2016 - 2017 Passenger Car, Minivan and Compact SUV Winter Tire Reviews 

For this year's reviews, APA teamed up with Quebec's consumer authority on winter tires, Michel Poirier-Defoy and his associate Jean-François Guay, and our panel of expert tire retailers to bring you reviews that combine instrumented testing with real-world experience. Tires in this section are suitable for front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive passenger cars, compact sport utility vehicles, and minivans. Owners of rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive performance and luxury cars may prefer performance winter tires. Prices indicated are average for metropolitan market retailers in Montreal and Toronto, and include installation and balancing. Prices are a bit higher in Western Canada and the Maritimes. For average driving, with a mix of urban roads and highways, tires in the first three or even four ratings groups will likely be more than satisfactory.

Prices apply to the 205/55R16 size, which is suitable for compact cars like the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Corolla, and include installation and balancing. Tires are listed in alphabetical order within each ratings group. The APA has compiled a list of tiremaker rebates applicable with the purchase of a set of four tires; most of these promotions expire in mid-December 2015.

A small percentage of mostly rural drivers may be looking for studded tires. We have indicated models that are offered with factory European-style diamond-shaped studs. These are supposed to run more quietely and grip more effectively than conventional studs.

Funding to cover the costs of testing and preparing this report were provided by the Aftermarket Oil Filters Class Action Settlement [PDF]. If you're buying tires, participating APA Tire Retailers in Greater Toronto and Montreal are offering APA Members a $30 after-tax rebate on the purchase and installation of a set of four winter tires. Non-APA Members are also eligible for a $15 discount at participating retailers.

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Top Rated
Bridgestone
Blizzak WS 80
Price: $189

Bridgestone introduced the Blizzak line in the 1990s, the first tire to feature a special rubber compound that dramatically improved performance on ice. The WS 80 is the sixth generation of the Blizzak concept. Directional tire, optimized for snow and ice; compared to the WS 70 which this tire supercedes, the tread is a bit shallower and less aggressive, and provides improved braking on ice and better dry road performance. The WS 80 likely still offers better traction in slush than the Michelin X-Ice. Soft riding. Very good overall performance and predictability; a very good choice for severe conditions. Bridgestone reduced prices in Canada last year, and they are now slightly lower than Michelin. Mail-in rebate when you buy four tires.

Nokian
Hakkapelitta R2
Price: $209

This tire superceded the old Hakka R, Nokian's version of a non-studdable ice tire like the Blizzak WS 80. The ice braking champion in European tire tests. Confident braking. Sharper handling on pavement than the Hakka 8, reflected in the higher R speed rating; a good alternative for drivers of rear-wheel-drive sporty vehicles looking for a good balance of severe weather performance and decent handling on pavement. A factory road hazard warranty is included; it carries an administration fee when you make a claim. Some sizes available as runflat tires. Expensive, with a limited distribution network.

(The Hakkappelitta 8 accounts for a larger percentage of Nokian sales in Eastern Canada. Top tire for deep snow and poor winter weather, coupled with good ice traction. Tire noise is lower than the Hakkapeliitta 7 it replaced, which was noisy. Long wearing. Tire rotation is a must to ensure even wear. Expensive, about 25 percent higher than Toyo or Bridgestone, but it comes standard with a road hazard warranty; the warranty carries an administration charge and has limitations. Available with factory-installed studs and studdable by the retailer. Negatives are a high price, limited distribution network, and some sizes run out early.)

 
Very Good
Continental
WinterContact SI
Price: $170

This tire replaces the ExtremeWinterContact and offered superior grip in cornering and braking. It runs a bit more quietly than the ExtremeWinterContact. The tread design is now directional, which limits tire rotation options if they are wearing unevenly. The tread design of the new tire sticks more on ice and bites more in snow. Tire life may be lower, as the tread depth is down to just 10/32" when new. Offered in 33 tire sizes to fit most passenger cars and SUVs. Widely available. Prepaid Mastercard gift card when you buy four tires.

