Are Budget Tyres Finally Good Enough? 8 Cheap Tyres VS 1 Premium Tyre

In this article we'll be finding out what the best cheap tyre on the market is!

Times are hard, and now more so than ever people are asking me what the best budget tyre 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 tyre brands coming out of the far east, most of them from just a handful of factories. In fact, I've got over 300 tyre brands on the tyre 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 tyres available I could find, and because I've never tested a retread tyre, I bought one of those too. Naturally they'll all be going through a full tyre reviews tyre 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 tyre, I've have a benchmark tyre 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 tyres get anywhere near one of the best tyres on the market in this segment?! Let's find out.

Dry BrakingContinental PremiumContact 7: 35.27 MTriangle SporteX TH201: 40.01 M
Dry HandlingContinental PremiumContact 7: 51.73 sDouble-Coin DC99: 53.39 s
Subj. Dry HandlingContinental PremiumContact 7: 100 PointsDouble-Coin DC99: 30 Points
Wet BrakingContinental PremiumContact 7: 31.58 MDouble-Coin DC99: 46.04 M
Wet HandlingContinental PremiumContact 7: 84.85 sDouble-Coin DC99: 96.27 s
Subj. Wet HandlingContinental PremiumContact 7: 100 PointsDouble-Coin DC99: 50 Points
Wet CircleContinental PremiumContact 7: 11.5 sDouble-Coin DC99: 12.8 s
Straight AquaContinental PremiumContact 7: 74.91 Km/HDouble-Coin DC99: 64.55 Km/H
Curved AquaplaningContinental PremiumContact 7: 3.3 m/sec2Double-Coin DC99: 2.3 m/sec2
Subj. ComfortWinrun R330: 100 PointsDouble-Coin DC99: 90 Points
NoiseDouble-Coin DC99: 70.2 dBMaxtrek MAXIMUS M1: 74.4 dB
PriceDouble-Coin DC99: 45.87 Continental PremiumContact 7: 86.19
Rolling ResistanceTomket Sport Series 1: 8.28 kg / tMaxtrek MAXIMUS M1: 9.82 kg / t

Wet

Naturally the premium tyre had a huge advantage in wet braking, stopping the Golf over 7 meters shorter from the 80 km/h than the best budget tyre, 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 tyre and one of the best in its class in the wet, so that's no surprise. 

The next best tyre was the Tomket, 4.4 seconds behind the Continental, but the worst budget tyre, 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 tyres!

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 tyre in the wet is underrated as people tend to focus on lap times, but having a well balanced tyre 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 tyres as track day tyres, 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 tyre to come back to you. 

The retreaded King Meiler was next. This was my first experience with a retreaded tyre 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 tyres 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 tyre in wet braking, wet handling, and straight and curved aquaplaning.

Dry

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 tyre, 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 tyres 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" tyre 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 tyre, difficult to control and subjectively by far the worse of the group.

Environment

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 tyre 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 tyres.

Shockingly, the Continental was the most expensive tyre on test.

Results

View Results as a single table and adjust the score weighting

1st: Continental PremiumContact 7

Continental PremiumContact 7
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking1st35.27 M100%
Dry Handling1st51.73 s100%
Subj. Dry Handling1st100 Points100%
Wet Braking1st31.58 M100%
Wet Handling1st84.85 s100%
Subj. Wet Handling1st100 Points100%
Wet Circle1st11.5 s100%
Straight Aqua1st74.91 Km/H100%
Curved Aquaplaning1st3.3 m/sec2100%
Subj. Comfort2nd92 Points100 Points-8 Points92%
Noise4th72 dB70.2 dB+1.8 dB97.5%
Price9th86.19 45.87 +40.32 53.22%
Rolling Resistance3rd8.38 kg / t8.28 kg / t+0.1 kg / t98.81%
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 tyres in noise and rolling resistance, but the huge amount of grip, especially in the wet, is worth a 1.19% drop in rolling resistance.

Read Reviews    Buy from £83.50

2nd: Tomket Sport Series 1

Tomket Sport Series 1
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking2nd37.83 M35.27 M+2.56 M93.23%
Dry Handling3rd52.78 s51.73 s+1.05 s98.01%
Subj. Dry Handling3rd85 Points100 Points-15 Points85%
Wet Braking2nd38.69 M31.58 M+7.11 M81.62%
Wet Handling2nd89.21 s84.85 s+4.36 s95.11%
Subj. Wet Handling2nd90 Points100 Points-10 Points90%
Wet Circle3rd12 s11.5 s+0.5 s95.83%
Straight Aqua5th70.52 Km/H74.91 Km/H-4.39 Km/H94.14%
Curved Aquaplaning5th2.8 m/sec23.3 m/sec2-0.5 m/sec284.85%
Subj. Comfort3rd91 Points100 Points-9 Points91%
Noise6th72.6 dB70.2 dB+2.4 dB96.69%
Price4th50.49 45.87 +4.62 90.85%
Rolling Resistance1st8.28 kg / t100%
While it's difficult to recommend any of the cheap tyres due to the wet braking performance, the Tomket Sport is certain the tyre to look at if you need to save money on tyres. It was the closest to the premium tyre in wet braking and wet handling, performed well in the dry and was a pleasant tyre to drive. It also had the lowest rolling resistance of the group.

