Alas, this is one of those occasions where we are reporting on a test someone else has done. Not just anyone though. It was ‘Wheels’ magazine that had all the fun. As a publication that has been around since 1953, it quite rightly deserves its reputation as a magazine that knows its stuff and can be trusted.
Let the testing begin…
The Car - Why an SUV?
...But first. Why use a Hyundai Tucson? Well, it’s a midsize SUV which is bang on trend. It might not be your first choice but us Kiwi’s are fans of its ilk. Like the Rav4. Over 800,000 of them bad boys hit the road last year. Not to mention the huge numbers of other models shifted, like the Honda CRV. In fact, 8 of the top 15 selling vehicles in NZ are mid-sized SUVs. So you probably want to know what tyres go well on them.
The Tyres Involved (and not involved)
For the 2020 Tyre Test, a pretty regular size of tyre was used. 225/55R18. The same size can also be found on some models of Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi ASX, and Nissan Dualis and Qashqai. You get the picture - this is about as real world as it gets. The competitors were made up from many of the usual suspects… bar a few noticeable exceptions. The full line-up included; Bridgestone, Continental, Cooper, Toyo, Maxxis, Hankook and Kumho. Giti and Hifly also got in on the act. All in all, not a bad bunch, covering a wide range from budget to premium.
A quick note on the chap behind the wheel of the SUV and testing the tyres. Renato Loberto knows his way around a track. He’s been doing it for 21 years, has had a crack at Bathurst and once even managed to do a sub 3 minute lap of the famous track in a VW Amarok. Which is pretty impressive. He clearly knows his stuff when it comes to moving vehicles at speed, but to make sure there were no pre-set judgements, each set of tyres was fitted and removed without Renato knowing which set he was driving on.
Moving swiftly, but not as swiftly as Renato, on…
Nope, we’re not talking careering down a mountain in the snow. We’re talking about a tightly laid out course which can only be navigated by causing the tyres to shift the full lateral load into each direction. 5 times. In just a few seconds.
The carefully laid out cones (precisely 24 metres apart in case you were wondering) mean Renato could be more than a little violent on the steering wheel at 70km/h. Yeah - we know...it does sound like great fun.
Pushing tyres like this is critical to testing how they stand up to quick directional changes. If you’re ever in a situation where you need to avoid something (or someone), then you’ll want to be confident the tyres you have on are up to the task.
The Continental UltraContact came out on top here. “It felt like I was picking up an inside rear, which is telling me it has excellent grip” said Renato as the German manufacturer scored top spot in the test.
It’s arguably more likely you’ll need to come to a quick stop than swerve around something. We’ve likely all been there. Hopefully you get to mutter something along the lines of “I thought I saw something’ as you come to a wheel screeching halt and survey the road to see nothing in front of you. Either way, you’ll be happy if you have a bit of Maxxis rubber on your wheels. From a moving speed of 110km/h, the Maxxis Premitra 5 managed to pull up the Tucson in a mere 39 metres. The last placed was the Hankook which was still moving right up until just under 46 metres. That’s a whopping 7 metre difference. To help you visualise that distance, it’s almost 2 x the length of the Hyundai. Or about 451 times longer than the marlin your mate Dave reckons he caught on a handline.
As for our friend Renato, he actually cited the Continental tyre as the best despite it coming in a close second, stopping 48cm after the Maxxis. Apparently it felt better and delivered “really, really good braking. Good initial brake feel and consistent”.
A test which is designed to try and push the tyres to their limits - in Wheels’ words, “allowed Renato to lean on the tyre persistently to better understand what it was doing and how it coped with repeated extremes”. Or as we imagine it, sort of making them squeal like an unlucky cat that just had its tail stomped on by an over friendly toddler. Renato got to throw the poor Tucson round two 90 degree bends, followed by a 50 km/h constant-radius circle. We suspect he enjoyed it more than the Hyundai did.
It was a relatively close field with data differences measured in tenths of a second. Half of the field made it around in under 20 seconds and the top spot was fought between the Cooper and Continental with the Continental Premium Contact 6 edging past to the top spot. Beyond the data, the more pronounced difference in this discipline seemed to be how they felt to the driver. “The grip would just disappear” commented Renato on the Kumho which came in last.
Stopping a 1.6 tonne SUV in the wet is not easy. The laws of inertia come into play and conspire to keep the family vehicle from pulling up when you want it to. So when you complete the same test as in the dry (speeding to 110km/h before hitting the anchors) and the tyres stop the speeding metal in just 64cm more than in the wet… it’s cause to celebrate. It was a storming performance from the Maxxis Premitra 5, performing almost identically in the wet as it did in the dry.
That said, the Continental PremiumContact 6 did pretty well too. It came to a halt at a smidgeon over 40 metres (40.32). The other end of the spectrum was the Cooper tyres. They took 48.28 metres. Coming in last at 52.05 metres was the Hankooks.
Probably our favourite. Nothing can be more fun as a driver on a test track. Or as scary if you’re on the road. Yes - this is the test that separates the prize bit of rubber from the stuff that should be relegated to duty as a makeshift garden swing. The test that proves tread compound and pattern choice to be worth it… or worthless.
It was bad news for the Hankooks again, along with the Kumho. They offered poor Renato nothing other than a fleeting moment of panic and that sinking feeling that he’s pushed it too far.
At the other end of the pack, described as doing everything well and ‘feeling right’, was the Continental PremiumContact 6. Edging just ahead of it once more, was the Maxxis. So tight was it at the tip though that the other Continental tyre only just missed out on a podium finish by 1cm, the Cooper impressing beyond expectations given its performance in wet braking and taking 3rd spot.
You might not have to put your tyres to the test like Wheels Magazine did. You will have to put up with their noise though. Unless you plan on driving wearing earmuffs or your music turned up so loud your eardrums start bleeding… there’ll be a noticeable hum from the tyres.
What wasn’t so noticeable was any difference between the Continental PremiumContact 6, Bridgestone and Cooper tyres. They all recorded a noise level of 59.2dB. That’s about the same as a normal conversation and about 10dB less than a vacuum cleaner.
To the results you’ve been waiting for. The Bridgestone Ecopia just nudged the Continental UltraContact UC6SUV onto 3rd place for a podium finish. Mind you, it is the most expensive tyre of the lot so you’d expect a semi decent performance.
Second place was the Maxxis Premitra 5. A top stopper, it let itself down with the dry cornering. At $90 a corner cheaper than the Bridgestone, it still makes for a solid choice.
As with all things, consistency is crucial. One tyre won half of the tests and ran very close to the top spot in the others. If you could please step forward and take a bow, Continental PremiumContact6. In the words of our friend Renato “That felt like the best tyre by some margin...it did everything really well...super consistent everywhere”.
That’s the thing too. You never know what a drive will throw at you. One minute the weather is fine and you have a window open, blasting some music and singing at the top of your lungs… next minute it’s pouring and you’re trying to navigate someone’s prized pooch that seems to have no road sense whatsoever. Now, this may not be the precise scenario Continental had in mind when designing the PremiumContact 6. That doesn’t matter, it’s perfectly suited to it…and pretty much any other scenario you care to throw at it.