Continental's old ExtremeWinterContact may still be available at clearance prices. Optimized for ice and effective in snow, it was a favourite in testing conducted by Tire Rack, the big U.S. retailer, because of its superior handling and balanced all-around performance. Excellent value at the clearance price, if you can find it. 

Gislaved
Nord*Frost 100
Price: $165

Gislaved is a division of Continental Tire; this tire replaced the old Nord*Frost 5. Very good in snow, good on ice. The tread design is similar to the General Altimax Arctic; performance on dry pavement is a little more responsive than the Altimax Arctic. Can become noisy as it wears. A good choice for buyers looking for a tire available with European-style diamond-shaped factory studs.

Michelin
X-Ice Xi3
Price: $205

Among Consumer Reports’ preferred tires in testing because of its superior performance on wet and dry roads, and ride comfort. Optimized for ice and snow, this tire was among the favorites with tire dealers surveyed. Some consumers using the previous version of this tire reported that traction in slush was unimpressive, and that the shallow, conservative tread limits its traction in deep snow. Best-in-class performance on pavement. Quiet. Long wearing. Tricky mileage warranty requires the tires to be virtual banana peels before you can collect. Mail-in rebate when you buy four tires.

Pirelli
Ice Zero FR
Price: $157

The Pirelli Ice Zero FR (friction) provided superior snow traction and good steering control. Symmetric tread design with features in treadblocks that improve ice traction; this is the best general purpose passenger vehicle winter tire from Pirelli in years. The Ice Zero Studded is a different tire, available with factory studs. Made in Russia, well-priced. Pirelli was acquired by a Chinese conglomerate. Widely available.

Toyo
Observe GSi5
Price: $175

Tire optimized for deep snow and ice. One of the better choices even though it is not a distinguished performer on cleared or wet roads and can be noisier than average in some applications. APA's recommended tire retailers have a lot of experience with this tire and received good feedback. Superior durability due to the deep tread and long-wearing rubber compound. Well-suited for heavy vehicles. Superior rating from Consumer Reports on ice and snow, but ranked low overall because it performed poorly in their tests on wet and dry pavement. Mail-in rebate when you buy four tires.

 
Good
Dunlop
Winter Maxx
Price: $159

Asymmetric tread design, this tire is manufactured by tire giant Sumitomo of Japan. The tread compound is similar to the old Dunlop DS-3, and is not as sponge-like as the most advanced winter tires. Good performance on snow and ice traction. Long wearing. Offered in a large range of sizes. Canadian distribution is handled by Goodyear, which ensures good availability. Competitive price for a tire still made in Japan that features excellent manufacturing quality. Mail-in rebate on a set of four.

General
Altimax Arctic
Price: $155
Originally an American company, General Tire now belongs to Continental. Very good in deep snow, and competent overall performance at a competitive price. A bit less traction on ice than the top-rated tires. Long wearing, but tire noise can become noticeable as it wears. Tire rotation is important to reduce undulating tread wear. Can accept studs installed by the retailer. Low price. Prepaid Mastercard gift card when purchasing a set of four tires.
Hercules
Avalanche R-G2
Price: $149

Hercules is an independent tire brand that contracts out its research and development. Tires are sourced from manufacturers located in China, the United States and Europe, and compete mainly at the lower end of the market. The Avalanche R-G2 was a pleasant surprise; it's a relatively new tire manufactured in Russia under license from a top tier European tiremaker. The unidirectional tread provides good snow traction. The superior rubber compound for an independent label tire provides decent ice traction, though it's not quite as good as the brand-name original. Predictable handling on cleared roads. Predicted tire life is better than the average budget tire. Very good value at the low selling price.

Nokian
Nordman 5
Price: $160

The Nordman is Nokian's budget tire brand. Superior performance on uncleared roads in the Nokian tradition. Acceptable on ice. Predictable cornering and braking, with lower adhesion than the top-rated tires. Long wearing. A factory road hazard warranty is included; it carries an administration fee when you make a claim. Available with factory studs or studdable by a retailer. Limited distribution network.

