- Helping you drive happy

Overview of Winter Tires for 2016-2017

In collaboration with Mathieu St-Pierre

The first few snowflakes appeared and thermostats inched closer to the freezing mark in Canadian cities this past week{C}{C}{C}sure signs that winter is at our doorstep.  

What to do regarding winter tires should therefore be at the top of your list of priorities as a responsible car owner. 

With the help of the experts at, here then are the pros and cons of selected brands and models of 2016-2017 winter tires. The price estimates you see are based on tires sized P205/55R16, which are widely used by carmakers.

For a budget between $100 and $150 and for conventional usage driving mainly in the city at lower speeds.

  • - Champiro IcePro (compatible with studs) and WinterPro – Excellent value (without a doubt the best Chinese-made winter tire on the market).
  • - Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter – Good performance on thick snow and slush;  compatible with studs.

For a budget between $150 and $200 and for drivers wanting better performance, who drive often on snowy and icy roads.

  • - Toyo GSi-5 – Microbit technology; deep and durable tread surface; very effective on snow and slush. It’s also very quiet.
  • - Yokohama Ice Guard IG52 – Equivalent to the Bridgestone Blizzak; a good all-around tire; softer rubber; offers a quiet ride.
  • - Pirelli Winter Ice Zero FR – Reasonably priced; a rubber that adapts to temperature changes (softer in colder conditions, firmer as the temperature rises); not compatible with studs; very quiet ride; good adherence overall; but Pirelli is often criticized for the premature wear of its tires.
  • - Dunlop Winter Maxx – Good value; performs well on thick snow and on slush.
  • - Continental WinterContact SI – A new tire, replacing the ExtremeWinterContact; expect strong overall performance (snow, ice and slush). It’s also quite durable.

Best winter tires for over $200

  • - Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 – Aggressive tread pattern; Better adherence on snow than its predecessor the R model (the Hakkapeliitta 7 and new 8 are also good choices). The Nokian is pricy, although my personal experience driving a number of cars equipped with Nokian tires over the years has shown me they deliver for the price. In fact, if you look around the parking lot at a ski hill, you’ll see just how popular this Finnish brand is.
  • - Bridgestone LM-32 (performance) – Aggressive tread pattern; V speed rating; better on thick snow than the Dunlop, but a little pricier.
  • - Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 – Soft and quiet rubber; excellent overall performance.
  • - Michelin X-Ice Xi3 – Very strong road performance; feels like an all-season tire; strong performance despite a shallower tread pattern.

Studded winter tires
Many drivers swear by studded winter tires. It’s important to keep in mind that metal studs produce quite a bit of noise and affect driving comfort. What’s more, they don’t improve performance very much on dry or snowy road surfaces. Where they shine is on ice, a surface on which no non-studded winter tire can hope to match them for grip and overall performancejust ask any rally driver. All the same, beware when driving on studded tires on dry asphalt or concrete during frigid conditions, as they’ll be as slippery as any all-season tires.

Run-flat winter tires
These specialized tires, required for several BMW, MINI and Mercedes-Benz models, cost over $200 apiece. Depending on the size and the application, consider Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin and Nokian (Hakkapeliitta). You’ll want to plan early if you plan on buying a set of these tires, however, as supply is often short and you may be forced to leave your car in the garage while your tire centre waits for delivery of your tires.

Buying winter tires is certainly a complex and costly exercise, and one that can vary wildly from one merchant to another. It’s in your interest to consult with a genuine tire specialist, who can advise you properly and honour tire warranties. To make sure you get attentive service, I recommend calling to make an appointment before visiting the tire centre. Your advisor will be at your full disposal to answer all your questions. As for the budget you’re ready to allot to your purchase, avoid letting price be the sole factor in your decision. Remember that your purchase of winter tires is an important investment. Their cost is spread over a number of years and kilometres of driving, and choosing the right tires will ensure you benefit from the performance and safety you need and expect. Happy driving this winter!