Every now and then, I decide to write an article on a topic that hits close to home, and the one I’ve chosen for today falls in that category. You probably know that I drive a car that’s a similar age to me, so this article is for you just as it is for me.
If you purchased a car in the past decade or two, then there is a great chance that fitment isn’t an issue. Depending on the application, most manufacturers go for a decently wide range of size options. A Pilot Sport 4S on an Aygo is pointless, so Michelin covers the bigger sizes, as those are the type of cars you’d probably take on a track.
What about if you’re like me and drive an older car but still want to avoid the disastrously bad Chinese tires? I have some good and bad news. Starting off with the good, there are pretty good options available on the market, so you can even get a premium tire. The bad news is that, as you can probably guess, the number of available models isn’t as extensive, and you probably won’t be able to get the interesting stuff.
Before I begin, let me explain how I chose the tires. The first criteria was for the models to come in at least 14-inch size; the maximum is not as relevant because the goal is to help people with smaller wheels. As for the second, well, naturally, that one is reserved for the performance, meaning that I avoided the poor performers. This means that these aren’t the best tires in their categories, but they are the best choice for the smaller sizes.
#1. BFGoodrich Advantage T/A
Initially, I wanted to go with the Advantage Control, as it’s a newer tire, but there’s only one 14-inch model, so I went with the Advantage T/A. With a size range of 14 to 18 inches, I doubt that you’d have too many fitment issues.
As an all-season touring tire, the Advantage T/A does what it’s advertised for in most cases. The dry performance is excellent, and even if you own a smaller car, you can be sure that you’ll have more grip and traction than you’ll need. Going into a corner, the tire feels like a touring one, and while it holds pretty good, you can expect a bit of flex. Despite that, the handling isn’t terrible and can give you a whiff of sporty feeling through the steering wheel.
In wet conditions, things are a bit mixed. While the Advantage T/A can still deliver plenty of traction and avoid slip, the aquaplaning resistance isn’t as good as I hoped. Near the limit, it will start to feel wobbly, but then again, most people wouldn’t do that in a 40-year-old golf.
All-season means a bit of performance in winter conditions, which I can say isn’t superb, but it’s usable. On clean roads, the performance is decent, and you can safely drive the Advantage T/A without any significant issues. It can deliver usable traction in light snow conditions, as long as it’s unpacked. Over packed snow, the tire struggles and is practically useless over ice.
Refinement is decent, but I wouldn’t classify it as the best. The Advantage T/A is decently muted and doesn’t make a lot of noise, even at highway speeds or on rougher roads. With that said, the noise levels may begin to increase as the tire wears down. The tire does very well on the comfort side of things and delivers a comfortable ride, softening up potholes and eliminating vibrations.
Longevity shouldn’t be an issue for the Advantage T/A, as the tire comes with a 75,000-mile treadwear warranty. In terms of price, you are looking at roughly $80 for the smallest sizes, which isn’t too bad for a premium tire.
- Very good dry performance
- 75,000-mile treadwear warranty
- Well refined
- Aquaplaning resistance is average
- Will struggle over packed snow
#2. Hankook Kinergy ST
Moving down the range, we have a model from Hankook – the Kinergy ST. Despite not being a grand touring tire like the previous one, it’s an excellent option for smaller sizes. It covers the 14-inch range a bit more extensively, and you can even find one 13-inch model.
Driving the Kinergy ST on dry roads is a good experience. The tire delivers plenty of grip and traction regardless if you’re driving around town or on the highway. Considering that the tire isn’t a performance option, pushing it on a canyon road isn’t something you should consider. The first problem is that the tire’s cornering grip is good for normal speeds, but you’ll get a lot of understeer once you start to push it. Combine this with the handling, which, even though it’s decently responsive and delivers some feedback, it wouldn’t be the first choice as an enthusiast’s tire.
We don’t always drive in ideal conditions, so rain can be common in some areas. If you live in one of those, then the Kinergy ST won’t disappoint. The tire has very good traction on damp surfaces and holds on to the road despite being a mid-range option. Thanks to the tread pattern with wider grooves, Hankook made a tire with excellent aquaplaning resistance. Speaking of safety, the braking distances aren’t the shortest, but they are pretty good for this category.
