Saturday, May 15, 2021
Features Nitto SN3 Winter Tire Review: Good Value And Performance

Nitto SN3 Winter Tire Review: Good Value And Performance

The new Nitto SN3 winter tire provides good all-around winter driving performance and value


  • The Nitto SN3 is available in 60 sizes, from 15-inch to 22-inch wheels.

  • The SN3s are the high-performance variant.

  • We needed winter to start in order to complete this review…


Nitto is no stranger to the Canadian tire market, at least when it comes to high-performance summer tires. The SN3 is designed to combine Nitto’s performance experience with winter traction technologies.

I’ve lived in the Greater Montreal Area my entire life and up until about 10 years ago, by the Holidays, the ground was already generously covered in a meter of snow. Global warming being what it is, we’ve had a number of green and muddy Holidays in the last few years. This is the first time in memory that we’ve had to wait until mid-January for the snow to stick around more than 48 hours after a good dumping. Now in early February, we can finally report on the new Nitto SN3 winter tires.

Nitto SN3 Winter Tires | Photo: Olivier Delorme

And the news is good. First, a reminder of the test-subject. We got a set of P205/50R17 Nitto SN3 winter tires for my 2018 Volkswagen Sportwagen 4MOTION. The Nittos replaced a set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 tyres (purposeful) which, to be frank, were going to be impossible to beat. The fact of the matter is that in all of my 15+ years of reviewing winter tires, they turned out to be the best all-around performing dedicated winter tires I’ve ever had the pleasure of evaluating. Their only flaw is that they are pricey. Having said that, it’s important to remember that we always get what we pay for.

Sometimes, however, a product delivers impressive results despite being more affordable. That’s what is known as value. This one of the SN3’s strong points. And this is the case as they have, so far, behaved admirably well in the snow/slush/ice/wet/dry road condition mix that is common in my neck of the woods.

Nitto SN3 Winter Tires | Photo: Olivier Delorme

If I was to point out the SN3’s main weakness, it would be dry/wet on-road performance. Dry or wet pavement, that is otherwise clear of snow and ice, is common on highways and main thoroughfares in Toronto and Montreal even in the dead of winter. It is on these surfaces that the SN3 is unable to mask its true nature. While still stable at speed in a straight line, the tire’s large outer blocks and softer shoulders dull steering response. This flexing effect is not perceptible at lower speeds, say below 40km/h, but beyond that, most drivers will notice a slightly rubbery steering feel.

In every other respect, the Nitto SN3 has proven to be a fine performing winter tire. Snow-covered surfaces are their favorite challenge. This is when and where the inner blocks, outer blocks, and centre rib, surrounded by deep channels, grab the snow and scoop it away. Hard-packed and slick icy surfaces are properly mastered by the numerous and variously angled sipes. The ability to smartly handle these conditions is what separates a good winter tire from a decent one. Under reasonable throttle inputs and brake applications, the SN3s ideally handles the task of managing loads while gripping the surface.

Nitto SN3 Winter Tires | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Factor in the Nitto SN3’s pricing and it quickly rises up the list of good options. Per tire, for the stated size, the SN3 is between $20 and $30 less expensive (before incentives, rebates, and other possible deals) than the aforementioned Hakka R3 and another favorite winter tire of ours, the Yokohama Ice Guard IG52C.

Value is an extremely important factor when spending money on anything, and that’s especially true for winter tires. They are, without a shadow a doubt, the greatest safety feature on any vehicle during the winter season. The Nitto SN3s are certainly a good purchase if you’re in the market for new winter tires.

Nitto SN3 Winter Tires | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Nitto SN3 Winter Tires | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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