When my trusty old Mazda5 lost its life this past fall after a little elderly driver crushed the front end into submission, I picked up a new and equally unexciting vehicle (Hyundai Tuscon) weeks before the Canadian winter came knocking. Sailun Tire reached out and asked if I wanted to test out a set of its winter tires.
Initially, I was hoping for a set of the IceBlazer WSL2 tires, as Sailun gives tires top marks for ice performance and quietness. However, they didn’t come in the size I needed, so I went with the Sailun IceBlazer WST1. This is far and away the most popular winter tire in the Sailun lineup, accounting for about 75% of sales.
What sets the Sailun IceBlazer WST1 apart is the ability to add studs. According to Sailun, the studs will provide a 20-30% performance boost on snow and ice, however, traction compared to non-studded tires on wet/dry roads could be compromised, but Sailun says the difference is minimal. Alas, studded tires are illegal where I live, so I couldn’t test this for myself. But drivers can still safely use these tires without the studs, so problem solved. You should check to see if studded tires are legal where you live before buying them.
The WST1 has a more rounded design than the WSL2. According to Sailun, the rounded design offers improved cornering consistency. WST1 tires also offer better traction in snow over the WSL2 thanks to deeper treads, but lose a little traction on the ice because of fewer sipes (the squiggly lines you see on the tread blocks) due to the stud anchors taking up extra real estate.
I had the Sailun IceBlazer WST1 tires installed before winter really took hold. In the city, I didn’t really notice much-added noise while driving, but on the highway, things got noticeably louder. It’s not obnoxious, but it took a bit of getting used to. However, that added noise was a small price to pay for the performance I saw once the snow fell in earnest. After one nasty storm dropped comfortably more than a foot of snow, I took the Tucson out for a spin to see exactly what the WST1 tires could do.
I’ve not tested a wide array of winter tires, but I found the Sailun Ice Blazer WST1 tires outperformed the General Altimax tires I had on my Mazda5 (though the Generals were quieter on the highway). That’s not an entirely fair comparison as the vehicles are much different, but that’s all I’ve got.
Aggressive stopping on snow-covered streets resulted in very minimal sliding unless I was really pushing it. Spinning tires could also be largely avoided from a dead stop with a calm foot on the go pedal.
Feeling more confident after about an hour of playing in the snow, I headed to a steep climb that I’ve seen several other vehicles fail to summit. Approaching it for the first time, I went in with a pretty good head of steam and had no trouble getting to the top. Armed with some extra bravado, I circled my way back to the foot of the hill again and stopped at the bottom. Anybody who’s ever taken an ATV or Jeep through the muck will tell you that momentum is your friend when traction is lacking, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend stopping at the foot of a snow-covered hill. But this was for science!
My second ascent did not go nearly as smoothly as my first. I had lots of wheel spin when I got started and didn’t have quite enough momentum to get me to the top, which I expected. I rolled back down the hill and backed up a little to take a slow run at the hill and began a very deliberate climb. Just about any bump in the throttle saw traction all but disappear, so I focussed on going slow and steady and managed to reach the top without my back end breaking loose. I’ll call that a victory.
Sailun didn’t provide a price list for us to share, as tire prices can vary considerably depending on the retailer. However, Sailun says its tires are priced 20-30% cheaper than its nearest competitor.
There is, however, a caveat. At this point, Sailun does not sell winter tires in the U.S. market. You can find a small selection of all-season tires at GoSailun.com, but Sailun says U.S. duties are hampering the tires’ commercial viability, so options are limited. In Canada, however, SailunTire.ca has a much longer list to choose from.
Our Final Verdict
With some good cold-weather testing under my belt, I came away impressed with the Sailun IceBlazer WST1 winter tires. Traction in the snow is excellent and I see no reason not to recommend them – especially if you can indeed find them for 20-30% less than competitive winter tires.
If you are on the fence about buying a set of winter tires because they are expensive, know that I’ve white-knuckled my way through more than one Canadian winter with all-season tires. Even more affordable tires like the Sailun WST1 still sting at the cash register. But once I sucked it up and bought a set of winter tires eight years ago, the peace of mind they instantly delivered was worth the price by itself.
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