In this article we'll be finding out what the best cheap tire on the market is!
Times are hard, and now more so than ever people are asking me what the best budget tire they can buy is. As these have never been tested against each other properly, I usually don't have an answer, but all that is about to change!
Sadly I've not been able to test every budget available, there are literally hundreds of tire brands coming out of the far east, most of them from just a handful of factories. In fact, I've got over 300 tire brands on the tire reviews website, and as much as I love big tests, even that's too much for me.
Instead, I've bought eight of the most common and cheapest tires available I could find, and because I've never tested a retread tire, I bought one of those too. Naturally they'll all be going through a full tire reviews tire test to see which is best.
Obviously, there's no point in seeing what's best if we have no reference point to know how best that is, so to see if any of them can match a premium tire, I've have a benchmark tire in the test. It's not going to be easy as it's the brand new, and already multiple test winning, Continental PremiumContact 7.
Can any of these eight cheap tires get anywhere near one of the best tires on the market in this segment?! Let's find out.
|Dry Braking||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 35.27 M||▼Triangle SporteX TH201: 40.01 M|
|Dry Handling||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 51.73 s||▼Double-Coin DC99: 53.39 s|
|Subj. Dry Handling||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 100 Points||▼Double-Coin DC99: 30 Points|
|Wet Braking||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 31.58 M||▼Double-Coin DC99: 46.04 M|
|Wet Handling||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 84.85 s||▼Double-Coin DC99: 96.27 s|
|Subj. Wet Handling||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 100 Points||▼Double-Coin DC99: 50 Points|
|Wet Circle||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 11.5 s||▼Double-Coin DC99: 12.8 s|
|Straight Aqua||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 74.91 Km/H||▼Double-Coin DC99: 64.55 Km/H|
|Curved Aquaplaning||▲Continental PremiumContact 7: 3.3 m/sec2||▼Double-Coin DC99: 2.3 m/sec2|
|Subj. Comfort||▲Winrun R330: 100 Points||▼Double-Coin DC99: 90 Points|
|Noise||▲Double-Coin DC99: 70.2 dB||▼Maxtrek MAXIMUS M1: 74.4 dB|
|Price||▲Double-Coin DC99: 45.87||▼Continental PremiumContact 7: 86.19|
|Rolling Resistance||▲Tomket Sport Series 1: 8.28 kg / t||▼Maxtrek MAXIMUS M1: 9.82 kg / t|
Naturally the premium tire had a huge advantage in wet braking, stopping the Golf over 7 meters shorter from the 80 km/h than the best budget tire, and over 14 meters shorter than the worst!
Like in wet braking, the Continental was in a in a league of its own during the wet handling test, it's a brand new premium tire and one of the best in its class in the wet, so that's no surprise.
The next best tire was the Tomket, 4.4 seconds behind the Continental, but the worst budget tire, which was the Doublecoin, was another 7.1 seconds behind the tomket! The spread inside the cheap end of the market can be as big as it is between premium and budget tires!
While the Tomket couldn't match the poise and balance of the Continental, it was pretty easy to drive, with nice steering, a good balance and predictable levels of grip. Predictability in tire in the wet is underrated as people tend to focus on lap times, but having a well balanced tire is a very important quality.
This was highlighted by the Nankang, which was almost as fast over the lap but wanted to oversteer you off the track at every opportunity. I've said it before about Nankang products, the grip levels aren't bad, and they certainly make for some entertaining tires as track day tires, but they need to work on the balance they give the vehicle.
Davanti, Winrun, Triangle and Maxtrex were the next group, all struggling to really communicate what was happening to the driver, they'd push into understeer quite quickly then you'd spend a lot of time off power waiting for the tire to come back to you.
The retreaded King Meiler was next. This was my first experience with a retreaded tire so I had no idea what to expect, and in the wet at least, it didn't feel any different to any of the other tires at this end of the market.
And finally, the Doublecoin. Not only was it the slowest, but it was also the hardest to drive. I couldn't quite work out when or why or what caused the sudden oversteer, but there it was. It was the worst tire in wet braking, wet handling, and straight and curved aquaplaning.
