If you've not shopped for winter tyres, you can be forgiven for having never heard of Nokian Tyres.
Nokian Tyres are a Finnish tyre manufacturer, and in markets where winter tyres are a common fitment, they are considered a premium manufacturer. Their winter and all season products rival the likes of Michelin and Continental.
In the UK they have a bit of a cult following, with those "in the know" swearing by the Nordic brand for both summer and winter rubber. The ultra high performance Nokian zLine as both excellent reviews on Tyre Reviews, and when tested by Auto Zeitung in 2017 it beat tyres by Bridgestone, Hankook, Avon, Vredestein and Falken!
To highlight the company's premium credentials, Nokian Tyres invited Tyre Reviews to "White Hell", their winter proving grounds located so far north in Finland, it's inside the arctic circle.
White Hell is Nokians fun name for their vast 700 hectare winter test facility in Ivalo. Built in the mid 1980's, White Hell is regarded as one of the most diverse winter testing environments in the world and it's easy to see why. Hidden away in seemingly nowhere, with only an ominus looking set of gates to let you know you're in the right spot, the range of test tracks on offer is spectacular.
White Hell boasts over 60 miles of maintained tracks creating 29 different test areas, three of which are on frozen lakes with ice thick enough to take the heaviest of trucks. Perhaps even more impressively is the controlled ice testing facility, which is essentially the longest indoor ice rink you'll ever see, almost 1 kilometer in length. In short, with this level of testing available to the manufacturer, it's almost impossible to make a bad tyre.
For "central Europe" winters, which the UK is categorised at, Nokian Tyres have three key products. The Nokian WR D4 is the premium touring winter tyre, designed to fit your smaller cars such as the VW Golf. The Nokian WR A4 is a high performance winter tyre for larger or more sporty cars, and the Nokian Weatherproof is Nokians all season offering to rival the likes of the Goodyear Vector 4Seasons Gen-2.
But their product range isn't just winter and all season products, Nokian Tyres also make excellent summer tyres. The Nokian eLine 2 is an AA rated premium touring tyre, the iLine and Line tyres aimed at central European touring, and the Nokian zLine is the Nordic companies maximum performance road tyre developed for cars like the Audi RS5 and Porsche 911.
To demonstrate the difference between a summer, european winter, nordic winter and a studded tyre, Nokian Tyres took Tyre Reviews to a frozen lake with four identical VW Golfs with each of the tyre types fitted.
Predictably the summer tyre struggled even to get up to the braking speed, and when you applied the brakes the car slide with no control, the ABS firing all four wheels. Switching to the European winter Nokian WR A4 the car immediately had more control, easily accelerating to the desired speed, and coming to a stop a full 8 meters shorter than on the summer tyre when braking from just 40 km/h.
Next up, the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2, a nordic friction winter tyre. These tyres are designed for northern climates where the roads are covered in snow or ice for a large percentage of the season, but where studs aren't appropriate, and while they're not suitable for the UK climate due to the reduction in dry performance, it was interesting to see how different the car felt. The answer was "not very". There was only a small step in stability under acceleration and braking, but the overall stopping distance was a huge 2 meters shorter than the european winter tyre.
Last up, the studded Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9. Dynamically this tyre was incredible on ice, with the studs really showing the difference they make, stopping the car a full 4 meters shorter than the nordic winter tyre, 6 meters shorter than the central European winter tyre, and a full 14 meters shorter than the summer tyre. While studded tyres are totally inappropriate for the UK and the majority of Europe, there's no denying they're incredibly impressive on ice.
While the purpose of this trip was to highlight how Nokian Tyres are an industry leader in all season and winter products, it also serves as a strong reminder that Nokian Tyres are serious tyre manufacturer which make premium rivalling products whatever the weather. Be sure to look them up before your next tyre change, whatever tyres you might be fitting.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask below.