Moottori 2021: Test of studded commercial tires in size 215/65 R16C

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The Russian Viatti tires took part in the new test conducted by the Finnish magazine, showing quite decent snow and ice performance
List of models tested:

The motoring magazines generally prefer to test passenger tires, while the tests of commercial tires are much less frequent, the test of light truck studded tires being almost a unique case. Comparing the tires of this category was something that the Finnish magazine Moottori decided to do, its experts noting that this has to do not only with a large number of vans on the country’s roads (12% of the number of passenger cars), but also with the fact that many established manufacturers produce tires of this class. The test involved tires of eight brands — Bridgestone Noranza Van 001, Continental VanContact Ice, Gislaved Nord*Frost Van 2, Goodyear Cargo Ultra Grip 2, Hankook Winter i*Pike LT, Michelin Agilis X–Ice North, Nokian Hakkapeliitta C3, as well as the Russian Viatti Vettore Inverno.

The Moottori test vehicle was a VW Transporter
The Moottori test vehicle was a VW Transporter

The commercial tires, which are usually installed on minivans, light trucks and motorhomes, are easy to detect by the letter «C» (commercial) included in the tire label embossed on the sidewall, and the test was conducted in size 215/65 R16C. Compared to passenger tires, the C’s are designed to withstand heavier loads; they also have stronger resistance to puncture and other road hazards. The construction of the tires is extra-sturdy due to a larger number of plies, while the tread compounds are optimized for better resistance to wear, and tread patterns, as a rule, consist of larger blocks.

In Scandinavia, studded commercial tires are subject to the same requirements as passenger ones, that is, there should be no more than 50 studs per running meter of the tread, or they should meet the road surface wear standards. The tested Hankook model had 106 studs, Bridgestone and Nokian 108 each, and the Michelin and Viatti tires had many more than the rest — 124 and 128 respectively. Due to the fact that the Finnish Traffic and Communications Agency Traficom did not certify Viatti (it had more than 50 studs per running meter, and the road surface wear test, whose results would be recognized in the country, was not carried out), the tires were ultimately disqualified, but since these requirements do not apply in Russia, we decided to let them stay in the final standings.

Ice

Tires of the Hakkapeliitta family are traditionally considered to be the best on ice, and the Hakkapeliitta C3 performed up to the mark, coming first in the traction test. The second place was scored by Continental, while Viatti with its 128 studs came third, surpassing the Hankook model. The other four tires demonstrated less impressive results, the last place being scored by Bridgestone.

Test discipline: ice handling. Source: moottori.fi
Test discipline: ice handling. Source: moottori.fi

During the brake test, the balance of power changed, and only Nokian managed to keep its position. Hankook came second, while Bridgestone rose to fifth place, this time with a significant lead. Michelin and Goodyear fell behind.

In ice slalom, the lead was taken by the Continental model that had a very strong grip both on the front and rear axle, i.e. the handling response was good, and without any oversteer. The Nokian tire had a grip that was possibly even better than Continental’s, and it also had excellent lateral stability but, sadly, it was indeed prone to oversteer. Nevertheless, Nokian ended up with quite a decent result due to its very strong longitudinal grip. Viatti lost to Nokian by a few hundredth of a second, but these two tires are significantly different in their character. Viatti’s handling response is less crisp, and you have to resort to large steering angles, yet the rear wheels never go into a skid, and the tire is not prone to oversteer.

On ice, the Gislaved model was much less impressive than the Continental tire from the same manufacturer because it was prone to skidding in corners, and, when the grip was stabilized, oversteer appeared. Then followed Bridgestone and Hankook, which both showed almost an identical time. The Bridgestone model ensures a decent overall handling response but its performance declines at high speeds, while the Hankook model has a good grip on the front axle, but weak on the rear one, because of which the tires behave in an unbalanced way. According to the experts, if the grip had been a little bit weaker still, regaining it after a skid would have been quite a problem.

