Auto123.com presents its winter tire buying guide for 2020-2021. Today, winter tires for cars.
2020 has been the year of COVID-19 and tons of debate about the coronavirus - but one thing is certain: there’s no avoiding the winter that’s fast approaching. Very soon, it will be time to have your winter tires mounted. For many folks, it’s time to to buy new winter tires or change their old ones that are starting to wear out.
Once again, there's a whole range of winter tires on the market, each claiming to be the best. However, despite all the good promises, it's important to know which type of tire will work best not only for your vehicle but also for your travel needs.
Frankly, in this very odd year we didn’t expect many new products in the domain this fall, but we were surprised to discover several changes in tire manufacturers' catalogues. One development has to do with consumers turning in increasing numbers to so-called "all-season" tires, but which dealers prefer to call "winter-approved", or else “homologated”.
These winter-approved tires can be used in both winter and summer, logically enough. For some, it's a type of all-season tire that displays the winter-approved logo (the snowflake in a mountain silhouette) on the sidewall; for others, it's a winter tire with a stronger rubber compound that was created to withstand the heat of summer.
In addition, some manufacturers have chosen to change the name of their product lines. Some models have been renewed or improved.
Beyond the price
Before choosing a tire, it’s wise to look beyond just the price. Obviously, many motorists will opt for a very economical winter tire. But before you go for the bargains, you need to know what type of tire will be best for your driving habits and your vehicle.
I can't say it often enough: Your safety and the safety of your passengers depend on four points of contact on the ground that are barely larger than the palm of your hand. Think about that when you're driving at 110-120 km/h.
Another problem is that while some low-end tires, especially those from China or other Asian countries, are starting to catch up and are recommendable, not all of them are. Yes, price is an important factor, but will they live up to your needs?
A fairly recent phenomenon is consumers choosing to buy tires online. There are certainly savings possible when doing so. But I prefer to refer people who come to me to brick-and-mortar tire retailers who can guide them in their choices. And, believe me, they have a lot more expertise than some of the big-box-store clerks!
Another important question: isn't it too early to install winter tires? In a word, no! In October, temperatures can drop quickly and suddenly. Regular all-season tires lose their elasticity around 7 degrees Celsius. It’s at this level that winter tires become a valuable ally. Then, with cold and intense rain, the large grooves of winter tires ensure a better flow and faster dispersion of water.
If you prefer studded tires, even if they’re allowed to be installed early in the season (and removed later), it’s best to consult local laws because in some places (such as underground parking lots) they may be prohibited.
Here then is a guide to the best winter tires for cars and small SUVs available on the market, not necessarily in order of preference. This guide should help you identify the type of winter tire that will best meet your needs - and your budget!
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9, R3 andt Nordman 7
Despite being carry-over products, Nokian's winter tires remain a kind of standard-setter that other manufacturers measure themselves against. Nokian's Hakkapeliitta 9 is available in a regular or factory-studded version. It’s not a cheap tire, but this Finnish product has enviable qualities. It’s good in snow and solid on ice, and it has a proven track record.
The R3 version of this same tire has been, for the last few years, the reference for rubber tires designed for both asphalt and icy surfaces, with characteristics and performance rivaling those of studded tires.
Finally, the Nordman 7 is no more and no less than the old version of the Hakkapeliitta 7 from a few years ago, the same model that led to the development of the current Hakkapeliitta 9. It’s less expensive but almost as efficient - a good choice for the motorist with a limited budget who’s still looking for advanced technology. Its ratings regarding wear and tear are as strong as those of the competition.
Note that Nokian has its own winter-approved all-seasons tire, the WR G4 of European origin which, according to its manufacturer, is a winter tire with a rubber compound created for summer use in North America. If you opt for a tire in this category, it would be the most recommendable.