Feeling lost and confused by the hundreds of different tyre models out there? In this guide, we simplify and explain the general classes of tyres to help you make a more informed choice.
As car people, questions we’re commonly asked by friends and family include: “What tyres should I buy?” or “What’s the best tyres for my car?”
While those appear to be simple and innocuous questions, they’re actually not that helpful, because the answer depends on a myriad of factors. For example: the type of vehicle in question, what’s available in that vehicle’s specific tyre size, and the owner’s use-case. In the same way that there are many different types of shoes for basketball, running, cross-training, etc., there are many different types of tyres available on the market to suit different vehicles and driving needs.
A good starting point, therefore, would be to figure out the size of tyres that your car currently wears, and then go from there. If you need help with finding that info, check out our Tyre Basics 101 article.
After that, you need to decide what your use-case is, or what characteristics you want from your tyres. Silent; grippy; comfortable; cheap? These are all examples of tyre attributes, but as with everything in life, a perfect tyre doesn’t exist. Broadly-speaking, tyres can be classified into one of the following five categories with their associated pros and cons:
Mainstream tyres are ubiquitous, and are intended to represent good value-for-money for daily-driven cars. Apart from being quite friendly on the wallet, mainstream tyres don’t typically exhibit any standout performance characteristics.
- Pros: Cost-effective, widely available, largest range of sizes, good tyre lifespan
- Cons: May be noisier than premium-comfort tyres, cheaper brands may last shorter and perform worse
- Examples: Goodyear Assurance, Michelin Energy, Falken Ziex
- Suitable for: Small to medium family sedans and hatchbacks, SUVs, and MPVs.
If you want to maximise efficiency and save on fuel costs, Eco tyres are for you. They feature construction methods that reduce rolling resistance (i.e. friction between the road and your tyres) and enhance fuel economy. And as the popularity of electric vehicles grows, this type of tyre takes on an even greater prominence, with many companies developing technologies that will enable their tyres to better cope with the unique characteristics of EVs.
- Pros: Lower rolling resistance, better mileage and fuel economy, relatively quiet, good tyre lifespan
- Cons: More expensive than mainstream tyres, smaller range of sizes, less cornering grip than other tyre types
- Examples: Bridgestone Ecopia, Brigestone Enliten, Pirelli Cinturato, Pirelli Elect, Yokohama BluEarth, Hankook Kinergy, Nexen N Blue
- Suitable for: Anyone looking to save money on fuel. Ideal for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles
Note: Tyres developed specifically for pure electric vehicles may not be suitable for hybrid or internal-combustion engine vehicles owing to their stronger sidewalls that are designed for heavier loads. Using such tyres on non-electric vehicles may lead to a harsher and less comfortable ride.
Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), by virtue of their design, are heavier and taller than their sedan counterparts. Therefore, the tyres they ride on must be constructed to deal with this additional load and higher centre of gravity, while still being relatively quiet, comfortable and affordable.
- Pros: Designed for taller, heavier vehicles, relatively good tyre lifespan, relatively quiet and comfortable
- Cons: More expensive than mainstream tyres, more limited range of sizes
- Examples: Bridgestone Alenza, Pirelli Scorpion, Yokohama Geolandar
- Suitable for: SUVs and large MPVs
Note: Although many tyre companies produce SUV-specific models, a lot of the more popular performance or comfort tyres are also available in larger SUV sizes. And if a certain tyre size is available in both conventional and SUV variants, don’t be tempted to have SUV tyres installed on sedans or hatchbacks, or mainstream tyres on SUVs. This is because they are designed with different load ratings in mind, and having the wrong tyres on your car could lead to a less comfortable ride, or worse, higher wear and premature tyre failure.
Comfort and refinement are qualities that anyone appreciates in the daily grind, and comfort (also known as touring) tyres highlight those the best. But it’s not just luxury cars – like Audis, BMWs, Lexuses or Mercedes-Benzes – that can benefit from such tyres; anyone can appreciate a more comfortable ride, even if they’re driving a car from a mainstream brand.
- Pros: designed to be quieter, better tyre lifespan, relatively good range of tyre sizes, better grip levels compared to mainstream tyres
- Cons: more expensive than mainstream and eco tyres, runflat tyres cannot be repaired
- Examples: Bridgestone Turanza, Pirelli Cinturato, Goodyear EfficientGrip, Michelin Primacy, Continental PremiumContact
- Suitable for: Anyone looking for a quieter and comfier ride, but ideal for medium and large sedans, especially from premium continental brands
Sports and high-performance cars need tyres that can allow them to perform at their fullest while still retaining a decent level of everyday ride comfort and relatively good tyre lifespan. Performance tyres (usually with labels ranging from Max- to Ultra- to Extreme-Performance) fulfill this brief, offering the best handling, roadholding, and feel through the steering wheel for enthusiastic drivers looking to rocket out of bends and corners.
- Pros: High levels of cornering grip and steering feel
- Cons: Usually the most expensive type of tyre, higher wear rate, more limited range of sizes, sometimes noisier, and possibly reduced fuel economy
- Examples: Bridgestone Potenza, Pirelli P Zero, Michelin Pilot Sport, Goodyear Eagle F1, Yokohama Advan, Hankook Ventus
- Suitable for: Sports cars and performance sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs
Note: there is a further sub-category known as ultra-ultra high-performance tyres or trackday tyres. Examples include the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup, Yokohama Advan AD09, Bridgestone Potenza RE-12 and Hankook Ventus RS4. These tyres are extremely grippy in the dry, but are almost always noisier, stiffer, and less effective in heavy rain, and generally beyond the scope of most non-enthusiast drivers.
Looking at the pros and cons of each category above, it becomes apparent why vehicle-type and use-case must be considered while choosing tyres for one’s car.
For example, it doesn’t make sense to have performance tyres installed on the family’s daily-driven Honda Civic unless said car is also used in performance-oriented applications such as time-trials and track-days – otherwise, it will be an exercise in burning money, literally.
All said, “what tyres are good for my car?” is a question that can only be answered when tyre-size and availability, vehicle-type and use-case are taken into consideration. Beyond that, purchase that which the wallet avails.
Now that you know the basics of what tyres to choose, want to find out what are the best tyres of each category? Find out in our Tyre Test videos on YouTube!1 comment