Test discipline: ice handling. Source: moottori.fi
Test discipline: ice handling. Source: moottori.fi

Michelin came only seventh because, despite the decent amount of feedback through the steering wheel, is was also prone to oversteer, and the Moottori experts noted that, even though this did work in the case of the passenger Michelin X–Ice North 4, a large number of studs does not necessary spell excellent ice performance. The poorest results in this part of the test were shown by Goodyear, which was prone both to understeer and oversteer, and you needed time to get used to it; weak straight grip did not help much either.

On the whole, the experts noted that, even though in ice tests the results generally vary significantly, this was not the case this time around, the difference between the best and the worst tires in the handling performance test being only 7%, which is much less that it was in the comparison test of studded passenger tires.

Snow

The tires that ensured strong ice grip, kept their leadership in this discipline on snow as well, while the tires that lagged behind also stayed at the bottom of the tournament bracket. The best tires on snow-covered surfaces were Hankook, Continental, and Nokian.

In the brake test, all the tires scored the same places as in the previous test, while Goodyear’s stopping distance was 18% longer than that of Hankook.

Test discipline: snow handling. Source: moottori.fi
Test discipline: snow handling. Source: moottori.fi

The track where the snow handling was evaluated, included ups and downs, as well as corners of various types, and the best lap time was shown by the Nokian tires, about which the experts said that its behavior was similar to that of the passenger tires of the Finnish brand, and, which is worthy of praise, were not prone to understeer. Granted, some slight oversteer was detected but the tires effectively combated skidding on the rear axle, or you could help them by countersteering. The second-best lap time was scored by Viatti, whose behavior was similar to that of Nokian. The grip on the front wheels is just as strong, and it is quickly regained after slippage. At the same time, Viatti resists abrupt skidding not as effectively as the tires from the Finnish manufacturer. The third place was again won by Hankook, which also had a high grip on the front axle, i.e. was also less prone to oversteer. At the same time, if the rear axle does go into a skid, the tires regain grip slower than Nokian.

The fourth place was scored by Continental, which was prone to understeer, but the skid would start smoothly. Almost no oversteer was detected. Curiously, the Gislaved tire (fifth place) resists understeer better than the tire of the flagship brand of the same manufacturer, yet the tendency still remains. In addition, unlike the Continental model, the Gislaved tires were prone to losing grip on the rear axle. Then followed the Bridgestone tire that was prone both to understeer and oversteer, and at the same time grip was regained slowly on both axles, its overall level being obviously lower than that of the top five tires.

The Michelin tire was also prone to understeer, and, although its overall behavior was logical, you had to wait for the front axle grip to reappear. The last line was again scored by the Goodyear model, which, just as it did on ice, fell significantly short of the competition. Just like Michelin, Goodyear was powerless against understeer, and the grip took a long time to restore, the difference being that Goodyear could also go into a skid on the rear axle, and in this case the driver will have to interfere.

According to the pilots, usually the differences in the tires’ snow performance are smaller than they are on ice, and this time around this indeed was the case in the first two disciplines, but what came as a surprise was that the handling test presented a reverse picture.

Asphalt

Commercial tires are made of stiffer tread compounds than passenger ones, which alleviates the differences in their tarmac performance. For example, the crispest steering response was demonstrated by the Michelin model, but the Continental, Gislaved, and Nokian also had good results, while Bridgestone and Hankook were just a little behind. During a smooth maneuver that simulates a change of lane on a highway, the best stability is ensured by Continental, Goodyear, and Gislaved, while the worst tires by this criterion was Viatti — but the gap between this tire and its rivals was not as significant. The Nokian and Hankook models turned out to be the most rutting-proof, while the Bridgestone tire seemed to «whisk about» more than the others, but still a lot less than the passenger tires the most sensitive to rutting.