Like most all-season tires, the most you should expect is to be usable in light snow conditions. The Kinergy ST can handle shallow unpacked snow decently well, and as long as the winter isn’t too harsh, you could get away with driving it. Deeper snow or packed one are this tire’s enemies as it struggles with traction, so avoid using it in these conditions.
Comfort and noise levels are good for a mid-range tire. The Kinergy ST deals with bumps enough to keep the ride quality on the softer side. Some jolts and vibrations can be felt in the cabin, but it’s not the worst experience in the world. Noise levels are far from the Turanza QuietTrack, which is to be expected as the tire is in another league. With this one, you are looking at decent noise levels as the tire isn’t extremely quiet but gets the job done.
When it comes to warranty, the Kinergy ST comes with a 70,000-treadwear warranty, which is right up there with the premium grand touring tires on the market. The price isn’t much lower, though, as the 13-inch model is around $80, similar to the previous model.
- Plenty of grip and traction on dry and wet roads
- Comfort and noise levels are very good
- More size options for smaller wheels
- Not the most affordable option
- Only usable in light snow conditions
#3. Cooper Evolution Tour
The Evolution Tour is another older model I’ve chosen for this list mainly because the newer one starts from 15-inch sizes. While it isn’t ancient, it’s not the latest and greatest, but it still manages to be a worthy contender for this list.
As a daily commuter, the Evolution Tour is an excellent tire for an older car. Most of those aren’t overly powerful, so the tire won’t struggle with traction when accelerating. In the corners, you can also get very good grip levels which will be more than enough for most people. Cooper advertises this as a touring tire, so don’t expect a strong emphasis on handling. The responsiveness is acceptable, and you won’t get a lot of feedback through the steering wheel.
While the Evolution Tour isn’t a phenomenal tire in dry conditions, it struggles a lot more than I thought on wet roads. The grip and traction levels are good for normal driving around town, but the tire will begin to struggle as soon as you push it a bit. This also means that the braking distances are a bit longer than the best in this class. One area where the tire performed well was aquaplaning resistance, as it managed to stay relatively stable at higher speeds.
Surprisingly, the Evolution Tour delivers pretty good results in winter conditions. It seems to have better traction than even some premium competitors in light snow conditions, and it can be considered usable over packed snow. Naturally, like most all-season tires, the performance in harsh conditions is almost non-existent.
The Evolution Tour has some drawbacks, but you won’t find any of those in the refinement segment. It delivers a very soft ride, almost to a point where you can compare it with some of the premium grand touring tires on the market. Noise levels are also on the lower end of the spectrum, as the tire remains toned down even at higher speeds.
In the warranty segment, we start to notice the tire’s age. Like some competitors of similar age, the Evolution Tour comes with a 65,000-mile treadwear warranty which is less than some of the other models I mentioned. Also, the price isn’t the most affordable one, coming in at around $80, which is very similar to the Hankook model.
- Refinement levels are high
- Very usable in winter conditions
- Dry performance is very good
- Average wet performance
- A bit of a step back in terms of the warranty
#4. Nexen N Priz AH5
The last of the all-season touring tires I’ll discuss is the N Priz AH5. Nexen did an excellent job at covering the lower end of the spectrum in terms of tire sizes and offers the tire in plenty of models that range from 14 to 17 inches.
As a budget-friendly option, I have to say that the N Priz AH5 delivers very good results. The levels of traction and grip are very good, and the tire can handle being pushed a bit. Doing this for a prolonged time will cause it to overheat, leading to understeer. Also, since it’s a touring tire, it should be your first choice for a fun drive on a twisty road. While it may give you a sense of sportiness thanks to the sharp responsiveness, it will start to slip if you push it more.
Moving on to wet performance, the N Priz AH5 doesn’t deliver the same results as in dry, but it’s surprisingly good. There is plenty of traction to get you going, even if you’re a bit more aggressive, and will keep your car in check in the corners. Naturally, there are far better performers out there, but this delivers more than enough for an older car. Nexen made this tire a safe one, meaning that you’ll get excellent aquaplaning resistance and decently short braking distances.
Winter driving with the N Priz AH5 is doable but not something I’d recommend in every situation. For an inch or two of unpacked snow, the tire will suffice, and you probably won’t have to think about winter tires. Anything more than that, and the tire will begin to struggle, especially over ice.
