Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7 Studded Tire Review

A Song of Ice and Tire.

Studded snow tires are undoubtedly the “big guns” of winter performance. They're the ones you only use when you really, really need them. Studded tires are designed for the most extreme of extreme winter conditions, for when you're spending 90% or more of your time driving in major snow or sheer ice. This is not only because these kinds of conditions are the only time you really need that kind of nuclear grip, but also because studs and dry pavement are natural enemies.

Studs rip up paved roads, and paved roads wear down studs. But when you do really need them, studded tires can be lifesavers, and Nokian's Hakkapeliitta 7 has spent many years on top of the studded tire heap. Among a list of far too many accolades to count, they until very recently held the Guinness land speed record for a car on ice. The new record holder is, of course, the brand-new Hakka 8, but the Hakka 7's are still very much worth a look. I got an extended look at these big guns during my recent trip to Nokian's White Hell test center in Ivalo, Finland in which I also reviewed the rest of Nokian's winter lineup - the Hakka R2 snow tire, the Hakka R2 SUV, and the WRG3 All-Season.


  • Just about everything about this tire is a pro.
  • Useful in the most extreme winter conditions.


  • Only useful in the most extreme winter conditions.


  • Hakka Sipes:
    Nokian's patented Hakka Sipe pattern is now the basis for nearly all siping patterns for winter tires everywhere on Earth. The zigzag pattern flexes to present hundreds of jagged biting edges to the snow or ice surface.
  • Air Claw Technology:
    The studs on the Hakka 7 are trapezoidal rather than simple round spikes, giving them multiple biting edges. These studs are installed on top of a soft, air-filled rubber “pillow” which acts as a shock absorber, reducing road noise, stud wear and making for less wear and tear on dry pavement.
  • Canola/Silica Compound:
    Like most of Nokian's winter tires, the tread compound uses high proportions of natural rubber for winter grip, low-volatile oils such as canola oil for environmental friendliness, and high proportions of silica for low rolling resistance.
  • Stiff Center Rib:
    The stiffened rib in the center of the tread provides stability and handling improvements on bare asphalt and increases lateral grip in the snow.


“Boy, do these things grip!” I muttered to my recorder while throwing the car through a slalom on sheer lake ice at a speed that would be stupid on any non-studded tire and some that are studded. Driving on the frozen surface, whether in the VW Golf or the monster Audi RS4, felt like driving on pavement. I'm not exaggerating either; this was the one comment I heard most often from other drivers all day, “It feels just like driving on the highway!”

Braking is enormously positive, engaging immediately and strongly. Acceleration has about a half-second delay before the spikes grab hold, especially in the RS4, where the torque can still overpower the tires if you're not careful. The tires are predictable and extremely controllable, going right where I put them even when I'm blowing a corner on the ice.

At 35 miles per hour on sheer lake ice, I could barely fishtail the car, in fact even driving the nose hard into a corner simply puts the car into a sideslip as the tires fight for every iota of grip. Even in a full-on sideslip with the tires spinning madly, I was able to control the car with the minor throttle and steering input to powerslide the car just where I wanted it to go. The tires recover with ease and like they're on rails, without the slightest over-recovery.

The Bottom Line

Hakka 7's are by no means the only decent studded tire out there. Pirelli's SottoZero II was the first ice speed record-holder before being supplanted by Nokian. Continental's ContiIceContact is also particularly well-regarded. I can't tell you whether the Hakka 7's are better than the rest because I haven't had the chance to drive on them.

But they are the previous record-holders, which is empirical data, and I can tell you that I've never driven anything that was more fun to play around with on the ice. Even with the Hakka 8 being available, the 7 at least remains among the very tip-top best winter tires you can get your hands on in the U.S.