Originally published December 8, 2014

Review by Paul Williams, photos courtesy Paul Williams, Haney Louka (above) and manufacturers

It’s winter tire time again. For some, it’s an annual event: off with the all-seasons or dedicated summer tires, on with the winter rubber. For others, it’s decision time: either “What tire shall I buy?” or “Do I really need winter tires at all?”

Research indicates considerably better performance from winter tires in winter conditions: better starting, better cornering and perhaps most importantly, better stopping. So yes, we at Autos.ca recommend using winter tires in winter, although the argument can be made that milder places like Vancouver are perhaps special cases and the choice depends more on your driving habits (do you go to Whistler?).

To help with your decision, here are 16 popular tires from the major brands and some consumer comments about each of them. These tires come highly rated by owners according to sources like the US-based tirerack.com and Canadian-based 1010tires.com. Three of them are top-rated by Canada’s Automobile Protection Agency, which publishes a multi-brand survey on its website. And while doing your research, make sure you check the Autos.ca Winter Tire Review section as well.

Some tire models are targeted to specific vehicle types like large SUVs or pickup trucks, but most winter tires have applications across the range of passenger vehicles; you’re just as likely to find a Continental ExtremeWinterContact on a sedan as you are to find it on a crossover or a light truck. Your tire dealer can give you the details.

Finally, the Nokian WRG All Weather Plus is something of an outlier. It’s designed to be used all year long, but unlike all-season tires (the WRG is an “all-weather” tire, right?) this one wears the “severe service” mountain snowflake symbol from the Rubber Association of Canada. It’s a bona fide winter tire that you can even use in Quebec where winter tires are mandatory in the cold season. But, according to Nokian, you can use this tire all year, too. Interesting!

Winter Driving SceneBridgestone Blizzak WS70Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
Winter Driving, Bridgestone Blizzak WS70, Bridgestone Blizzak WS80. Click image to enlarge

Bridgestone Blizzak WS-70

Designed for slushy, snow-covered and icy roads. Flexible rubber compound improves the tire’s grip in cold conditions, while bite particles scratch at packed snow and icy surfaces for traction. For most vehicle types.

Owner Impressions
“Made my hybrid into an unstoppable tank. Everybody is stuck on hills and I drive through them,” says one owner. “Three seasons on this tire,” says another.

8.37/10 from 830 reviews at tirerack.com.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com, Costco and dealer locations in your area found on bridgestonetire.ca

Bridgestone Blizzak WS-80

This tire uses Bridgestone’s next generation NanoPro-Tech Multicell compound. 20 percent more block edges compared to WS70. For most vehicle types.

Owner Impressions
“I feel very confident driving in snow and ice with these tires.”

Limited reviews for the WS-80, which is new this year, but a top rated tire according to Canada’s Automobile Protection Agency (APA). Second best stopping distance from 20-0 km/h in tirerack.com’s winter tire test comparing four tires.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com, Costco and dealer locations in your area found on bridgestonetire.ca

Continental ExtremeWinterContact

Winter studless tire designed for excellent snow and ice traction. Performs superbly on dry and wet pavement in cold conditions.  For all passenger vehicle types plus light-duty pickup trucks and SUVs.

Owner Impressions
“Bought a set of these for the 2011/2012 winter season, now getting ready to buy another set. I drive 1,000 km a week,” says one owner.
“Quiet, smooth ride,” says another.

8.34/10, 385 reviews from tirerack.com; a top-rated tire from Canada’s APA.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com and dealer locations in your area found on continentaltire.ca

Cooper Weather Master S/T 2

Cooper’s premium studdable winter passenger tire designed for excellent traction on snow and ice. High traction tread design, patented “snow groove” design, “D Squared” sipe technology enhances winter performance while maintaining excellent wet traction.

Owner Impressions
From one owner: “Awesome tire, no complaints whatsoever; go anywhere, get out of my way kind of traction.”
“Excellent snow tire. They completely transformed my vehicle. With the Weather Masters, the vehicle goes just about anywhere,” says another.

4.3/5.0 from 1010.tires.com.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com and dealer locations in your area found on ca.coopertire.com

Dunlop Winter Maxx

Studless Ice and Snow tires enhance traction in slush, snow and ice. Sipes feature a three-dimensional interlocking zigzag design to promote snow and ice traction, dry road handling and even treadwear. For all passenger vehicles.