Considering that this is a mid-range option, I wasn’t expecting it to be the most refined tire, but it surprised me. The N Priz AH5 provided a very soft ride, absorbing or softening potholes and minimizing jolts. Vibrations aren’t entirely gone but are decently dampened. Noise levels are also decently low, and the main thing you’ll be hearing on the highway won’t be the tire.
The biggest problem comes from the warranty. While you shouldn’t expect something spectacular from a mid-range option, the 50,000-mile treadwear warranty from the N Priz AH5 isn’t near the top even in its category. The good news is that price is more affordable, and you can find a 14-in model for around $60.
- Noise and comfort levels are very good for a budget tire
- Excellent dry and wet performance for the price
- Not the sharpest handling tire
- Snow performance is limited only to the lighter conditions
#5. Dunlop Winter Maxx 2
With the all-season touring tires out of the way, let’s take a look at some winter options starting with the Dunlop Winter Maxx 2. This model comes in a 14 to 19-inch range and a single 13-inch model, so you could fit it to any car, even the newest ones.
The performance in dry conditions with the Winter Maxx 2 is very good, just as you’d expect from a premium tire. Dunlop managed to make the tire perform very well, delivering plenty of grip and traction for everyday driving. You can push it a bit more and have some fun, but don’t expect it to be on the same level as something from the Pilot Alpin lineup. The biggest surprise is in the handling department, and Dunlop managed to make the tire quite responsive for a winter tire. It’s not the sportiest of the bunch, but it’s quite good.
Having excellent performance doesn’t mean that you’ll need to drive on dry roads, as the Winter Maxx 2 is excellent in the rain. Damp roads don’t pose a problem, and the tire manages to grip to the road without too much slip. Another area where it’s near the top is the aquaplaning resistance, keeping the car stable at higher speeds. The braking distances are a bit of a letdown and are a bit shorter than the mid-range models, meaning that it’s above average in the premium segment.
As a winter tire, you’d expect it to be very good in snow, and the Winter Maxx 2 doesn’t disappoint. Thanks to the tread design, the tire has no problem biting into the snow and delivering very high levels of traction, putting it near the top. With this, you also get a tire that can be easily controlled at the limit, so you can push it a bit with confidence. Stopping is another area that this tire does well, thanks to the short braking distances
In terms of refinement, I would classify it as good but not the best in the winter tire segment. The comfort levels are good, and regardless of the surface, you will be getting a decently smooth ride. In this regard, the biggest issue is the vibrations that can be felt after hitting a hole. The Winter Maxx 2 manages to dampen them to a point, but not entirely. Winter tires aren’t known for being particularly quiet, and the same can be said about this one. It’s not the loudest and won’t be overly intrusive, but you can expect to hear it, especially on the highway.
Winter tires rarely come with a treadwear warranty, and the same goes for the Winter Maxx 2. In terms of the price, you are looking at roughly $80, which is a reasonable price for a premium winter tire.
- Superb winter performance
- Sporty-ish handling characteristics
- Excellent performance in dry and wet conditions
- Vibrations can be felt in the cabin
- Braking distances are slightly above average
#6. Michelin X-Ice Xi3
You probably thought that you won’t see some of the popular options on the market today, but I have one from the premium winter segment. Michelin’s X-Ice Xi3 is the latest addition to the winter segment and comes in a plethora of options from 14 to 19 inches.
I reviewed the X-Ice Xi3 a while ago and was a bit disappointed with the dry performance. With that said, today’s topic covers older cars, so for these applications, it would probably be fine. The grip and traction levels aren’t poor and are still better than most of its competitors. As long as you’re not pushing it to the limit, you probably won’t notice it’s falling behind its competitors. The handling is good and reminds me a bit of the Winter Maxx 2 being decently sharp for a winter tire.
In wet conditions, the X-Ice Xi3 feels like it’s a different tire, as the performance levels are far better than in dry. You can push the tire quite hard into a corner, and the levels of grip will keep it in line. Aggressive acceleration also won’t be a massive issue as the sipes claw to the tarmac and eliminate slip. There’s the aquaplaning resistance which is also impressive and, combined with the short braking distances, results in a safe tire.
Michelin nailed the winter performance, and the X-Ice Xi3 is one of the best there is. You can drive the tire on packed or unpacked snow, and the performance will remain the same. Apart from the high levels of grip and traction, you are also looking at an easily controllable tire in these conditions. Despite not being a studded tire, this one can deliver acceptable performance over ice.
