Much like car manufacturers, tire makers are constantly experimenting and pushing boundaries. There are no longer only cars and trucks; we now have crossovers, 4-door coupes, and variations on both themes. The same goes for arguably the most important component on your vehicle.
Summer and winter tires are self-explanatory. All-season rubber can be as well, but some guidelines can be useful. Recently, we’ve come across all-weather tires that are a variation of the all-season.
Toyo’s philosophy on all-weather tires is that we see them as an alternative to all-season tires purchased in the spring. By comparison, Nokian positions their offering as an alternative to dedicated winter tires. Consider the compact Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and the Honda CR-V: same category, different abilities, but both meet in the middle.
According to Toyo, the Celsius is a true all-weather tire. It has been conceived for the occasional snowfall and general cold-weather conditions where the owner of the car chooses not to buy dedicated winter tires. Right away, this reads like these tires are no good for a large number of regions in Canada and northern portions of the U.S. As for their legality as a winter tire, where they are mandatory such as in Quebec, the Toyo Celsius tires sport a snowflake logo and thus are “legal.” But are they any good? Are they a true viable alternative?
Depending on where you live, the answer to both questions can be yes or no.
Toyo has positioned the Celsius between an all-season tire and a winter tire. How? With a tread design that provides better ice and snow traction than a typical all-season tire, as well as longer tread life than a winter tire. The truth is that, if you look at the tread pattern, only half of the contact patch is truly working for you, depending on road conditions.
The highlight of this tire during the cold season, over a dedicated winter tire, is the added stability afforded by the outside tread layout of its asymmetric design. The sipes are narrower and the tread blocks are closer together. Their effect is most notable on dry or wet roads, especially at speeds. Steering response is quicker and the car’s overall dynamics are improved.
Light snow is appreciably handled. Yes, forward traction was boosted by the fact that the Celsius tires were mounted on my all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX, but steering and stopping are far more important. In these situations, the lateral traction sipes and staggered tread blocks on the inside of the tire’s contact patch transmitted my inputs to the road with sufficient confidence.
The line is fine, however if the conditions are only slightly less clement, the tire’s inherent limitations are quickly met. A dusting of snow over a very cold surface quickly turns into ice under the repeated pressure and friction from the tires. On this slippery patch, even at very low speeds, I got little traction from the Celsius. This resulted in longer stopping distances than with a winter tire, but slightly shorter than with an all-season tire. The difference between the latter and the new Toyo is negligible.
Some conditions vary
This past winter, both Montreal and Toronto received a mild amount of snow. This is not atypical for Southern Ontario, however, and I’d have few worries about recommending the Celsius to the average urban commuter. If anything, this tire’s added “winter-helping” tread pattern and compound will give drivers almost everything they need. Those who travel north to the countryside may want to consider the Toyo GSi5, Garit or Open Country, depending on the application.
Here, purchasing a single set of tires makes sense, both financially and for safety purposes. Elsewhere in Canada, the situation is very different.
Real winter tires vs. all-weather tires
In Quebec, the Maritimes or New England, you should consider the latter three options over the Celsius. The rapidly changing conditions are too extreme for this all-weather tire ― more snow and ice or a mixture of ice, snow, dry and wet, which is not uncommon for our climate, will soon overwhelm the Celsius’ abilities.
Nokian’s WRG3 is designed to work harder in winter conditions while compromising performance in warmer and dryer driving situations. Its emphasis is the opposite of the Celsius’.
Of course, there are a number of other compromise tires available, especially in Europe. On the old continent, the majority of colder areas resemble those of Toronto or even Vancouver where severe winter conditions are fewer and farther between.
I suspect that this type of tire will grow in popularity as many car owners can simply not afford to depend on two sets of tires. These all-weather tires’ combination of decent grip at all times suffice for the majority of drivers.
In my personal case, nothing will replace a dedicated set of summer tires to go along with some serious winter tires.