Owner Impressions
“Just the right balance between wet and snow conditions and very good performance with not too much noise.”

8.21/10 from tirerack.com

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires and dealer locations in your area found on goodyear.ca (Dunlop is owned by Goodyear)

Continental ExtremeWinterContactCooper Weather Master S/T 2Dunlop Winter Maxx
Continental ExtremeWinterContact, Cooper Weather Master S/T 2, Dunlop Winter Maxx. Click image to enlarge

Falken HS449 Eurowinter

New silica compound; more stability while running straight or turning at high speed. Improved traction and braking performance. Outstanding aquaplaning resistance and snow and wet performance. For all passenger vehicles.

Owner Impressions
“Fantastic tire, especially for the money,” says one user.
“Extremely impressive grip, cornering and braking, so far, on snow,” says another.

4.5/5.0 from user reviews on 1010tires.com.

Purchase at 1010tires.com, kaltire.com and dealer locations in your area found on falkentire.com

Firestone Winterforce

Directional, computer modeled tread design. Siped and studdable, high sipe density, three-dimensional tread patterns for confident snow, wet and ice traction. For all coupes, sedans, minivans.

Owner Impressions
“I live in Northern Ontario where we get a lot of snow and ice and the tires handle great in ALL conditions.”
From another owner: “A bit noisy… love these tires.”

4.0/5.0 stars from 1010tires.com.

Purchase at 1010tires.com and dealer locations in your area found on firestonetire.ca

General Altimax Arctic

Studdable tires use General Tire’s All-Weather Dual Tread compound molded into a tread design with a Centre Stability Rib. Designed for a full range of vehicles from coupes to sedans to SUVs and light duty trucks.

Owner Impressions
“I am on my fifth or sixth set of General Altimax Arctic tires. They are most excellent especially given the attractive price point,” says one owner (hopefully they have an attractive price point in Canada, too!).

A strong 8.47/10 from 1,233 reviews on tirerack.com.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com and dealer locations in your area found on generaltire.ca

Falken HS449 EurowinterFirestone WinterforceGeneral Altimax Arctic
Falken HS449 Eurowinter, Firestone Winterforce, General Altimax Arctic. Click image to enlarge

Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice and Ice WRT

Winter tire compound is molded into a directional tread design that enhances cold weather flexibility and helps evacuate water on wet and slush covered roads. A tire for superb winter traction, especially on ice. For all vehicle types.

Owner Impressions
“I’ve had no difficulty with any type of snow. Up hills, city streets, corners were all no problem,” says one owner.

Very good ratings of 8.73/10 from from tirerack.com reviews.

Purchase at 1010tires.com and dealer locations in your area found on goodyear.ca

Hankook Winter I*Pike RS

High performance studdable tire efficiently disperses water and slush; excellent traction on snow covered roads. Construction combines 3D tread grooves, longitudinal grooves and high-density sipes. Suitable for all passenger vehicles.

Owner Impressions
“These tires have proven to be one of the best investments I’ve ever made,” says one owner.
“First snowstorm in Quebec with icy conditions, these tires performed admirably with a high level of confidence,” says another.

4.2/5.0 rating from 1010tires.com.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com and dealer locations in your area found on hankooktire.ca

Michelin x-Ice Xi3

Michelin’s third generation studless ice and snow tire. For drivers looking for ice and snow traction with predictable handling on dry and wet wintry conditions. Silica based winter tread rubber compound offers firmness at higher temperatures but is flexible at lower temperatures to enhance snow and ice traction.

Owner Impressions
“Grip with authority; in my opinion Michelin made all the right compromises to create the perfect winter tire,” says one owner.

