Za Rulem 2020: Studded Winter Tire Test

A review based on materials provided by Za Rulem magazine

The first of two winter tire tests of the season 2020/2021, conducted by the expert team of the Russian publication Za Rulem, was dedicated to studded tires in size 215/65 R16, designed to be fitted on compact CUVs.

The experts carefully examined the winter performance of 14 tire sets, with a traditional for this publication reservation that the tires were obtained directly from the manufacturers, which left room for manipulation from the latter.

Test Discipline: Snow Handling. Source: Za Rulem.
Test Discipline: Snow Handling. Source: Za Rulem.

The test lineup turned out to be extremely diverse: the tire models differed not only price-wise, but also in terms of the stud amount (ranging from 100 to 205), the exposure of the «spikes» above the tread (from 0.6mm to 1.5mm), as well as construction-wise (six reinforced SUV tires vs eight passenger ones). The bigger half of the tested tires (8 out of 14) was manufactured in Russia, and three others in China. Only the three remaining sets were made in Germany, Malaysia, and South Korea. Below, you can find out how all of these factors affected the test results.

List of studded winter tires tested:

The test car was a Volkswagen Tiguan. The «white» tests were performed at the Nokian Tyres test facility north of the Arctic Circle; the «asphalt» disciplines were conducted at the summer test facility of the same northernmost tire maker near the city of Nokia. As the test experts noted, after the tests were over, all of the tires retained their studs.

Results of the Za Rulem tire test 2020

«Outstanding tires for any conditions»

The victory in the Za Rulem test 2020 was shared by the winter tires Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV and Continental IceContact 3 — although differently biased and having different performance balance, these two tire models scored an equal number of points — 908. The Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV tire model is generally sturdier; it was able to surpass its rival in straight ice grip, falling slightly short otherwise.

Za Rulem studded winter tire test 2020, size 215/65 R16. Result summary, places 5–1.
Za Rulem studded winter tire test 2020, size 215/65 R16. Result summary, places 5–1. Click to enlarge.

The German-made Continental tires turned out to be almost the best-balanced on test, demonstrating outstanding results both on snow and on different kinds of pavement. In addition, the list of this model’s achievements includes good ride comfort and low rolling resistance. And, better yet, this tire turned out to be the lightest one on test, weighing only 10.7 kg, which is 1.5 kg lighter than the Nokian model, the heaviest one on test.

Quick Take
88 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 Za Rulem test group recommends both models without any restrictions pertaining to driving conditions.

ContiFlexStud Technology
ContiFlexStud Technology


An important fact that came up when the winners of this test were announced, was the absence of the Michelin X–Ice North 4 model from the lineup, which last year scored the first place in a similar Za Rulem tire test.

In addition, the Continental IceContact 3 victory is somewhat tainted by the recent scandal connected with the «innovative studs» that were used in 2019–2020 on tires starting from the 17-inch fitting diameter and higher. The rubber studs ContiFlex, which were used in the Continental IceContact 3 tires, turned out to be unreliable, and the consumers were often faced with poor stud retention and consequent loss of studs.

Due to this, the tire maker suspended the manufacture of tires equipped with ContiFlex studs, while the Vi Bilägare publication called off the results scored by Ice Contact 3 in its tire test. Premature loss of studs was also recorded by the test experts of Teknikens Värld.

«Good winter tires»


The third step of the pedestal was occupied by the Hankook W429 Winter i*Pike RS2 (881 points). This tire demonstrated a few of the features that are inherent to the Nokian: a stronger bias towards snow and ice, rather than asphalt. At the same time, if we are to make a direct comparison between the behavior of the W429 and HKPL9 SUV tire models on an ice-covered surface, the latter definitely prevails. An extra bonus of the Winter i*Pike RS2 is its fuel-saving performance.

The Nokian Nordman 7 SUV tire model (880 points) came fourth. Its balance and overall temperament have a lot in common with those of its «bigger sister», Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV, but its ice grip is weaker, which is explained by a smaller number of anti-skid studs (130 vs 172).

The Yokohama IceGuard iG65 (873 points) occupied the fifth line of the tournament bracket. Its indisputable advantages are great mobility and outstanding snow traction. On asphalt, the IG65 is quite capable of competing with the IceContact 3, but when it comes to ice tests, this model’s performance is just a little above avegage.

The ranking of studded winter tires 2020/2021 by Za Rulem magazine, size 215/65 R16. Result summary, places 10–6.
The ranking of studded winter tires 2020/2021 by Za Rulem magazine, size 215/65 R16. Result summary, places 10–6. Click to enlarge.

