The respected Russian automobile magazine tested 13 studless winter tires of the Nordic type, using a set of European-type tires for comparison.
List of models tested:
- BFGoodrich g-Force Winter 2
- Continental VikingContact 7
- Gislaved Soft*Frost 200
- Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2
- Hankook Winter i*cept iZ2 W616
- Marshal I*ZEN KW31
- Nexen Winguard ice Plus WH43
- Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3
- Nokian Nordman RS2
- Pirelli Ice Zero FR
- Sailun WinterPro SW61
- Toyo Observe GSi-6 HP
- Viatti Brina (V-521)
- Yokohama IceGuard IG60
The Za Rulem studless winter tire test 2020 chiefly involved medium-segment tires, such as Gislaved, Hankook, Marshal Nexen, Nordman, Toyo, and Yokohama; this category arguably includes Pirelli and Goodyear, whose prices have dropped due to the COVID-19 crisis. The premium segment was represented by Continental and Nokian models, the cheapest tires on test being the Russian Viatti and the Chinese Sailun. In addition, for the sake of comparison, the test included the BFGoodrich g-Force Winter 2 model of the European type, which performed outside of competition.
The ice and snow tests were conducted in the Finnish Lapland at the Nokian test facility, the test car being a Skoda Octavia.
The first ice test — acceleration and braking — was won by the Continental model, joined in the latter case by Goodyear. The least impressive performance was demonstrated by the Nexen model, and, quite expectedly, by the BFGoodrich tires, originally developed for a milder winter.
In the lateral grip test, the Continental model retained the leader’s status, closely followed by Goodyear; the worst tire in this area, in addition to BFGoodrich, turned out to be the Sailun model. As for the handling response on ice, the tire that impressed the test experts most of all was the Pirelli Ice Zero FR, which «smoothly and predictably breaks into slipping, and then stabilizes just as predictably, smoothly regaining grip. It even lets you control the car, which has just broken into sliding, by using both steering wheel and traction, which is not generally expected from friction models!» The most negative impressions were left by the Marshal model from Korea’s Kumho, and, mentioning the BFGoodrich tires, the experts said that, using them, one should drive on ice with extreme care.
On snow, the fastest tire to accelerate the car and bring it to a stop was the Nordman model, and the Continental tire, which demonstrated excellent performance on ice, could only catch up with it in the traction test. In addition, the Viatti model pleasantly surprised everyone with a short braking distance, and the worst performance was delivered by the cheap Sailun tire.
The snow handling tests were conducted in two modes — the basic and the active one. The former was won by the Continental and Pirelli models, followed by the BFGoodrich, Goodyear, Nokian, and Toyo tires, which did not evoke any gripes, yet fell obviously short of the leaders. The worst handling response was demonstrated by the Sailun tire, which did not score any points due to «nonexistent steering feedback» and «sudden abrupt skids». During the active driving test, the experts were only satisfied with the Continental model, which behaved predictably during the drifting, and last place was again scored by the Sailun model, about which one of the test pilots wrote in the test protocol «If an inexperienced driver goes into a skid on these tires, he or she is screwed!»
In the «elk» test, the experts evaluated how the tires behaved during abrupt lane switching on snow. The most reliable tire here was the Pirelli model, and the worst Sailun again. «With the first turn of the steering wheel, the car seems to be sliding outwards, but then, once your front wheels bite into snow, it ends up in a nasty skid. For a driver with medium experience, such surprises are downright dangerous!» — Za Rulem wrote.
The Pirelli model was the best in the road holding ability test, and, due to the delayed steering response, last place in this discipline was scored by Toyo. At the end of this part of the test, the traction of the tires in deep snow was evaluated, and the Continental and Nordman delivered the best results in such conditions, while the tires from the Korean Nexen performed the worst.
The asphalt tests were performed at the Nokian summer test track in the south of Finland in the first half of March under a temperature ranging from +2° to +6°C, the first discipline being road holding ability. The best tires in this area turned out to be the Goodyear and the Pirelli models, which quickly respond to the driver’s actions, demonstrating predictable behavior; the bottom lines of the tournament bracket were scored by Sailun and Viatti due to delayed handling response and lack of steering feedback. Speaking of the Viatti tires, the Za Rulem experts noted that «their main issue is slight yawing of the car while driving in a straight line You need to make frequent steering adjustments, and the driver quickly gets fatigued on a highway ride.»
The wet braking test was quite expectedly won by the BFGoodrich model, optimized specifically for such conditions. Its braking distance was almost 25% shorter than that of the Sailun model (came second), the bottom line of the tournament bracket occupied by Viatti. On a dry track, BFGoodrich again came first, but this time around its nearest pursuer — the Continental model — was only 3% behind, the bottom line occupied by Nexen.
The quietest tire on test turned out to be the premium-class Continental model, while the Marshal, Pirelli, Sailun, Toyo, and Yokohama models were a little bit noisier. However, the experts noted that these tires also ensure quite a decent level of acoustic comfort, which is generally deemed to be one of the undisputable advantages of studless tires. The smoothest ride was also provided by the Continental tires, while BFGoodrich, Toyo, and Yokohama absorbed the vibrations not as effectively. The rolling resistance was measured in laboratory conditions, and the best fuel savers turned out to be Sailun and Nokian, the worst — Nexen and Marshal. But then again, the difference in fuel consumption is only 0.2–0.3 liters/100km.
In the final standings, first place was scored by the Continental VikingContact, which showed itself to the best advantage on ice and ensured the quietest and smoothest ride on test. Its only limitation was insufficiently quick steering response during the elk test, but on the whole the Continental model showed excellently balanced performance, topped by great results on asphalt. Continental was followed by the just as well balanced Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3, which was the only tire on test that did not show a single weakness in any of the disciplines, and demonstrated particularly effective performance on snow and ice. The top three is completed by the Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2 model, which also demonstrated excellent results on all types of surfaces.
