grip reasonably well, but would break into a skid now and then during the cornering. A surprisingly good performance in this area was demonstrated by the Gislaved model that confidently maintained grip on the rear axle. The other tires could not come close to the leaders: with Nordman, the rear wheels are not as stable, and the Sava model can easily go into a skid.

The experts also evaluated the tires’ sensitivity to rutting, the best performance was shown by Nokian and Michelin, followed by Nordman, BFGoodrich, Continental, Gislaved and Goodyear, with Sava taking the last place here as it tended to change direction once it hit the rut. The Nokian model also ensured the best stability during the elk test, and was good enough at resisting lateral skid at 80–100 km/h. The other tires, even the premium once, were beginning to have problems once they came close to the 100 km/h threshold.

Noise

At high speeds, the quietest tire was the BFGoodrich, and even the sound of the contact between the studs and the asphalt was rather muffled. The Continental and Gislaved were also rather quiet, but these tires more clearly communicated to the cabin that they were equipped with studs; the noise produced by the other tires was significantly louder. The worst average result in three speed modes was surprisingly demonstrated by the Michelin model, but the experts still noted that the noise that it produced was not as tedious as that of Nordman and Sava. In addition, they noted that now the Nokian model was not as loud as tires of previous generations.

Verdict

In recent years, Michelin has been attracting customers and demonstrating excellent results in independent tests thanks to a maximum number of spikes in its tires, but this time it was outperformed in the very first test of the season by the Nokian model, which was also great on ice. The Michelin tire came second, and the bronze was won by the new Goodyear model, which was slightly short of the leader’s performance on ice, but scored extra compensation points on asphalt. The fourth line was occupied by the new Nordman model, which unexpectedly surpassed Continental, the reason being that the IceContact 3 demonstrated a surprisingly weak ice performance. The BFGoodrich and Gislaved tires were not particularly good on ice either, but on snow and asphalt they demonstrated quite a decent performance for the tires of such a price bracket. The worst was the Sava tire that could not provide optimum grip on slippery surfaces.

Winter Studded Tire Test Summary, Moottori 205/55R16, 2021. Places 1–8. Click to enlarge.
Winter Studded Tire Test Summary, Moottori 205/55R16, 2021. Places 1–8. Click to enlarge.

TOP-3:

#1 Nokian / Hakkapeliitta 10

Quick Take
89 48

Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10

  • Year Released: 2021
  • Studded
  • Regions for sale: USA+, Canada, Europe, Russia+
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10

A Number Ten became Number One! Even though it was not without problems — because ice is always a challenge! We cannot see any particular improvements from raising the number of spikes up to 220 — because Model 9 was plain dangerous on ice. The new model, however, stayed within the margin of error from the leaders on ice + it wasn’t anything special on asphalt + noise!

#2 Michelin / X-Ice North 4

Quick Take
91 55

Michelin X-Ice North 4

Comfort Treadwear Snow/Ice Performance
  • Year Released: 2018
  • Studded
  • Regions for sale: Canada, Europe, Russia+
Michelin X-Ice North 4

On ice, no-one could come close to the Michelin model with its 250 spikes. Eventually, however, the Michelin tire failed itself due to a high noise emission and poor wet performance.

#3 Goodyear / UltraGrip Arctic 2

Quick Take
88 39

Goodyear UltraGrip Arctic 2

  • Year Released: 2021
  • Studded
  • Regions for sale: Europe, Russia+
Goodyear UltraGrip Arctic 2

If things are going to stay this way (i.e. with no gold medals), one will be able to safely say that Goodyear is the major loser of this season! You do remember their promise to «steal the show» on ice, don’t you? Well, some tires surpassed it on ice by scores of percent! So, what have we ultimately got? Surpassing Michelin by a few % in braking performance and losing to it in the handling test? I bet the next season the Goodyear Arctic 2 will be fighting for survival and staying in the TOP-5.

☘️ Let’s continue!

#4 Nokian / Nordman 8

Quick Take
N/A 33
  • Year Released: 2021
  • Studded
  • Regions for sale: Europe, Russia+
Nokian Nordman 8

A tread pattern that inherited the design (and the stud race from 130 to 190) from the flagship brand… The result, of course, isn’t half-bad. The balance with the flagship model is admirably maintained.

#5 Continental / IceContact 3

Quick Take
89 54

Continental IceContact 3

Handling Dry Performance Wet Performance Snow/Ice Performance
  • Year Released: 2019
  • Studded
  • Regions for sale: Europe, Russia+
Continental IceContact 3

The main failure of the test! Nobody has ever seen a tire of this reputable German brand deliver such poor ice grip in comparison to the leaders of the test! On the other hand, this was one of the quietest models on test. Well, at least the studs did not keep falling out the way they did a year ago.

#6 Gislaved / Nord*Frost 200

Quick Take
81 44

Gislaved Nord*Frost 200

  • Available Sizes in Line: 108
  • Recommended Tire by Tests
  • Year Released: 2016
  • Studded
  • Regions for sale: Europe, Russia+
Gislaved Nord*Frost 200

Thank you for not outperforming the flagship model! Except for ice braking, which was an epic fail, this is a pretty good tire.

#7 BFGoodrich / g-Force Stud

Quick Take
74 13

BFGoodrich g-Force Stud

Comfort Handling Snow/Ice Performance
  • Available Sizes in Line: 20
  • Recommended Tire by Tests
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Studded
  • Regions for sale: Europe, Russia+
BFGoodrich g-Force Stud

A model that’s too old for this test, and probably for the entire market of studded tires. The g-Force stud has too few studs (114), and this automatically spells poor ice — but the lowest noise on test and killer traction on both wet and dry pavement. Anyway, if you can’t outperform BFGoodrich, stop making tires altogether!

❌ The screwup of the test

#8 Sava / Eskimo STUD

Quick Take
N/A 15
  • Available Sizes in Line: 11
  • Year Released: 2012
  • Regions for sale: USA+, Europe, Russia+
Sava Eskimo STUD

All the company’s efforts were invested into the new Goodyear model. This tire is pure junk, period.

Price