The Swedish magazine tried to find the best studless tires for the northern winter.
List of models tested:
- Continental VikingContact 7
- Continental WinterContact TS 860
- Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2
- Leao GREEN-Max Winter Ice I-15
- Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3
- Nokian Nordman RS2
- Sava Eskimo Ice
- Yokohama IceGuard IG60
The popularity of studless winter tires in Scandinavia is steadily growing, which is also promoted by the local authorities who stress that spikes damage the roads and are harmful to people’s health. In addition, studless tires are more convenient because you can have them fitted on your car way long before the first snowfalls, and not listen to the spikes clacking on the pavement, and have them replaced a little later in spring — even though we mustn’t forget about the increased wear in this case. The changes in the global climate are also a factor — Finnish winters, for example, are becoming warmer by the year.
In the studless tire test 2019, the Swedish experts from Vi Bilägare compared seven tire models, including tires from such reputed brands as Continental, Goodyear, and Nokian, as well as the low-budget tire’s Leao produces by the Chinese company Linglong. Although Leao obviously did not stand any chances against such premium-brand rivals, such tires still must be tested because, first of all, cheap tires never lose their popularity and one must refresh the drivers’ memory about their performance, and second, the Chinese do tend to invest in their R&D, and sooner or later this will make a difference to their product.
Leao actually surprised the test team, only not with its quality, but rather with its unbalanced performance. While it had no problems with either acceleration or braking on ice, which is, of course, good news, during the first cornering maneuver this tire sent the car skidding in the most unpredictable and uncontrollable manner.
This year’s test did not involve Bridgestone and Michelin, which already prepared new models for this segment. In addition, Pirelli Ice Zero FR was significantly modernized last year, but the new version was not yet released by the time of the tests.
The tests were performed in the Swedish cities of Arvidsjaur and Gislaved, as well as in Hannover (Germany), and, based on their results, the experts noted that Nokian and Goodyear, for example, show better results than they did before, while the models of their subsidiary brands — Nordman and Sava respectively — cannot boast just as balanced performance. For example, Nordman performs effectively on snow and ice, but is not so good on asphalt, while Sava earned high scores on wet pavement, but was not as great on snow and ice. At the same time, both Nordman and Sava will be a better choice than the Leao tires, little known in Europe.
As for the first prize, it ultimately went to the Continental model, which this year is making a double appearance in the Swedish tests — earlier on Continental IceContact 3 already won the spiked tire test. Generally, the experts recognized that there are no perfect tires out there — all of them have their pros and cons.
Results of VB winter tire test 2019
After 13 runs on clear ice, the Continental model was pronounced to be the best, but it must be said that Nokian, Goodyear, and Nordman also showed quite decent results. The tires of the European type, tested for comparison’s sake, predictably occupied the last place, and the cheap Leao model also had serious issues.Braking
Goodyear was not able to repeat its outstanding performance in the previous discipline, outdoing only the Leao model alone. The first line of the tournament bracket was again captured by Continental, while the braking distance demonstrated by the tires of the European type was 20% longer than that of the tires engineered specifically for the northern winter conditions.Handling
The Continental and Nokian models were obviously more effective than all the other tires, Continental demonstrating great grip while cornering, which allowed it to show the best lap time. Yokohama, Goodyear, and Sava also got high scores, but their handling response was not as easy and pleasant as that of the tires that won the top lines. The tires of the European type were lacking the desired «bite», but they also demonstrated a stable and predictable performance.
The Continental tire is the leader, yet with a minimum advantage, a few other models getting a «good» score. The traction ensured by Leao and Yokohama was recognized as satisfactory. The European-type tires lagged behind on the snowy surface as well.Braking
Almost all of the tires demonstrated effective braking on snow, and the differences between them were virtually insignificant. It is worth mentioning, however, that Sava performed better than the more expensive model from the same tire maker, the braking distance provided by the European-type tire being two meters longer than that of Continental’s.Handling
The best handling response on snow is provided by Continental and Nokian, while the driver needs to be more careful when driving on Goodyear, even though it also showed a good lap time. Sava spoiled the overall impression by being even worse than Leao.
On Dry / Wet Pavement
All of the tires proved capable of tackling this task, the three leaders being Continental, Nokian, and Goodyear. The last places were scored by Leao and Sava.Dry Braking
The dry pavement test was won by Nokian, followed by Goodyear with a minimum gap. Yokohama, Leao, and especially, Nordman, have serious problems with braking in such conditions.Hydroplaning resistance
This discipline turned out to be a challenging one for several tires at once, including the premium brands, with Continental being the worst. At the same time, Goodyear showed quite decent results.