Pirelli
Carving Edge
Price: $175

Pirelli's main-line Nordic snow tire, it's now a few years old. Predictable all-rounder that doesn't stand out for its performance on bad roads. Studdable. Relatively expensive -- better performance is available for the price. Mail-in rebate when you buy four tires.

Vredestein
SnowTrac 5
Price: N/A

Tire developed in conjunction with Giugiaro, the Italian design house better known for its work on automobiles. The SnowTrac 5 is a Euro-style winter tire, optimised for fast running on cleared roads, with good ice braking and cornering. Vredestein was originally a Dutch company but is now part of Apollo Tire, the Indian conglomerate. The SnowTrac 5 is still made in Holland. Very limited distribution; marketed to owners of European prestige automobiles.

Yokohama
Ice Guard IG52c
Price: $175

Yokohama offers two related winter tires, the IG52c (car) and IG51v (SUV). Now in its third year, this directional winter tire offers superior traction on ice and in slush. Soft riding. It handles more precisely on pavement than the Bridgestone WS 80, partly due to solid, circumferential grooves in the tread. Quiet, smooth riding. Average treadlife predicted. Mail-in rebate when you buy four tires.

 
Acceptable
BF Goodrich
Winter Slalom KSI
Price: $170

BF Goodrich is a former American company that has become Michelin’s second tier brand, This tire is a big improvement over the old Winter Slalom (pre-KSI). Predictable and fairly responsive in daily driving, but cornering and braking limits were not high. Fair ice traction. Fairly durable; tire rotation is important to ensure even wear. Compare prices with the corresponding Michelin Xi3 tire, which is occasionally cheaper in some sizes. Mail-in rebate when you buy four tires.

Firestone
Winterforce
Price: $151

Firestone is a former American tire company that now belongs to Bridgestone, the large Japanese tiremaker. Good deep snow traction; ice traction and handling on dry pavement are inferior to the similar General Arctic Altimax. The tire becomes noisy as it wears. Pricing no longer advantageous. Can accept studs installed by the tire retailer.

 
Goodyear
Ultra Grip Winter
Price: $139

The main advantage is the very low price, just above the private label Chinese make imports for a brand name tire. Aggressive tread for good snow traction. Mediocre on ice. Noisy. Will accept studs.

Hankook
Winter i*Pike RS
Price: $149

This tire has been on the market for a few years. Good snow traction, unexceptional in other conditions. Prices are similar to higher-rated tires. Mail-in rebate when you buy four tires.

Toyo
Observe G3 ICE
Price: $148

New lower-priced entry from Toyo. Acceleration and braking were undistinguished, cornering was very predictable. Available with factory-installed studs. Widely available.

 
Budget tires

A possible solution if you’re turning in your leased vehicle during its last winter, particularly if it is equipped with large original-equipment tires, where the savings can be substantial. Note that some lessors require a tire of like kind and quality as at delivery (except for tire wear, which can be “normal”), so check beforehand to ensure the tire will pass inspection when you turn the car in.

Eskay
Winter X
Price: $99

The Eskay Winter X was a somewhat of a surprise. Snow traction was good, and braking commendable. A lingering question is long-term quality, as Chinese manufacturers frequently change tire construction and tread composition without notice. Limited distribution.

GT Radial
Champiro IcePro
Price: $115

The GT Radial brand belongs to GiTi Tire of Indonesia. They're the 10th-ranked tiremaker in the world, and recently opened a plant in the United States. Made in China, the IcePro is a copy of the General Altimax Arctic tread design. Predictable tire, easy to control on snow and ice. Mediocre handling on cleared roads and noisy. The hard rubber compound is long wearing. Well-priced, especially in larger tire sizes. Very large range of tire sizes. Will accept studs. Among the private label tires in this section, the Champiro IcePro and Eskay Winter X appear to be the better values. Large distribution network.