The winter tire that demonstrated the best wet braking performance and the best acceleration on snow, the Gislaved Nord Frost 200 SUV (870 points), came sixth. At the same time, the Za Rulem test experts commended this model as the perfect option for urban driving, where the roads are generally cleared from snow and ice.

The seventh line of the tournament bracket was occupied by the well-balanced tire model «Formula Ice» by Pirelli (858 points), currently owned by the Chinese equity. This tire performed at its absolute best in the handling tests on snow, yet its road holding ability on asphalt clearly had room for improvement.

The entire «big five» of the recommended studded tires has no restrictions from the test group because no prominent issues were found with any of these models.

«Conditionally recommended»


The group of just-above-average tires was headed by a quite controversial Chinese development, Sailun Ice Blazer WST3 (825 points), which scored the eighth place in the final standings. On the one hand, it demonstrated good road holding ability on asphalt, as well as good fuel-saving performance, and also was quite a serious rival to the top tire models when it came to ride comfort. However, the results of the Ice Blazer WST3 in «white» disciplines fell below the average level, and, as it turned out, snow was just not its thing. On the whole, these tires are OK, but if you drive on them on snow or ice, you’d better not hurry up!

Sailun IceBlazer WST3
Sailun IceBlazer WST3

The ninth line of the tournament bracket was occupied by the BFGoodrich g-Force Stud (822 points), which turned out to be even less balanced than the Sailun tires. In spite of its efficient braking and road holding ability on snow, decent handling response on ice-covered surfaces, and low rolling resistance, on bare pavement this tire model demonstrated the worst performance of all. Its ride comfort also wasn’t anything special, yet still, despite all of this, the test group of Za Rulem did not impose any restrictions on the use of this tire.

The tire that scored the tenth line in the tournament bracket of the studded winter tire test 2020 was the Cordiant SnowCross 2 SUV model (816 points), due to poor pavement braking, low traction, and increased rolling resistance, with low riding comfort on top. At the same time, though, the test experts were quite impressed with the crisp steering response ensured by this tire on «white» test facilities, which constituted a minor triumph.

Za Rulem studded winter tire test 2020, size 215/65 R16. Result summary, places 14–11.
Za Rulem studded winter tire test 2020, size 215/65 R16. Result summary, places 14–11. Click to enlarge.

The eleventh line of the tournament bracket was scored by the Toyo Observe IceFreezer SUV (814 points), which, aside from crisp steering response and good road holding ability on bare pavement, had little to brag about — its results in the other tests disciplines were quite poor. As it turned out, the Toyo tire did not have bias towards any particular kind of pavement but you’d better still avoid high-speed driving on these tires. In long-distance trips on clear roads, you will enjoy the Observe IceFreezer SUV’s road holding ability.

The twelfth place, scored by the Chinese tire model Triangle PS01 Icelink Sport Utility (801 points), which failed virtually every snow and ice test, comes as no surprise at all. The testers recommend driving on these tires very carefully, keeping your car electronics on. At the same time, on snow the Triangle tires demonstrated an excellent result.

Triangle Icelink Sport Utility PS01
Triangle Icelink Sport Utility PS01

The Viatti Bosco Nordico tire model (800 points) in the thirteenth position completed the group of «average» studded tires. Its snow performance was even rated as «decent» by the experts, but on ice this tire was a bummer — very weak grip, even though the tire’s behavior was still predictable.

In the local race between the two Russian tire brands, Cordiant and Viatti, for who jumps higher up from the bottom line of the tournament bracket, the former wins again. In 2020, Viatti traditionally scored the last-but-one place, and only thanks to an obviously substandard Chinese tire.

«Bad. Very bad»

The outsider of the test, the DoubleStar WinterKing DW07 (754 points) fell behind the Viatti product by 46 points! The tire definitely could not perform to its proud name of «Winter King». The worst snow and ice grip — that’s out of order, folks! On the other hand, surprisingly, on asphalt it can be quite a match for the top tires. But for snowy and frosty winters DoubleStar definitely cannot be recommended.

And what about the price?

The layout of «fair» prices, compiled by the Za Rulem test experts, helps calculate just how much value you are getting for your money purchasing this or that studded model.

If you are choosing the tires from the economy segment, the optimum choice for you will be the Formula Ice model. And the worst model on test — the DoubleStar WinterKing DW07 — is hideously overpriced by 13%! Even in spite of the fact that this is not the most expensive tire of the test.

DoubleStar DW07
DoubleStar DW07

In the mid-segment, the best economy (11%) is promised by the Gislaved Nord Frost 200 SUV, while the market price of the Toyo Observe IceFreezer SUV is 16% higher than the «fair» one.

Speaking of the top tires, you cannot really save up with them. And, while the Continental IceContact 3 is 9% overpriced, for the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV you will have to pay the whooping extra 21%!