Two competitors within the snow tires market are the Bridgestone Blizzak and Nokian snow tires. How do you pick the best one?
Finding objective and honest tests can be difficult, so we should look at tests that ignore brand names and consider how well tires function in the snow.
The battle between Bridgestone Blizzak and Nokian snow tires is a victory for Nokian. Nokian offers better overall performance, but it does come at a price. Bridgestone, however, is a well known brand that makes good snow tires too.
We looked at tests in regards to how well Bridgestone Blizzak and Nokian snow tires and considered what’s the most important to people who drive in snow. Car & Driver and other sites provide real world tests that are quite helpful in knowing how well tires work. Real world tests are very important in knowing more about the effectiveness of a tire, in part because the process of actually testing multiple tires yourself takes quite a while - and it’s difficult to maintain the same test conditions, especially with snow and ice.
We have reviews many a tire, and know what people who drive in the snow want - because we’ve driven in all sorts of poor weather. We use sources like Car & Driver and others to learn about tests and the significant differences between tires and brands. We’ll also cover a little history of each brand, along with their missions and purpose. Let’s start by learning more about the tire brands.
I’ve never heard of Nokian - where did they come from?
Nokian isn’t an especially well known tire brand - ranking at the 19th largest manufacturer in the world, which puts them well below Michelin, Cooper, Dunlop, and well, Bridgestone in overall popularity. Nokian is made in Finland, with a focus on winter performance tires. All season tires are the most common and popular in the United States because the wide range of climates our weather produces. It’s not really a surprise that you might have misread this as “Nokia”, which is also founded out of Finland - because few people have heard of the Nokian tire brand.
Per their website, they pride themselves on manufacturing safe and sustainable tires. They attempt to use recyclable materials to help the earth and make their tires as well as possible at the same time. Their front page definitely shows their reverence and feelings about the natural world, which is reflected in their programs designed to reward engineers, scientists, and students with new information about sustainable rubber and compounds.
An introduction to Bridgestone Blizzak
Most drivers have heard of Bridgestone as a tire brand. They have been around for a long time and offer a wide range of tires from performance, summer, and off road to of course winter tires.
Bridgestone isn’t quite a “premium” tire brand, and Blizzak is more of a name or brand within Bridgestone that caters to people who want winter tires for the coldest and snowiest time of the year. Bridgestone has been making tires to satisfy many kinds of buyers - from the owner of a sports car who wants good summer grip, to the driver of a truck who wants a snow tire to get to work after a blizzard.
How do you evaluate Bridgestone Blizzak vs Nokian?
We are going to look at tests performed on both tires. Since Nokian is a brand, we are going to compare the Blizzak to the Hakkapeliitta line of Nokian tires because they offer the closest fit to most vehicles purchased in the United Staes. Let’s take a closer look at tests between the tires.
How do Bridgestone Blizzak and Nokian compare on tests?
Tests comparing snow tires were performed on one of the best controlled snow environments available. Rather than relying on the feelings of the driver, they objectively tested how each tire performed in the most consistent tracks possible, and looked at how fast quickly and safely vehicles stop and start - as well as the control established by the tire while sinking it’s rubbery grip into layers of cold snow.
Slower Ice and Snow Braking Test
The first test our competing tires were placed into was slowing down on ice and snow between 16 and 18 miles per hour. This effectively shows how well each tire did in situations like stop and go traffic, as well as how well you’ll be able to slow down when approaching a traffic light or stop sign.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
Bridgestone’s Blizzak did well on snow braking, stopping within 33.3 feet on snow and ice while driving under 20 mph. Why? Blizzak does a good job of allowing snow packing in their treads. When snow grips snow, you get the best braking performance possible. Blizzak has designed their to remove more water, allowing more snow to physically get into the deeper snow treads, and posted a good braking distance as a result.
Blizzak also offers a large contact area, which is good for producing the traction needed to stop. This is achieved with wider block edges on the outside of the tire, which lead to more overall grip.
Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2
Nokian offers very similar braking performance to Bridgestone’s Blizzak, and in many ways, shows that stopping in snow is a very competitive category. Both the Nokian tires and Blizzak stopped in 33.3 feet.
Nokian’s design is akin to Blizzak in that it offers aggressive treads and siping patterns that force snow in, water out, and produce a solid grip when slowing down to a stop. Nokian also manufacturers their tires with unique triangle shaped shoulder treads to more efficiently bite into snow.
Real world driving test with Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 vs Nokian Hakkapelititta R2
The second test involves an actual driving course, experienced test drivers, and timers. Some of the results of this test are a little subjective - though the course is groomed when it’s possible that the snow has shifted or melted. Measuring the time for the drive, using the same vehicles and drivers, are the “control” on this test.
This test moreso measure the ability of both the Bridgestone and Nokian tires to handle turning, acceleration, braking, and overall control of the vehicle. With the desire to finish the course as quickly as possible, test drivers were asked how each tire performed.
Bridgestone Blizzak snow tire real world driving test
The Blizzak took almost a second longer to complete the real world driving test - out of about 30 seconds at about 30.15 seconds. A gap of that size is decent for the relatively small amount of time, and because of why the Blizzak took longer.