Dry conditions usually means much closer results than in the wet, and while dry braking was closer, there was still a significant gap between the Continental and the best budget tire, which was once again the Tomket. The difference, around 7% or nearly a car length, means when you're stopped on the Continental you're "only" doing 26kmh on the tomket, and 34 km/h on the triangle! That would be an expensive crash.
The dry handling lap times were relatively close, but it's a short track and the VW Golf test vehicle doesn't have the most power, and while the Continental was the nicest to drive, there were also some good tires in the group.
The Winrun was my favorite, it had good steering and stable handling making it easy to drive fast, helped by a little understeer. The Tomket was also nice during lane changes and the lap, the Nankang felt sporty for a 16" tire with quick turn in, but once again the rear wasn't very stable meaning oversteer. Fun for a track, but perhaps not the best on the road.
As for the retreaded King Meiler, well that felt good in steering and balance, but the compound couldn't seem to keep up with the demands of the car meaning the lap time wasn't great.
The Doublecoin and Davanti were the slowest of the group, the Davanti steering felt fine sublimit and was noticeably more comfortable on the way to track than some of its competitors, but once going quickly there was little feedback and a lot of understeer, and finally the Doublecoin continued to be a really messy tire, difficult to control and subjectively by far the worse of the group.
Echoing my subjective experience, the Doublecoin and Davanti were the quietest during the passby noise test, with the premium Continental finishing midpack. While external noise does have an impact on the noise in the cabin, it is not a direct correlation as tire manufacturers can direct the sound into the vehicle to achieve a slightly better external noise test, and this reading doesn't account for pitch.
The Winrun and Tomket also had better a rolling resistance than the Continental, though it was less than 2%, and we've seen in the other test that the Continental was also 20% behind the best premium, so this isn't a huge win for the cheap tires.
Shockingly, the Continental was the most expensive tire on test.
1st: Continental PremiumContact 7
It should come as no surprise that the brand new, and premium Continental PremiumContact 7 had a huge lead overall. The PC7 was beaten by a couple of the cheaper tires in noise and rolling resistance, but the huge amount of grip, especially in the wet, is worth a 1.19% drop in rolling resistance.
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2nd: Tomket Sport Series 1
While it's difficult to recommend any of the cheap tires due to the wet braking performance, the Tomket Sport is certain the tire to look at if you need to save money on tires. It was the closest to the premium tire in wet braking and wet handling, performed well in the dry and was a pleasant tire to drive. It also had the lowest rolling resistance of the group.
3rd: Nankang Econex NA1
As we've seen in other tests, the Nankang Econex NA-1 objectively performed well, for the price point it had good grip in grip tests, and had good aquaplaning resistance and low noise, however subjectively it was one of the tricker tires to drive on the VW Golf test car, with a rapid transition between grip and oversteer. If you want a fun, cheap, track day tire in a 16" wheel size, this is the tire for you.
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4th: Winrun R330
The Winrun R330 had a mid pack objective performance, but subjectively it was an easy tire to drive with understeer balance. It was also one of the cheapest of the group and had the second lowest rolling resistance.
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5th: Davanti DX390
The Davanti DX390 performed well in he aquaplaning tests and had slightly above average grip in the dry and wet, and it was also a comfortable tire. The handling nature of the tire was a safe understeer primary balance. It was the most expensive budget tire though and was out performed by the cheaper Tomket, Nankang and Winrun products.
6th: Triangle SporteX TH201
The Triangle SporteX TH201 was the second most expensive budget tire, but the performance was near the back of the pack in every test meaning this is not a good choice at the cheap end of the market.
7th: King Meiler Sport 1 KM
The King Meiler Sport 1 KM retreaded tire promises German engineering performance at Chinese tires pricing, and while the subjective qualities of the tire were fine, objectively it was near the back of each test.
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8th: Maxtrek MAXIMUS M1
The Maxtrek Maximus M1 finish the test in a similar situation to the Triangle, as one of the most expensive budget tires on test, but without the performance to match.
9th: Double Coin DC99
The DoubleCoin DC99 was the cheapest tire on test, and had the lowest noise and mid-pack rolling resistance, but every other test it was last, with the worst wet grip by far. Definitely a tire to avoid, even if it is the cheapest tire of the test.
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