Refinement is a strong side of the X-Ice Xi3, but it doesn’t come without some drawbacks. The comfort levels are very good, and things are smoothed out very well. You may feel the occasional vibration in the cabin, but only when you hit a larger pothole. In terms of the noise levels, they are acceptably low for a winter tire but will begin to increase a bit if the road temperature is slightly higher.
One of the rare winter tires with a treadwear warranty is the X-Ice Xi3. Michelin offers this tire with a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty, which is almost as much as some all-season touring tires. When you factor in that the prices start from around $80, you are looking at an excellent bargain.
- Among the best winter performers
- Superb wet performance
- Usable on ice
- Average dry performance
- You should expect slightly higher noise levels at warmer temperatures
#7. Cooper Evolution Winter
As part of the Evolution lineup, Cooper released several models. I already mentioned one of those, the Tour, and the second one for this list is the Winter. This is probably the widest size range on this list with models ranging from 14 to 20 inches and is a studdable tire.
Dry performance with the Evolution Winter is decent but far from the best. The grip and traction levels are good enough for normal driving. You can push it a bit, but it’s not a tire designed for that, so you won’t have as much fun as you may think. The handling is like a winter tire – soft and without too much feedback. It’s not the least responsive tire I’ve driven, so that’s a small plus. At the end of the day, it’s not a track tire, and you shouldn’t expect that kind of performance.
On the other hand, wet performance is very good, and the tire feels like it can handle those conditions better. The Evolution Winter has no traction issues when you’re accelerating, and you can put your foot down and experience only a bit of slip. Going into a corner too fast results in understeer, but the tire seems to grip very well, and you won’t experience this unless you’re giving it the beans. The tread pattern is responsible for the aquaplaning resistance, and it does an excellent job at it.
Winter is where the Evolution Winter shines, and it does that in multiple areas. The performance on snow-covered roads is excellent, thanks to the aggressive pattern. Even if it’s deeper or packed snow, the tire will still be able to dig in and find traction. The same can be said about slush, which doesn’t pose a massive problem for the tire, enabling it to drive with minimal slip. The ice performance is acceptable without the studs, but nothing to write home about. Once you fit them, the tire manages to claw into the ice with ease, making it among the best in this class.
In the refinement department, there are some good and bad news. The good news comes in the form of the comfort levels, which are very good. Most of the road imperfections are smoothed out, and while you will notice some vibrations, it’s not terrible. The noise levels, on the other hand, are not the lowest. Cooper tried to make the Evolution Winter quieter, but tires with an aggressive pattern are noticeably louder, so it’s not the best in this regard.
We’re going back to tires with no warranty, and the Evolution Winter is one of those. As a studdable tire, with a starting price of a bit over $90 isn’t too bad, considering the performance it manages to deliver.
- Marvelous performance in all winter conditions
- Wet performance is excellent
- Very comfortable
- Dry performance is average
- Noise levels are a bit on the higher side
#8. Firestone Winterforce 2
Continuing with the studdable winter tires, we come to the Winterforce 2. This is a direct competitor of the previous model, and Firestone has made it in sizes from 14 to 18 inches, covering the smaller sizes decently.
When it comes to dry performance, the Winterforce 2 reminds me a bit of the Evolution Winter. While it’s not terrible in these conditions, it isn’t as good as I was hoping it would be. There is a good amount of grip and traction, which will probably be fine for most people. With that said, it’s not a performance winter tire, so don’t expect wonders. In the handling department, things are more or less similar. It’s a tire that isn’t the most responsive, and you won’t get too much feedback to know what the front tires are doing.
The Winterforce 2 delivers surprisingly good results in wet conditions, which again is similar to the previous model. On damp surfaces, the traction is excellent, and wheel slip is minimal or non-existent, depending on how aggressive your driving is. In the corners, the grip is very good, but it’s not high enough to drive it like you stole it, so a bit of caution is necessary. The aquaplaning resistance is also excellent as the tire evacuates water very effectively. My only slight complaint could be the braking distances which are short, but not the shortest in this category.