The fourth line of the tournament bracket was scored by the Pirelli IceZero FR, which demonstrated great handling performance in any conditions, yet lost a few points due to insufficient ride comfort and fuel efficiency. The top five also included the Hankook Winter i*Cept iZ2, about which Za Rulem noted that «this Korean brand year by year persistently breaks into the leading group and tries to gain a foothold in it». This time around, the Hankook model did indeed show good results in all of the test segments, yet it still fell short of the true market leaders.
The sixth line of the tournament bracket was occupied by the Nordman RS2, which ensured excellent longitudinal traction on snow, yet demonstrated only average performance on asphalt. This model was followed by the Yokohama IceGuard IG60, which had a number of issues, such as a relatively long dry braking distance, weak lateral grip on ice, and poor riding comfort.
The best-balanced tire on test, according to the experts, was the Gislaved Soft*Frost 200, which showed balanced results in all of the disciplines, from ice traction to fuel efficiency, yet ultimately scored only eighth place. Then follows the Toyo Observe GSi-6 HP, whose performance is close to that of the Yokohama model, yet without any prominent issues; the 10th place was scored by the Sailun Winterpro SW61 that demonstrated poor performance on ice and still worse on snow. This tire almost redeemed itself on asphalt, albeit not without gripes again, because its road holding ability still has room for improvement. At the same time, the tires from this Chinese brand will help you to cut down a little on fuel consumption.
The Marshal I’Zen KW31 was only able to score the 11th line of the tournament bracket — this tire demonstrated average performance in all areas and high rolling resistance. Its only two strong sides were acceptable handling response on snow and road holding ability on asphalt, while its handling response on ice was described as «appaling». This tire is also slow to stop the car on wet pavement. «Driving on ice on these tires, you must go real slow, keep the ESP on, and stay away from the snow drifts» — the Za Rulem experts noted.
The Viatti Brina (12th place) was the leader in snow braking, yet at the same time it showed average handling response on a snow covered surface when the pilot switched to an aggressive driving style. Compared to the Marshal model, the Viatti Brina had longer stopping distances on asphalt, but better riding comfort and fuel efficiency.
The tire that came last was the Nexen WinGuard Ice Plus, whose only strong side was surprisingly good ride comfort. Otherwise, the tires from this Korean brand demonstrated prominently weaker traction in any of the offered conditions; they are totally useless on ice, and driving on these tires you must be particularly careful.
As for the BFGoodrich g-Force Winter 2, this model, just as a European tire should, is great on asphalt, yet on ice it delivers traction so poor that the experts returned the verdict «not recommended». In the conditions of Russia, tires of this class are only suitable for large cities, where they clear the streets regularly, as well as for the southernmost regions of the country.
Za Rulem uses its own method of calculating just how fairly the tires are prices, proceeding from the test results, and this time around the most overpriced models turned out to be the Nexen and the Nokian tires, while the most attractive price was offered by Sailun and Viatti.
Test results1st place: Continental / VikingContact 7
- Great traction on ice and dry pavement
- Excellent traction and outstanding handling response on snow
- Minor gripes on handling response during the elk test
2nd place: Nokian / Hakkapeliitta R3
- Excellent grip in any conditions
- Best fuel efficiency
- Reliable handling response on snow and ice
3rd place: Goodyear / UltraGrip Ice 2
- Very short braking distance on ice
- Excellent lateral grip on ice and excellent braking performance on wet pavement
- Lack of steering feedback during emergency maneuvers on snow
4th place: Pirelli / Ice Zero FR
- Excellent braking performance, crisp steering response, and good road holding ability on snow
- Rather noisy
- Increased fuel consumption
5th place: Hankook / Winter i*cept iZ 2 W616
- No handling issues on snow during active driving
- Decent traction and road holding ability on snow
- Slightly fuzzy road holding ability on asphalt
6th place: Nokian / Nordman RS2
- Best longitudinal performance on snow
- Good snow traction
- Great handling response on snow and ice
- Minor gripes on road holding ability on asphalt, and minor gripes on ride comfort
7th place: Yokohama / iceGUARD iG60
- Crisp road holding ability on snow
- Decent handling response on ice and snow
- Poor lateral grip on ice, poor braking performance on dry pavement
- Average riding comfort
8th place: Gislaved / Soft*Frost 200
- Excellent braking performance on dry pavement
- Decent handling response on ice and snow
- Alarming behavior during emergency maneuvering on snow
9th place: Toyo / Observe GSi-6 HP
- Informative handling response on snow
- Decent road holding ability on asphalt
- Keeping the course on snow can be tricky
- Average riding comfort
10th place: Sailun / WinterPro SW61
- Best braking performance on wet pavement, good fuel efficiency
- Decent road holding ability on snow
- Worst longitudinal traction on snow
- Snow handling issues
11th place: Marshal / I'Zen KW31
- Decent road holding ability on asphalt
- Poor longitudinal traction on snow, poor lateral grip on ice
- Ice handling issues
12th place: Viatti / Brina
- Best braking performance on snow
- Average braking performance on ice
- Reasonably smooth ride
- Worst braking performance on wet pavement
- Issues with road holding ability on asphalt, issues with snow and ice handling
13th place: Nexen / Winguard Ice Plus
- Decent road holding ability on snow, decent handling response during the elk test, smooth ride
- Very weak grip on snow and ice
- Worst braking performance on dry pavement
- Worst environmental performance
14th place: BFGoodrich / g-Force Winter 2
- Best braking performance on asphalt
- Good handling response and crisp road holding ability on snow
- Weak longitudinal traction on snow
- Weak traction and appalling handling response on ice