More 205/55 R16 tyres are sold in the UK than any other size, and this is the dimension Auto Express chose for its summer 2023 tyre test. In association with Blackcircles.com, the Auto Express team headed to the Contidrom proving ground in Germany and compared the performance of 11 tyre brands.
Performance on wet roads is “at the heart” of the Auto Express test programme because, as the motoring publication explains, it is in rainy conditions that “drivers are most likely to go beyond the capabilities of their tyres or themselves.” Auto Express thus reserved half of the overall score for testing in the wet. The tyre testers looked at wet grip in a straight line and when cornering in both shallow and deep water, as well as braking.
When testing in dry conditions, Auto Express assessed handling on a section of circuit that combined fast sweeps with quick changes of direction. The dry braking test involved stopping from 62 mph or 100 km/h. Dry testing accounted for 40 per cent of the overall score, with noise, fuel economy and price making up the remainder.
Continental the overall winner – 100%
Having achieved first place in the wet handling plus the wet and dry braking tests, as well as gaining respectable results in most other categories, the Continental PremiumContact 7 was the highest scoring tyre from the 11 candidates. Even though they knew the Continental tyre was good, Auto Express says the margin of its win took the testers “by surprise,” particularly because the PremiumContact 7 was up against other new designs.
“This is an outstanding endorsement for the latest generation of our passenger tyres,” comments Peter Robb, marketing director at Continental. “Following the SportContact 7’s triumph last year and the successful start to 2023 with multiple test awards for the PremiumContact 7, this new win is testament to the strength of our products.”
Podium finish for Bridgestone & Toyo – 98.8%
Two tyres shared second place, the Bridgestone Turanza T005 and Toyo Proxes Comfort.
Although Bridgestone has launched a new tyre, the Turanza 6, this latest-generation product was not available in size 205/55 R16 at the time of testing. The proven Bridgestone Turanza T005 took to the track instead and excelled in the fuel economy test, with an advantage of around four per cent over most of its rivals. But as Auto Express points out, it is “extremely difficult to combine economy with good wet grip,” and the Turanza T005 tyre finished the wet tests in joint seventh place.
Auto Express writes that the test team was “pleasantly surprised” with the performance delivered by the Toyo Proxes Comfort. Joint second place is the brand’s “best result to date.” The Toyo Proxes Comfort “mixed a strong performance in the dry with decent results in the wet tests.”
4th place: Pirelli – 98.6%
This is the fourth consecutive year that Auto Express has tested the C2 version of the Pirelli Cinturato P7 and the tyre’s result in 2023 is the best yet. It comments that “from joint last on its 2020 debut, to eighth in 2021, there’s evidence that whatever Pirelli is doing to the P7 is working.” Taking the Continental PremiumContact 7 out of the equation, Auto Express names the Cinturato P7 C2 “among the leaders” in this test and considers the tyre’s performance to be balanced, with “no real lows or highs.”
Goodyear & Vredestein share 5th place – 98.5%
Although a winner when tested in size 205/55 R16 in 2020, the Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance 2 needed to be content with joint fifth place in 2023. But Auto Express points out that while this “might look like a big drop,” the performance differences behind the Continental tyre are ”tiny”. It may not be a test winner but the EfficientGrip Performance 2 “displayed the same qualities as before” and is “still one of the better tyres to drive on the wet handling circuit.”
Auto Express opines that there’s “lots to like” about the Vredestein Ultrac. Compared with the previous tyre, the Ultrac has increased silica and resins in its tread compound, which helped it secure second place in the wet handling tests. The publication considers wet braking the “only blot” for the Vredestein tyre but notes that while its eighth-placed stopping distance was just under two metres more than the winner, it was within a metre of the “best of the rest.”
7th place: Kumho – 98.4%
Kumho introduced the Ecsta HS52 last year and Auto Express considers the tyre “most effective in the dry,” noting that the HS52 was “marginally the quickest on the handling circuit” and was joint fourth in braking. The Kumho tyre also won testing on the wet circular track but front grip was “limited when facing the handling circuit’s mixed demands.”
8th place: Michelin – 98.3%
Summing up the 2022-launched Michelin Primacy 4+, Auto Express says that for a tyre with a focus on performance when worn, it performs “pretty well from new, with a good all-round balance.” The Primacy 4+ finished third in the wet tests but was ninth-placed in the dry braking and handling disciplines.
9th place: Hankook – 90.0%
Auto Express explains that a product can finish a test at the lower end of the table and nonetheless be a good tyre. “There’s just a one-percentage-point difference in the gap to the winning Continental, but now rivals have filled that space and the Hankook, a multiple test winner, comes home ninth.” The publication emphasises that “this is a perfect example of the importance of looking at the percentage scores and not just the overall position of a tyre.” As for specific strengths and weaknesses, the Hankook Ventus Prime 4 is a tyre that “does not like deep water” but is “more convincing” at shallower depths, and a joint second in wet braking meant the Ventus Prime 4 “jointly led the pack chasing the stand-out Continental.”
10th place: Falken – 97.4%
Falken received stinging praise from the test team, who declared the performance of the Ziex ZE310 Ecorun “not the performance level we expect” from the brand. Auto Express notes that the tyre has been available since 2017 and a successor therefore “can’t come soon enough.” The “deep-water prowess” that the publication observed in its 2020 test is still there and Falken finished amongst the top performers in related test disciplines, but again it “could not repeat the result in less severe conditions.”
11th place: Maxxis – 97.1%
Consolation for this last-placed result is that Auto Express considers the Maxxis Premitra 5 HP5 “by no means a bad tyre.” When last tested back in 2020 the Maxxis tyre finished fourth and was within one per cent of the winning Goodyear product, but its rivals have “raised the performance bar” since then.