Test drivers reported that the Blizzak had an issue with offering continued traction throughout acceleration. The Blizzak was also slower to recover from slow down or acceleration issues than other tires. The time lost came because drivers spent more time than average trying to recover, resteer, and accelerate again. The mentioned pattern of having to adjust steering and acceleration might be annoying, especially if you find yourself in smooth moving traffic.
Put simply, the Blizzak performs about average while stopping, which is great, but doesn’t consistently hold the road well compared to competitors while attempting real world driving.
Nokian snow tire real world driving test
Some tire manufacturers tout the wide shoulders on their snow tires as an indicator that the tire helps the car turn well. There is also a limit to this ability in most cases, like taking real world turns, and realizing that you are understeering and have to crank the wheel harder to maintain the turn and end up in the right spot.
While Nokian only offered a half second difference in the real world test - how it arrived at that half second is what really matters. Drivers felt that the Nokian had great grip through corners, and that the tire didn’t understeer and need recovery midway through a turn.
Drivers felt more confident in the Nokian tire, and felt the continuous grip and acceleration through a turn.
Let’s think of this specific scenario: As a driver, you are trying to turn left on a yellow or green light, with potential oncoming traffic. The oncoming traffic might have an issue stopping or slowing down because of snow. You want to be sure you can make your way through the intersection without slipping much because it’s possible to get caught and have to speed up - which might not be possible - slow down to avoid a collision.
Also imagine turning into a tight city street, lined with cars in both directions (prior to moving them for a snow emergency!) that well, you don’t want to hit. The Nokian have a high potential of making this turn easier and more controlled.
The Nokian handles this situation better because you are more assured that the turn is possible. Snow driving can be nervewracking for some drivers because of the unpredictability of acceleration, turning and braking - Nokian does a better job here.
A similar winter driving test between Bridgestone Blizzak vs Nokian Hakkapelititta
Want to double check your information before trusting one test? Here’s another for you:
A Canadian driver, more specifically Ontario if you want to look up location and weather - and his family are drawn between what they call “Hakka” tires and Blizzaks. While the test is a bit subjective: the experienced Canadian driver felt that the Hakkapelititta tires performed better when attempting to turn - or even intentionally trying to make the vehicle lose grip.
The driver attempted this while slalom like driving (in other words, attempting to swerve back and forth in the lane on purpose) and noticed the “Hakka” tires required significantly more effort to make the rear wheels lose grip. The driver was tossed back and forth less because the rear end remained stable and gripped into the snow.
Between the real world driving test and this driver from Canada, the consistent result is that the “Hakka” tires offered more overall control under real driving conditions while Bridgestone Blizzak’s offered average control while stopping.
The value difference: Bridgestone Blizzak vs Nokian Hakkapelititta
When shopping online, some people like to sort by price, then look for the best ratings by price. In store tire shoppers also want to ask about price first, before a salesperson attempts to build value in talking about the tire.
We are a little of each: We expect good performance out of our snow tire, but we also don’t know how much value spending more on a snow tire really brings.
Here is our point: The Nokian Hakkapelititta costs around $200 per tire while the Bridgestone Blizzak costs around $160 per tire. That’s $120 more for a set of 4 tires. In our opinion, the purpose of snow tires is to inspire confidence and provide real traction under real snow and icy conditions, especially if you are those conditions on a regular basis while living in a northern or eastern climates. You should feel like you aren’t taking an exceptional risk by going out with friends, taking the kids to school, or driving to go skiing.
Why the Nokian tires are better for you
We feel like the Hakkapelititta tires offered significant improvements over the Bridgestone Blizzak tire for the money. If an extra $120 seems like a lot to you for the additional performance, you can certainly go with the Bridgestone tires and you’ll definitely at least get better performance than standard all season tires.
We also have driven in many upper midwest winters and have found ourselves sliding through stop signs, or otherwise having a difficult time taking corners - or even moving - after several inches of snow fell. We feel like a good winter tire can make the difference between paying a bit extra for tires, or paying the deductible after crashing hard into a snow bank - or another car.
Why the Bridgestone Blizzaks are better for you
If you are driving a shorter distance, or find that stopping is your biggest issue with regular all season tires, you might prefer the Blizzak’s based simply on price. Blizzak’s still do a good job of driving in snow and the part of driving that unnerves winter drivers the most - stopping. As it often does, Bridgestone offers an outstanding value for a driver who might feel limited to getting snow tires by their budget, and does a decent job of helping you at least feel better, especially for the price you’ll pay. Want to save some money? Go for Blizzaks - your wallet will be happier.
Where do I find Bridgestone Blizzaks or Nokians?
Places like DiscountTire and TireMart carry both brands. Nokian is a little harder to find as a Finnish brand, but they are worth the effort in finding one. On any of these sites, you’ll be able to search by the vehicle you drive, the tire make and model itself, or by the specific tire zone. Note that. You can find some good detailed information about what size of tires you need for winter tires - and hint, it’s not always what you think.
Many tires sites offer a good shipping price and a guarantee or make finding a tire like a Nokian, a little easier to find.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding