2021 Studless and Studded Winter Tire Test

If you live in a part of the world that sees an extreme winter such as the Northern USA, Canada, and the Northern parts of Europe, you'll know that regular central European winter tires just don't cut it. 

Winters which see snow on the roads for many months and lots of ice need extreme winter tires, and there are two types to choose from. The original is the studded winter tire, a tire which has studs (pieces of metal) inserted into the soft winter compound allowing the tire to really bite into the snow and ice below. 

Sadly, as great as studs are, they're damaging to the roads which is why tire companies invented a category of winter tire called studless friction winter tires. While these don't have studs, they do have a vastly improved ability on snow and ice when compared to a "normal" winter tire, and with advances in compounding technology they are quickly becoming an excellent alternative for all but the most extreme climates.

To find out which of these are best, and to see the difference between studded winter tires and studless friction winter tires, the excellent testers at the Finnish magazine Tekniikan Maailma have tested nine studded winter tires and seven studless winter tires in the same test, all in 205/55 R16, to show us the differences in the dry, wet, snow and ice performances! 

Unfortunately our website doesn't currently allow us to highlight which tire is studded and which is a friction winter tire, it's marked in the results at the bottom of the page which is the best we could do, sorry!

The tires on test are

StuddedFriction Studless
▪ Bridgestone Noranza 001
▪ Continental IceContact 3
▪ Goodyear UltraGrip Arctic 2
▪ Hankook Winter I*Pike RS2
▪ Kumho WinterCraft Ice Wi32
▪ Michelin X-Ice North 4
▪ Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10
▪ Pirelli Ice Zero 2
▪ Westlake IceMaster Spike Z-506
▪ Continental VikingContact 7
▪ CST Medallion Winter
▪ Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2
▪ Hankook Winter I*Cept IZ2
▪ Kumho WinterCraft Ice Wi51
▪ Michelin X-Ice Snow
▪ Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3

Studded VS Friction Winter Tires

The differences between the two categories of tire are certainly interesting, and even a little surprising in parts.

Starting with ice, in every ice test all the studded tires out performed all the friction tires by a reasonable margin, this is not surprising.

In the snow, the two types of tire were essentially even, with the first seven places of snow handling alternating between studded and friction! If one type of tire had to win, it would be the studded tire, but the margin was almost nothing.

In the dry and wet, the CST friction tire out performed the pack, but but given it's poor performance on snow and ice it's probably because its design is more of a central european winter tire intended for milder climates. Dry braking had nearly all the tires separated by just one meter with a small advantage to the studs where as wet braking had larger margins with a small advantage to the friction tires.

Unsurprisingly, the studless friction tires were all considerably quieter than the studded tires, and on average had a lower rolling resistance.

See below for the full data and the overall results at the bottom of the page.

Dry & Wet

Snow

Ice

Environment

Results

1st: Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10

Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking5th+2 M93.63%
Wet Braking12th+7 M80.5%
Wet Handling5th+1.8 s94.9%
Snow Braking8th+0.9 M98.25%
Snow Traction10th+0.2 s96.61%
Snow Handling7th+1 s98.12%
Ice Braking1st100%
Ice Traction1st100%
Ice Handling1st100%
Subj. Noise8th-3 Points
Price15th+350 46.15%
[Studded] The new tire from Nokian is excellent on ice, feeling predictable and calm with direct steering, good in the snow and good dry braking distances.
Average wet braking.

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1st: Continental VikingContact 7

Continental VikingContact 7
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking13th+2.4 M92.45%
Wet Braking6th+4.9 M85.5%
Wet Handling11th+2.1 s94.1%
Snow Braking5th+0.5 M99.02%
Snow Traction4th+0.1 s98.28%
Snow Handling2nd+0.4 s99.24%
Ice Braking11th+9.6 M79.13%
Ice Traction10th+1.5 s70.59%
Ice Handling10th+10.9 s83.23%
Subj. Noise1st
Price12th+300 50%
[Friction] Very good on ice and snow.
Poor wet performance.

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2nd: Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2

Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking13th+2.4 M92.45%
Wet Braking3rd+4.6 M86.27%
Wet Handling7th+1.9 s94.63%
Snow Braking8th+0.9 M98.25%
Snow Traction1st100%
Snow Handling4th+0.8 s98.49%
Ice Braking12th+10.1 M78.28%
Ice Traction12th+1.8 s66.67%
Ice Handling12th+12.5 s81.23%
Subj. Noise2nd-1 Points
Price7th+200 60%
[Friction] Easy to drive on snow with good levels of grip, good ice performance.
Poor dry performance.