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3rd: Nankang Econex NA1

Nankang Econex NA1
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking3rd38.45 M35.27 M+3.18 M91.73%
Dry Handling2nd52.23 s51.73 s+0.5 s99.04%
Subj. Dry Handling6th75 Points100 Points-25 Points75%
Wet Braking3rd39.61 M31.58 M+8.03 M79.73%
Wet Handling3rd89.36 s84.85 s+4.51 s94.95%
Subj. Wet Handling4th70 Points100 Points-30 Points70%
Wet Circle2nd11.9 s11.5 s+0.4 s96.64%
Straight Aqua2nd74.13 Km/H74.91 Km/H-0.78 Km/H98.96%
Curved Aquaplaning2nd3.2 m/sec23.3 m/sec2-0.1 m/sec296.97%
Subj. Comfort8th90 Points100 Points-10 Points90%
Noise3rd71.9 dB70.2 dB+1.7 dB97.64%
Price3rd46.69 45.87 +0.82 98.24%
Rolling Resistance7th9.18 kg / t8.28 kg / t+0.9 kg / t90.2%
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 tyres to drive on the VW Golf test car, with a rapid transition between grip and oversteer. If you want a fun, cheap, track day tyre in a 16" wheel size, this is the tyre for you.

Read Reviews    Buy from £45.29

4th: Winrun R330

Winrun R330
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking6th39.41 M35.27 M+4.14 M89.5%
Dry Handling5th52.85 s51.73 s+1.12 s97.88%
Subj. Dry Handling2nd90 Points100 Points-10 Points90%
Wet Braking5th40.91 M31.58 M+9.33 M77.19%
Wet Handling5th92.25 s84.85 s+7.4 s91.98%
Subj. Wet Handling4th70 Points100 Points-30 Points70%
Wet Circle4th12.4 s11.5 s+0.9 s92.74%
Straight Aqua4th70.83 Km/H74.91 Km/H-4.08 Km/H94.55%
Curved Aquaplaning4th3 m/sec23.3 m/sec2-0.3 m/sec290.91%
Subj. Comfort1st100 Points100%
Noise5th72.2 dB70.2 dB+2 dB97.23%
Price2nd46.59 45.87 +0.72 98.45%
Rolling Resistance2nd8.37 kg / t8.28 kg / t+0.09 kg / t98.92%
The Winrun R330 had a mid pack objective performance, but subjectively it was an easy tyre to drive with understeer balance. It was also one of the cheapest of the group and had the second lowest rolling resistance.

Read Reviews    Buy from £54.10

5th: Davanti DX390

Davanti DX390
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking4th39.08 M35.27 M+3.81 M90.25%
Dry Handling8th53.32 s51.73 s+1.59 s97.02%
Subj. Dry Handling8th70 Points100 Points-30 Points70%
Wet Braking4th40.75 M31.58 M+9.17 M77.5%
Wet Handling4th92.19 s84.85 s+7.34 s92.04%
Subj. Wet Handling7th65 Points100 Points-35 Points65%
Wet Circle4th12.4 s11.5 s+0.9 s92.74%
Straight Aqua3rd70.98 Km/H74.91 Km/H-3.93 Km/H94.75%
Curved Aquaplaning3rd3.1 m/sec23.3 m/sec2-0.2 m/sec293.94%
Subj. Comfort3rd91 Points100 Points-9 Points91%
Noise2nd70.3 dB70.2 dB+0.1 dB99.86%
Price8th57.78 45.87 +11.91 79.39%
Rolling Resistance4th8.56 kg / t8.28 kg / t+0.28 kg / t96.73%
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 tyre. The handling nature of the tyre was a safe understeer primary balance. It was the most expensive budget tyre though and was out performed by the cheaper Tomket, Nankang and Winrun products.