Test discipline: wet handling. Source: moottori.fi
Test discipline: wet handling. Source: moottori.fi

On wet pavement, the title of the best tire was won by the Goodyear model that behaved confidently in sharp corners. Then follow Michelin and Gislaved, slightly prone to understeer. With the Continental tire, you needed large steering angles, Nokian lacked lateral grip, and, as far as Viatti was concerned, the experts noted that it takes time to regain grip after a skid, but the tire ensures a decent overall handling response, but, in the downside, has a very low speed threshold.

According to the noise measurement, the quietest tire was Goodyear, but the experts noted that what little noise it produces is somewhat annoying because it includes hum and oscillating frequencies. At the same time, the sound produced by the Continental model is very homogeneous and without the clacking of the studs; the Gislaved tire is generally similar to Continental, but the clacking of the studs is audible this time. The low-frequency noise produced by the Hankook tire was rather pleasing to the ear, while Nokian made a humming noise accompanied by the sound of the studs; with Bridgestone, the clacking of the studs on the road surface was also audible.

Test discipline: noise. Source: moottori.fi
Test discipline: noise. Source: moottori.fi
The cabin noise in various speed modes, dB(A)
Brand and Model 50km/h 80km/h 100km/h
Bridgestone Noranza Van 001 66.6 69.2 71.4
Continental VanContact Ice 65.7 70.1 71.9
Gislaved Nord*Frost Van 2 65.9 70.0 71.9
Goodyear Cargo UltraGrip 2 64.5 70.7  72.1 
Hankook Winter i*Pike LT RW09 66.0 70.5 72.7
Michelin Agilis X–Ice North 66.2  70.7  72.7
Nokian Hakkapeliitta C3 67.7  71.3 73.4 
Viatti Vettore Inverno  67.7 71.3 73.5 

Summing up

Nokian tires have repeatedly won various tests of studded passenger tires, and in the test of commercial tires the Finnish brand also scored the first place. The Hakkapeliitta C3 showed excellent results both on ice and snow, and in addition, it demonstrated stable performance during emergency maneuvers on tarmac. The second place, with a minimal gap, was scored by the Continental VanContact Ice, which was also very good on ice and snow, but in the tarmac tests was no longer among the leaders — for example, it had a long stopping distance on dry pavement. The top three also included Gislaved Nord*Frost Van 2 from the same tire giant Continental, which, surprisingly, unlike the flagship model, VanContact, not just quickly stops the car on tarmac, but scored first places both in the wet and in the dry by this parameter. The Gislaved model also demonstrated a well-balanced ice and snow performance, being at the same time less expensive than the tires of premium brands. Gislaved is followed by the Hankook Winter i*pike LT, which demonstrated good results on ice and snow, but could not score a higher position because of weak wet traction. We will add that recently the Korean tire maker presented yet another new model in this segment, named Hankook Winter i*pike LV.

The Viatti Vettore Inverno tire was not certified for sale in Finland, due to which it was disqualified, but, since it does, of course, meet the Russian standards, we decided to include it in the final standings, where it scored the fifth place, surpassing three acclaimed market leaders — Bridgestone, Michelin, and Goodyear. Possibly, the absence of Scandinavian restrictions became a factor, and the Viatti model, which had the largest amount of studs on test, demonstrated superior ice performance. In addition, it demonstrated strong snow traction, and it came second in the handling test, being inferior only to Nokian. At the same time, Viatti cannot boast a really balanced performance — it lost a few points due to the longest stopping distance on dry and wet pavement alike, as well as less-than-perfect handling response on wet pavement.

The Bridgestone Noranza Van 001 tire also cannot boast a well-balanced performance: it has a poor ice and snow grip combined with excellent braking performance on dry pavement. A position still lower was occupied by the Michelin Agilis X–Ice North, which showed poor results on ice and snow, yet managed to score high points in wet disciplines. As for the last place in the tournament bracket, it was scored by the Goodyear Cargo UltraGrip 2, which turned out to be the worst of all in five snow disciplines out of six.


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