Tyres can easily put a large dent in your wallet if you spend a lot of time on the road, but even if you only change your tyres every few years they will always be an unwelcome expense. Buying a new set of tyres has never been easier though as there are now many places to find money-saving tyre discounts and many online tyre retailers trying to attract your business, but which tyres are the best for your car?
Just fitting the cheapest tyres is not always the best option. Some budget tyre brands are decent performers, but having peace of mind on that rainy day can outweigh the costs. All road users rely on the ability of those four black circles to maintain a good grip of the tarmac, so many drivers still prefer to rely on the reputation of established products and brands when forking out for replacement tyres.
To help you make the best tyre choice, our experts pushed the top-selling tyres to the limit to find the best tyres for your car. So, before you head off to the local fitter or start your search for the best online tyre deals, read on for our verdict on the most popular tyres in the UK.
It’s been a busy year for tyre manufacturers with more than half of the contenders in this year’s test only coming to the market in 2016. Tyre development progresses at an astounding rate, and brands are continually doing their best to keep up with the latest patterns.
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Manufacturers build their tyres to suit all aspects of performance, including the three main EU labelling criteria: wet grip, fuel efficiency and noise levels.
We put them up against proven top performers from Hankook and Continental, plus contenders from Yokohama and Vredestein. To see how the tyres fared, we headed for Pirelli’s Vizzola proving ground near Milan, Italy, putting them through a total of nine critical assessments.
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For the test, we returned to the biggest-selling size in the popular 18-inch sector: 225/40 R18. And as one tyre maker recently admitted that it had supplied magazine tests with specially produced tyres, we asked companies to nominate what they would like tested, and then sourced them from the wholesale market.
The assessments were completed by Auto Express drivers, although aquaplaning and noise specialists got behind the wheel for those tests.
Unlike any other wet handling track we’ve used, Vizzola is a figure of eight circuit, with the crossover resembling a hump-backed bridge. It’s a short route with lots of corners, which means the tyres constantly had to change direction and were given a true test. Average lap times determined the result.
This test measured the pure lateral grip in the wet without aquaplaning or traction interfering. The technique required the same amount of steering lock to be applied, then accelerating the car until it could no longer hold the line around the flooded circle. We took an average time across seven laps to find our winner here.
Stopping in the wet is when drivers are most likely to reach the limit of their tyres’ performance. To find the most effective rubber, we did a series of stops from just over 80kph (50mph) – measuring the distance taken to slow to 10kph (6mph), which removes any inconsistencies created by anti-lock braking system pulses. An average of eight stops gave us a result.
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Aquaplaning is when the tread can no longer pump out the water under the tyre, so it rides up on top of it and loses grip. Proving ground staff completed this test, as experience is needed to get the correct entry speed. The car accelerated with one wheel in water, and the point where it spins 15 per cent more than in the dry was recorded. An average gave us our champ.
Essentially the same measurement as the straight test, but with those water-shifting grooves distorted through cornering. However, the technique is quite different, as the car is accelerated at even higher speeds through a curved flooded section until all grip is lost. Lateral G-force is measured at each speed to form our ratings.
We did the same series of stops as in the wet test, yet this time on grippy, dry tarmac. The same braking point and line was used to get a consistent result. This time we used the GPS system to measure the deceleration from 100kph (62mph) down to 10kph.
Our test team decamped to the Circuito Tazio Nuvolari near Milan for the dry handling assessments, as there’s no dry handling track at the compact Vizzola. The 1.7-mile circuit combines a variety of hairpins with longer turns and quick direction changes. An average of lap times was used to rank the tyres.
Key for fuel economy, this measures the amount of power required to turn a loaded tyre. Our test was done to industry standards, and the result is an average of two tyres. As a rough guide, a five per cent difference in rolling resistance will see a one per cent change in fuel economy.
Proving ground staff once again took over for this test, measuring noise levels in the front and rear of our car at 50mph. An average was taken of the two results, both on rough and smooth asphalt. This is a different test than the one used in tyre labelling, which is driven by environmental concerns and measures pass-by noise.
The days of phoning for a price when buying tyres only to be asked ‘what have you been quoted?’ are long gone, thanks to the arrival of online retailers. Our figures come from our tyre supplier test winner Black Circles and include delivery, fitting and disposal.
Click on the menu to the left or below for our detailed review on each tyre we tested...