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6th: Triangle SporteX TH201

Triangle SporteX TH201
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking9th40.01 M35.27 M+4.74 M88.15%
Dry Handling6th52.97 s51.73 s+1.24 s97.66%
Subj. Dry Handling5th80 Points100 Points-20 Points80%
Wet Braking7th43.6 M31.58 M+12.02 M72.43%
Wet Handling6th93.11 s84.85 s+8.26 s91.13%
Subj. Wet Handling4th70 Points100 Points-30 Points70%
Wet Circle6th12.7 s11.5 s+1.2 s90.55%
Straight Aqua7th69.51 Km/H74.91 Km/H-5.4 Km/H92.79%
Curved Aquaplaning7th2.7 m/sec23.3 m/sec2-0.6 m/sec281.82%
Subj. Comfort3rd91 Points100 Points-9 Points91%
Noise8th73.2 dB70.2 dB+3 dB95.9%
Price7th56.08 45.87 +10.21 81.79%
Rolling Resistance6th8.71 kg / t8.28 kg / t+0.43 kg / t95.06%
The Triangle SporteX TH201 was the second most expensive budget tyre, 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.

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7th: King Meiler Sport 1 KM

King-Meiler Sport 1 KM
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking7th39.48 M35.27 M+4.21 M89.34%
Dry Handling4th52.84 s51.73 s+1.11 s97.9%
Subj. Dry Handling3rd85 Points100 Points-15 Points85%
Wet Braking8th43.93 M31.58 M+12.35 M71.89%
Wet Handling8th95.24 s84.85 s+10.39 s89.09%
Subj. Wet Handling7th65 Points100 Points-35 Points65%
Wet Circle6th12.7 s11.5 s+1.2 s90.55%
Straight Aqua6th69.61 Km/H74.91 Km/H-5.3 Km/H92.92%
Curved Aquaplaning5th2.8 m/sec23.3 m/sec2-0.5 m/sec284.85%
Subj. Comfort3rd91 Points100 Points-9 Points91%
Noise7th72.9 dB70.2 dB+2.7 dB96.3%
Price5th54.3 45.87 +8.43 84.48%
Rolling Resistance8th9.42 kg / t8.28 kg / t+1.14 kg / t87.9%
The King Meiler Sport 1 KM retreaded tyre promises German engineering performance at Chinese tyres pricing, and while the subjective qualities of the tyre were fine, objectively it was near the back of each test.

Read Reviews    Buy from £66.80

8th: Maxtrek MAXIMUS M1

Maxtrek MAXIMUS M1
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking5th39.32 M35.27 M+4.05 M89.7%
Dry Handling7th53.21 s51.73 s+1.48 s97.22%
Subj. Dry Handling6th75 Points100 Points-25 Points75%
Wet Braking6th43.45 M31.58 M+11.87 M72.68%
Wet Handling7th93.93 s84.85 s+9.08 s90.33%
Subj. Wet Handling3rd75 Points100 Points-25 Points75%
Wet Circle6th12.7 s11.5 s+1.2 s90.55%
Straight Aqua8th67.3 Km/H74.91 Km/H-7.61 Km/H89.84%
Curved Aquaplaning8th2.6 m/sec23.3 m/sec2-0.7 m/sec278.79%
Subj. Comfort3rd91 Points100 Points-9 Points91%
Noise9th74.4 dB70.2 dB+4.2 dB94.35%
Price6th55.18 45.87 +9.31 83.13%
Rolling Resistance9th9.82 kg / t8.28 kg / t+1.54 kg / t84.32%
The Maxtrek Maximus M1 finish the test in a similar situation to the Triangle, as one of the most expensive budget tyres on test, but without the performance to match.

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9th: Double Coin DC99

Double-Coin DC99
  • 205/55 R16
Test#ResultBestDifference%
Dry Braking8th39.62 M35.27 M+4.35 M89.02%
Dry Handling9th53.39 s51.73 s+1.66 s96.89%
Subj. Dry Handling9th30 Points100 Points-70 Points30%
Wet Braking9th46.04 M31.58 M+14.46 M68.59%
Wet Handling9th96.27 s84.85 s+11.42 s88.14%
Subj. Wet Handling9th50 Points100 Points-50 Points50%
Wet Circle9th12.8 s11.5 s+1.3 s89.84%
Straight Aqua9th64.55 Km/H74.91 Km/H-10.36 Km/H86.17%
Curved Aquaplaning9th2.3 m/sec23.3 m/sec2-1 m/sec269.7%
Subj. Comfort8th90 Points100 Points-10 Points90%
Noise1st70.2 dB100%
Price1st45.87 100%
Rolling Resistance5th8.63 kg / t8.28 kg / t+0.35 kg / t95.94%
The DoubleCoin DC99 was the cheapest tyre 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 tyre to avoid, even if it is the cheapest tyre of the test.

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