The Experts’ Feedback
1 Place: Continental VikingContact 7
VikingContact of the new generation was first presented last year, after which it scored the first places in several Scandinavian tests at once, including the one that was performed by VB, and the victory that it won this year is definitely no coincidence.
The Continental model worked great on ice; it was also among the leaders on snow. According to the expert team, these tires provide great handling response in emergency situations and provide dependable grip during sharp cornering. This model is also slightly prone to understeer but, aside from that, it will not bring you any surprises. VB also noted that, in spite of its softness, the tire demonstrated quite decent handling response in the dry, but on wet pavement it was not as good, because this Continental model was rather slow to drain water from the contact patch, which is further proved by the fact that it scored the last place in the straight aqua test.
2 Place: Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3
Tires of the famous Hakkapeliitta family deliver great bite on ice and snow, and VB said that arguably this is the tire that will bring you maximum driving pleasure on a winding winter road. The tires ensure a crisp steering response, and the traction threshold is quite predictable, meaning, these tires will not bring you any unpleasant surprises during sharp cornering.
The tire’s handling feedback on dry pavement was less than perfect but the elk test was something that the Nokian model handled with ease. On wet pavement, this tire performs better than Continental, and it also has a short braking distance. Generally, Nokian showed invariably well-balanced results in all of the disciplines.
3 Place: Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2
Goodyear is one of the few tire makers that offers tires with a noise canceling feature. The technology is called SoundComfort, and such features are often to be found in the summer tire segment. However, it also works quite well in the category of winter tires, and, according to experts, Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2, which used to be quiet enough as it was, now was quite able to claim the first prize in this discipline.
This tire also delivered quite convincing performance on asphalt, demonstrating, among other things, the highest hydroplaning resistance, which is something that Continental tires always seem to miss. On dry pavement, the Goodyear model also behaves in a stable and confident manner, and it must be noted that, although it is made of a rather hard compound, it also showed good results in winter conditions.
4 Place: Nokian Nordman RS2
The Nordman tire, which inherited it pattern from Nokian Hakkapeliitta R, has long been available retail, but it still keeps demonstrating good results in various tire tests. Of course, it does fall short of newer and more expensive Nokian models, including in terms of cornering grip and skid resistance in winter conditions.
The main downside of this tire is that Nordman is not really good for driving on asphalt. In the dry, braking distance was much too long, and the Nordman model was also prone to understeer. One way or another, thanks to the good results on snow and ice, Nordman is scoring a well-deserved fourth place.
5 Place: Sava Eskimo Ice
The highest points that the Sava tire scored was on dry pavement, where it works great in cornering and effectively drains the water from the contact patch to the sides. The tire also features a lightweight carcass, has low noise emission, and good handling response on dry pavement.
In terms of hardness of its tread compound, Sava almost came close to the tires of European type, which affected its winter performance. Its acceleration and braking were generally satisfactory, but there were obvious issues with lateral grip — so brace yourself for a sudden skid.
6 Place: Yokohama iceGUARD iG60
In this year’s test, the Yokohama tire was the only model with an asymmetric tread pattern, and, although its results were generally good, the tire did not earn any accolades. Driving on these tires, you will have to slow down when cornering; on asphalt, this tire generally stayed in the middle of the ranking. Yokohama has the longest braking distance on wet pavement and weak hydroplaning resistance — generally, its performance falls short of that of the leaders’.
7 Place: Continental WinterContact TS 860
Including a set of European tires into the test, VB wanted to remind its readers what makes the northern winter tires different. Tires of this category are engineered for maximum traction on wet pavement at temperatures around zero, so their performance on snow and ice was very weak. Fortunately, these tires warn the drivers about the traction threshold.
7 Place: Leao Winter Defender Ice I-15
The main competitive advantage of the Leao tire is, of course, its price, and, in addition, this tire performed rather well in the snow and ice tests, where they clearly outdid the European-type tires. In addition, the hardness of the tread compound is rather high, and the tire evacuates the water from the contact patch rather effectively.
Leao disclosed its true nature during the emergency maneuvers where it would lose grip on snow and ice for quite long periods of time; on dry pavement things were even worse, because its lateral stability is virtually nonexistent, and the goes into a skid even at low speeds. In addition, on wet pavement every turn would end up in a skid, and the Leao tires were pronounced to be the worst on test.