Cooper
WeatherMaster ST-2
Price: $149
 

This tire is made in an old-style clamshell mould. Good traction in deep snow but performance on other surfaces lags. Reasonably durable. Pricing is high for the older technology and quality of tire. Studdable. Mail-in rebate when you buy four tires.

Goodyear
Nordic Winter
Price: $133
 

A lower-end snow tire offered exclusively at Canadian Tire and often on sale.The hard compound tread is relatively long wearing, but grip in cornering is mediocre and the tire can be unpredictable when it starts to slip. Will accept studs. Discount when purchasing a set of four.

MaxTrek
Trek M7
Price: $105

Mediocre and noisy. Available in a large range of sizes. Made in China by Zhaoqing Junhong Tire

Sailun
Ice Blazer WST1
Price: $90

The tire looks contemporary, but performance is mediocre. Can accept studs installed by the retailer. Identical to the Winter Claw Sport SXI.

Saxon
Saxon Snowblazer Passenger
Price: N/A
 

The private label importer has changed before; in the event of a large recall, there could be problems getting compensated. Made in China. Low prices.

Uniroyal
Tiger Paw Ice & Snow II
Price: $150

Michelin’s lowest-priced brand, this was among the cheapest winter tires from a major tire maker, but prices increased this year. Cornering and braking on snow and ice were undistiguished. In Canada, this tire is featured at General Motors dealers and usually well-priced when sold as part of a winter package. A redesign of the old Tiger Paw, the tread is now directional. Tire uniformity as it wears is an issue. Made in China.

 
Below Average
Hercules
HSI-S
Price: N/A

Hercules's entry-level tire for budget-conscious shoppers. Mediocre in all tests. Limited distribution.

Nexen
WinGuard 231
Price: N/A

Disappointing performance, due in part to a hard rubber compound that performed poorly on acceleration and in braking. The tire was unpredictable, and provided little feedback before slipping. Nexen is a Korean tiremaker; the WinGuard 231 is made in China.

WestLake
F606
Price: $105

Adequate performance on uncleared roads. Poor on ice. Noisy, fairly rapid wear. Will accept studs installed by the retailer. Made in China by Hangzhou Zhongce. Superceded in 2015 by the similar FW606.

 
Avoid
Jinyu
YW51 S
Price: $85

The Jinyu, manufactured by Shandong Tire in China, is offered in just 10 high volume sizes for cars and compact SUVs. Performance was substandard on takeoff, in corners and when braking. VERY low price.

Weathermate
HW501
Price: N/A

Weathermate is a private label import from SuTong China Tire sold through Walmart. The tire design looks promising, but performance was awful in testing. Walmart also carries the Weathermaxx line, as well as some recognisable name-brand tires.

 
All Weather Tires

Tires in this section carry the mountain and snowflake logo, which means that when new they are able to pass the traction test applicable to a dedicated snow tire. The tread is relatively aggressive compared to an all-season tire, to favour performance on uncleared roads. The rubber compound is harder and more heat resistant than a winter tire, to permit good year-round performance.

Nokian WRG3
WRG3
Price: $189
 

Ranked Very Good, this fairly new tire replaced the old WRG2. It is the best of the "All-Weather" year-round tires. A possible solution for the last two years of your lease, if your original snow and summer tires have all worn out. APA members who used the old WRG2 were pleased with its winter and summer performance, and tire life was good. Performance on snow is superior to many dedicated winter tires; the four-season rubber compound is likely a compromise on ice. Good handling on cleared roads, comparable to the best winter tires. A good choice for an all-wheel-drive vehicle if you're not prepared to bother with the spring and autumn changeover. Not enough long-term information to predict its durability in extended summer driving. Expensive. Popular on the Canadian West Coast as a tire for year-round use.

Hankook
Optimo 4S
Price: N/A
 

Ranked Acceptable, this tire is distributed primarily by Canadian Tire and suitable for the West Coast or for vehicles that spend an extended part of the winter south of the border. Traction in snow is fair when new. Insufficient data to predict tire life.

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