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2nd: Goodyear UltraGrip Arctic 2

Goodyear UltraGrip Arctic 2
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking12th+2.3 M92.74%
Wet Braking10th+6 M82.81%
Wet Handling5th+1.8 s94.9%
Snow Braking1st100%
Snow Traction1st100%
Snow Handling2nd+0.4 s99.24%
Ice Braking2nd+1.5 M96.04%
Ice Traction4th+0.3 s92.31%
Ice Handling3rd+1 s98.19%
Subj. Noise8th-3 Points
Price8th+250 54.55%
[Studded] Best in test on snow, excellent on ice, good handling in all conditions.
Average dry braking.

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3rd: Michelin X Ice North 4

Michelin X Ice North 4
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking4th+1.7 M94.53%
Wet Braking15th+8.4 M77.48%
Wet Handling15th+2.7 s92.54%
Snow Braking3rd+0.4 M99.22%
Snow Traction4th+0.1 s98.28%
Snow Handling1st100%
Ice Braking3rd+2.4 M93.81%
Ice Traction3rd+0.2 s94.74%
Ice Handling2nd+0.4 s99.27%
Subj. Noise8th-3 Points
Price15th+350 46.15%
[Studded] Best in snow handling, good on ice, good dry braking.
Slow wet handling and long wet braking, expensive.

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3rd: Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3

Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking11th+2.2 M93.04%
Wet Braking2nd+3.4 M89.47%
Wet Handling8th+2 s94.37%
Snow Braking3rd+0.4 M99.22%
Snow Traction4th+0.1 s98.28%
Snow Handling6th+0.9 s98.31%
Ice Braking14th+13.1 M73.54%
Ice Traction14th+2 s64.29%
Ice Handling11th+11.7 s82.22%
Subj. Noise2nd-1 Points
Price8th+250 54.55%
[Friction] Good in all winter conditions, low rolling resistance.
Poor dry drivability.

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4th: Pirelli Ice Zero 2

Pirelli Ice Zero 2
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking2nd+0.5 M98.33%
Wet Braking4th+4.7 M86.01%
Wet Handling12th+2.2 s93.84%
Snow Braking6th+0.8 M98.44%
Snow Traction1st100%
Snow Handling4th+0.8 s98.49%
Ice Braking7th+5.4 M87.08%
Ice Traction4th+0.3 s92.31%
Ice Handling9th+8.6 s86.28%
Subj. Noise8th-3 Points
Price8th+250 54.55%
[Studded] Best snow traction in test, short dry and wet braking.
Slowest studded tire in ice handling, average wet handling.

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4th: Michelin X Ice Snow

Michelin X Ice Snow
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking6th+2.1 M93.33%
Wet Braking14th+7.2 M80.06%
Wet Handling8th+2 s94.37%
Snow Braking13th+1.7 M96.75%
Snow Traction10th+0.2 s96.61%
Snow Handling12th+1.3 s97.57%
Ice Braking10th+8 M81.98%
Ice Traction11th+1.6 s69.23%
Ice Handling13th+14.5 s78.86%
Subj. Noise2nd-1 Points
Price12th+300 50%
[Friction] Very good ice grip, stable driving in all winter conditions.
Poor handling in the dry.

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5th: Bridgestone Noranza 001

Bridgestone Noranza 001
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking6th+2.1 M93.33%
Wet Braking13th+7.1 M80.28%
Wet Handling14th+2.3 s93.58%
Snow Braking10th+1.3 M97.5%
Snow Traction4th+0.1 s98.28%
Snow Handling8th+1.1 s97.94%
Ice Braking4th+2.6 M93.33%
Ice Traction2nd+0.1 s97.3%
Ice Handling6th+1.7 s96.95%
Subj. Noise13th-4 Points
Price8th+250 54.55%
[Studded] Good on ice, short dry braking.
Poor grip in the wet, high noise.

