What is a small SUV tyre?
There are almost as many tyre sizes as there are SUV models in this category, with hardly a size that’s shared by more than two cars. For this test, we picked the size 225/60R17 (see How to Read a Tyre on what the numbers mean), suitable for at least some versions of popular current and older-model small SUVs such as the Hyundai iX35, Kia Sportage (our test car), Nissan XTrail and Renault Koleos. It’s also the size to use if you want to upgrade from the 16-inch wheels on your Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander LS or Peugeot 4007.
Since only relatively few car models share this size, there’s also a much more limited range of tyres available compared with previously tested passenger car tyre sizes.
Another impact of the relatively niche size is on price: none of the tested models costs less than $200 per tyre, and several cost more than $300.
Road vs off-road tyres
There are different types of SUV tyres depending on how much off-roading you want to do. In a small survey earlier this year we found 95% of members buy models designed for road and light off-road use for their small SUV, and only 5% go for serious off-road tyres, so here we look at the former.
You also told us how you use your small SUV – on average you do 90% of your driving on sealed roads, eight per cent on unsealed roads and only about two per cent on 4WD tracks or sand. So while our test includes an off-road component, the main focus is on road performance.
- Cooper CS4 Touring
- Dunlop ST20 Grandtrek
- Falken Ziex ZE912
- Goodyear EfficientGrip SUV
- Hankook Optimo H426 Environment
- Kumho Solus KL21 Eco
- Maxxis MA-E1
- Nexen Classe Premiere CP641
- Pirelli Cinturato P7 Ecoimpact
- Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S
- Yokohama Geolandar H/T-S
How we test
Our testers, Peter Horvath and Michael Hohl, assess how well the tyres keep the car in a set lane at speeds of 70kmh, 75km/h and 80km/h in dry and wet conditions, using a right-hand corner with about a 55m radius. The tyres are tested in random order, and repeated in different random order.
Braking: Using a GPS system, our testers measure the distance it takes to come to a complete standstill in emergency braking tests from driving speeds of 50km/h and 80km/h in both dry and wet conditions.
Rolling noise: Our testers also carry out rolling noise measurements at the driver’s left ear at 50km/h and 80km/h, on the smooth race track and a road with coarse surface. While we measure noise at the very end of our harsh performance testing, the tyres are still relatively new and bigger differences may develop with increased wear.
Grip vs durability
Each tyre design varies in its tread pattern and rubber mix and is a compromise between a number of requirements, such as grip and durability. Generally, a soft tyre provides better grip but also leaves more rubber on the road, so won’t last as long as a harder model. Racing tyres are an extreme example: they’re very soft and practically glue the car to the track, but may only last for part of one race — if that.
Our cornering and braking assess the tyres’ grip, but not their durability. Tyre wear is difficult and expensive to test properly — several European consumer organisations and motoring clubs carry out a joint test, part of which is a convoy drive over 10,000 km, using identical cars. Unfortunately we can’t take part in their test, because most European tyres are different from Australian ones. And we simply can’t afford to run a similar test of our own.
We’d like to thank Morgan Park Raceway and the Warwick and District Dirt Bike Club in Warwick, Qld, for ensuring a smooth test, and Kia Australia for providing the Sportage test car.