Tire reviews: best car tires to buy now 2022

With car makers fitting ever-bigger wheels to their latest cars, it was high time we returned to 18-inch rims. And it was not just a return to this size of wheel, which we last tested in 2016, but some sort of normality, too, because this year’s program was not affected by the pandemic.

We also headed back to Bridgestone’s Aprilia providing ground in Italy to assess the tires. There were no returnees from our 2016 test, but a few regulars were missing thanks to stock problems or new designs being launched imminently.

Given that this size overlaps with bigger, more sports-orientated versions, we asked tire makers to nominate their UHP (ultra high performance) offering rather than the UUHP (ultra ultra high performance) tires we mini-tested seperately.

Where possible, we bought tires to ensure we tested what you can buy, plus we added a budget Far Eastern brand. The key handling and braking tests were performed by Auto Express drivers, with the remainder completed by providing ground staff in Aprilia. Rolling resistance was rated at Bridgestone’s nearby Castel Romano R&D centre.

What we tested

We opted for the biggest-selling 18-inch tire size, 225/40R18, and all of the models we tested had 92 weight and Y speed (up to 186mph) ratings. We’ve also given each tire’s EU tire label rating (right). Fuel economy (RR) and wet grip (WG) are rated from AE, with A the best. Pass-by noise (N) is rated in decibels, so lower is better.

Auston Athena SP 7

Ratings RR:C WG:A N:72

Bridgestone Potenza Sport

Ratings RR:D WG:A N:72

Falken Azenis FK520

Ratings RR:C WG:A N:70

Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 6

Ratings RR:C WG:A N:70

Hankook Ventus S1 evo3

Ratings RR:C WG:A N:72

Maxxis Victra Sport 5

Ratings RR:C WG:A N:72

Pirelli Cinturato P7

Ratings RR:B WG:A N:70

How we tested

While tire label ratings only rate three areas of performance, our test provides a more comprehensive assessment of a design’s capabilities. We look at eight disciplines, covering not just the wet but also the dry plus cabin noise. For the wet and dry testing, multiple runs were made and an average calculated once any outliers had been removed.

Wet

A key area for many drivers because these are the conditions where they are most likely to exceed their tires’ limits. We looked at braking and cornering, both in shallow depths plus how the tire copes with deeper standing water. As in our SUV tire test we used the revamped wet handling track at Bridgestone’s proving ground, which has had new corners added and others altered. The 1.7km circuit provides a good test of traction out of tight hairpins, lateral grip and front/rear balance through longer turns. Lap times formed the result.

Braking performance was assessed from 80kph (50mph). Using instruments, we measured the distance taken to slow our test car to 20kph (12mph); we then calculated how much farther it would have taken to come to a stop to avoid influence from the anti-lock braking system.

How the tire copes with deeper water was done in a straight line and when cornering. In a straight line we calculated when the tire in the water was spinning 15 per cent faster than the one in the dry. The lateral testing was done by driving the car through a flooded curve at ever- higher speeds, monitoring the g-force generated until all grip was lost.

Dry

As in the wet, lap times were at the heart of the handling test around the circuit, which not only allowed lateral grip to be assessed but also the balance each set provides. Braking measured the distance taken to stop from 100kph (62mph).

Cabin noise

While the EU label rating concentrates on pass-by noise, for drivers the level in the car is key. So our test was done at 50 and 80kph and measured sound levels between 100-400Hz.

Fuel economy

Rolling resistance is the key factor here, dictating how much fuel it takes to roll a tire at a given speed. Our test was done to industry standards and a one per cent difference in fuel use requires around a four per cent change in rolling resistance.

Price

This plays a small role in our test because tires are safety items. Our figures come from our online tire retailer test winner Blackcircles.com and are what it charged at the time of writing. If a tire is not part of its range, the figure is what it would charge.

How we chose a winner

The results were converted to percentages to accurately reflect the differences between each tire. The wet tests formed 50 per cent of the result, dry 40 and noise, fuel economy and price the final 10. Within the first two categories we put the emphasis on handling and braking.