8.63/10 from 229 customer opinions on Tire Rack. A top rated tire from Canada’s APA. Shortest stopping distance 20-0 km/h in tirerack.com winter tire test.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com, Costco and dealer locations in your area found on Michelin.ca

Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice and Ice WRTHankook Winter I*Pike RSMichelin x-Ice Xi3
Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice and Ice WRT, Hankook Winter I*Pike RS, Michelin x-Ice Xi3. Click image to enlarge

Nokian WRG3 All Weather Plus

New to the market this year, here’s an alternative you may not know about. From Finnish winter tire superstar, Nokian, comes the WRG3 “all-weather” tire (that’s all-weather, not all-season, right?). This is a genuine winter rated tire (severe service or mountain snowflake symbol) accepted for use in Quebec where winter tires are mandatory, but you can also use it year-round. For cars, with a special model for SUVs. Targetted to people who may not live in areas of the severest winter conditions, this tire could save you time and money!

Owner Impressions
“Definitely the best winter tire in the world. Father of all winter tires. Storm of applause to NOKIAN!!!”

4.4/5.0 from 1010tires.com in reference to the Hakkepelliita 5. Nokian is a top-rated winter tire brand from Canada’s Automobile Protection Agency.

Purchase through kaltire.com and dealer locations in your area found on nokiantire.com

Pirelli Winter Carving Edge

Studdable winter tire developed for sports cars, coupes, sedans and minivans as well as SUVs and CUVs. Uses Pirelli’s Adaptive Compound Technology to blend winter performance with wear resistance.

Owner Impressions
“I casually passed everyone else here creeping along with inadequate tires. The feeling of confidence and control with these tires was priceless,” says one owner.

Highly rated 8.55/10 from 28 reviews on tirerack.com.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com, and dealer locations in your area found on pirelli.com/tire/ca/en/dealer

Nokian WRG3 All Weather PlusPirelli Winter Carving Edge
Nokian WRG3 All Weather Plus, Pirelli Winter Carving Edge. Click image to enlarge

Pirelli Scorpion Ice and Snow

This tire is targetted to light trucks, performance SUVs and high-performance rear-wheel drive cars. From Pirelli: Tread compound molded into a subtly asymmetric tread design that features a stable shoulder… circumferential grooves…and angled independent tread blocks.

Owner Impressions
“Cuts right though the snow and slush and seems to offer decent grip on glare ice. Coupled with AWD it’s like I’m driving a rally car,” says one enthusiastic owner.

High rating of 8.66/10 from 491 reviews on tirerack.com.

Purchase at Canadian Tire, 1010tires.com, and dealer locations in your area found on pirelli.com/tire/ca/en/dealer

Toyo Observe GSi-5

Unidirectional tread pattern and crushed walnut shells embedded in the tread compound dig and bite into the ice surface for improved ice traction. For passenger, light truck, SUV, CUV and van applications.

Owner Impressions
Says one owner, “First time Toyo tire owner. Extremely shocked. VERY good traction. Zero problems in deep snow, and in icy conditions. Stopping is amazing, and acceleration is great too. Best winter tire I have ever experienced on a RWD car.”

4.5/5.0 from 1010tires.com. Top rated tire from Canada’s APA.

Purchase at 1010tires.com and dealer locations in your area found on toyotires.ca

Pirelli Scorpion Ice and SnowToyo Observe GSi-5Yokohama Ice Guard iG52c
Pirelli Scorpion Ice and Snow, Toyo Observe GSi-5, Yokohama Ice Guard iG52c. Click image to enlarge
Related Websites:
Winter Tire Reviews on Autos.ca
APA Winter Tire Reviews
Tire Rack
Kal Tire

Manufacturer’s Website:
Canadian Tire
Cooper Tires
Dunlop Tires
Falken Tire
Hankook Tire
Michelin Tire
Nokian Tires
Toyo Tires

Yokohama Ice Guard iG52c

The iceGUARD iG52c is Yokohama’s Studless Ice & Snow winter tire developed for the drivers of compacts, coupes, sedans and vans. High-density compound; extra wide centre rib and large control blocks; slush grooves and circumferential power grooves.

Owner Impressions
From tirerack.com: “What I first noticed about the IceGuard tire is how great it is on hard packed snow. It really grips during cornering and stopping.”

A new tire with limited reviews.
4.2/5.00 from 1010tires.com. From Haney Louka at autos.ca: “Rates right up there with Nokian’s Hakkapeliita and Continental’s Extreme Winter Contact as one of the best all-around winter tires.”

Purchase at 1010tires.com, kaltire.com and dealer locations in your area found on yokohama.ca

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