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5th: Hankook Winter I cept iZ2 W616

Hankook Winter I cept iZ2 W616
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking6th+2.1 M93.33%
Wet Braking9th+5.5 M84.01%
Wet Handling8th+2 s94.37%
Snow Braking13th+1.7 M96.75%
Snow Traction10th+0.2 s96.61%
Snow Handling12th+1.3 s97.57%
Ice Braking15th+15.3 M70.41%
Ice Traction15th+2.4 s60%
Ice Handling14th+15.9 s77.29%
Subj. Noise2nd-1 Points
Price5th+150 66.67%
[Friction] Good in snow, low rolling resistance.
Poor grip and handling in the dry.

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6th: Kumho WinterCraft Ice Wi51

Kumho WinterCraft Ice Wi51
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking6th+2.1 M93.33%
Wet Braking6th+4.9 M85.5%
Wet Handling12th+2.2 s93.84%
Snow Braking11th+1.5 M97.12%
Snow Traction10th+0.2 s96.61%
Snow Handling8th+1.1 s97.94%
Ice Braking13th+12.4 M74.59%
Ice Traction13th+1.9 s65.45%
Ice Handling14th+15.9 s77.29%
Subj. Noise6th-2 Points
Price3rd+100 75%
[Friction] Good in snow, low rolling resistance.
Poor handling in the dry.

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6th: Continental IceContact 3

Continental IceContact 3
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking6th+2.1 M93.33%
Wet Braking5th+4.8 M85.76%
Wet Handling3rd+1.7 s95.17%
Snow Braking6th+0.8 M98.44%
Snow Traction4th+0.1 s98.28%
Snow Handling11th+1.2 s97.76%
Ice Braking6th+4.5 M89%
Ice Traction4th+0.3 s92.31%
Ice Handling7th+3.7 s93.6%
Subj. Noise13th-4 Points
Price12th+300 50%
[Studded] Good on snow and on ice, good wet handling, balanced.
Poor dry handling.

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7th: Hankook Winter i pike RS2

Hankook Winter i pike RS2
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking16th+4.04 M87.92%
Wet Braking11th+6.5 M81.64%
Wet Handling3rd+1.7 s95.17%
Snow Braking2nd+0.1 M99.8%
Snow Traction4th+0.1 s98.28%
Snow Handling14th+1.4 s97.39%
Ice Braking5th+3.7 M90.77%
Ice Traction7th+0.4 s90%
Ice Handling4th+1.5 s97.3%
Subj. Noise13th-4 Points
Price5th+150 66.67%
[Studded] Good on snow and ice, good wet handling.
Poor in the dry.

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7th: CST Medallion Winter WCP1

CST Medallion Winter WCP1
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking1st100%
Wet Braking1st100%
Wet Handling1st100%
Snow Braking16th+3.9 M92.84%
Snow Traction16th+0.6 s90.48%
Snow Handling16th+3.6 s93.56%
Ice Braking16th+20.8 M63.64%
Ice Traction16th+3.1 s53.73%
Ice Handling16th+20.6 s72.42%
Subj. Noise6th-2 Points
Price1st100%
[Friction] Very good in the dry and wet.
Very bad in the snow and ice.

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8th: Kumho WinterCraft Ice

Kumho WinterCraft Ice
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking15th+3.3 M89.91%
Wet Braking15th+8.4 M77.48%
Wet Handling16th+3 s91.78%
Snow Braking11th+1.5 M97.12%
Snow Traction10th+0.2 s96.61%
Snow Handling8th+1.1 s97.94%
Ice Braking8th+5.8 M86.26%
Ice Traction8th+0.6 s85.71%
Ice Handling4th+1.5 s97.3%
Subj. Noise16th-5 Points
Price3rd+100 75%
[Studded] Good lateral grip on ice.
Poor in the wet, high levels of noise, long dry braking.

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9th: Westlake IceMaster Spike Z 50

Westlake IceMaster Spike Z 50
  • 205/55 R16
Test#Difference%
Dry Braking3rd+1.6 M94.84%
Wet Braking8th+5.1 M85%
Wet Handling2nd+1.5 s95.71%
Snow Braking15th+1.9 M96.38%
Snow Traction10th+0.2 s96.61%
Snow Handling15th+3 s94.58%
Ice Braking9th+6.9 M84.06%
Ice Traction9th+0.8 s81.82%
Ice Handling8th+6.2 s89.72%
Subj. Noise8th-3 Points
Price2nd+50 85.71%
[Studded] Good wet grip and dry braking.
Poor driveability in the dry, very weak in the snow and on ice.

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