When it comes to winter conditions, the Winterforce 2 is among the best options in the mid-range segment. Driving in snow is no problem for the tire as it handles shallow and deep snow with ease. Some winter tires may struggle over packed snow, but that’s not the case here. It’s stable and controllable even if you drive faster. With the studs on, the tire handles ice like a champ, putting it near the top of its class.
One area where the Winterforce 2 doesn’t do very well is refinement. Like most winter tires, the noise levels aren’t particularly low, and you’ll hear the tire even at lower speeds, especially over rougher surfaces. Surprisingly, the comfort levels aren’t very high either. It’s not the harshest tire for sure, but when compared with some of tis rivals, it doesn’t seem to absorb bumps as well.
Like the Evolution Winter, Firestone doesn’t offer a treadwear warranty for the Winterforce 2, which isn’t a surprise. What makes this an attractive option is the price which comes at around $80.
- Winter performance is among the best in class
- Very capable in wet conditions
- A bit more affordable than the competition
- Refinement isn’t its strongest side
- Not the best dry performer
#9. BFGoodrich Radial T/A
The last two entries on this list will be performance options, and I’m starting with the Radial T/A. BFGoodrich designed this tire for muscle car or hot rod owners, meaning that you can get performance out of a smaller tire. It comes in 14-to-16-inch variants with a single 13-inch model.
As a performance tire, the Radial T/A delivers excellent results in dry conditions. Grip and traction levels are very high, and you can push it a lot before it starts to let go. Keep in mind that it isn’t a track-ready tire, so there are limitations as to what it can do. I believe that most people with older cars would be perfectly happy with the performance. Handling is a crucial aspect of a performance tire, and this one delivers on this front. It’s well responsive and remains manageable up to a point. Push it too much, and it will become twitchy.
Performance on wet roads is good, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best. Traction is decent, and as long as you don’t give it full gas, the wheel slip will be minimal. Going into a corner at normal or slightly higher speeds isn’t an issue, and the Radial T/A has plenty of grip. Going overboard with this will cause the tire to let go and result in understeer. The tread pattern is good enough to deliver decent aquaplaning resistance, but don’t expect miracles.
The Radial T/A is an all-season tire, so some usable winter performance should be available to you. Unfortunately, that isn’t really the case. In lighter conditions, the tire is usable and can get around decently well, but you will notice it struggling to find grip. The performance over packed snow is even worse, reaching a point where the tire’s performance in these conditions is below average.
When looking at the comfort and noise levels, I have to say that the Radial T/A isn’t a terrible performer. It does a decent job at being acceptably quiet when driving at higher speeds, which won’t be an issue for people interested in the performance. The comfort levels are pretty good, absorbing bumps decently and providing a smooth-ish ride.
Performance tires and warranty don’t mix together, meaning that there isn’t a treadwear warranty with the Radial T/A. For the price, you can find it below the $100 mark, which isn’t terrible considering its performance.
- Very good dry performance
- Sporty handling characteristics
- Reasonable price per performance ratio
- Wet performance isn’t the best in class
- Barely usable in the snow
#10. Bridgestone Potenza RE92
The last tire on the list is the Potenza RE92. Like the previous model, this is an all-season performance tire that comes in sizes from 14 to 17 inches. To give you an idea of what kind of tire we’re talking about, many manufacturers of sporty cars used it as original equipment, thanks to its ability to perform well and be refined for everyday driving.
Like most performance tires, the Potenza RE92 delivers very good performance in dry conditions. The grip and traction levels are good, and the tire will have no problem getting pushed into a corner. I wouldn’t compare it to something like the Pilot Sport 4S, but I’d say that it’s more than enough for an older car. Then there’s the handling which is sporty-like – responding quickly to inputs and providing a decent amount of feedback.
Once it starts raining, the performance degrades slightly, so I wasn’t too happy about it. The Potenza RE92 still delivers decent levels of grip in the corners, but it won’t handle higher speeds. The same goes for the traction, which helps with eliminating wheel spin, but not if you’re overly aggressive. A similar average performance can be seen in the braking distances and aquaplaning resistance. Both are decent, but nothing that would wow an enthusiast looking for performance.
Bridgestone advertises the Potenza RE92 as an all-season tire, so you may think that you could use it in winter, but you’d be wrong. The tire does a barely acceptable job in lighter conditions, and that’s as much as you should expect from it.
The good news is that despite the performance tag, the Potenza RE92 is a tire designed to be well refined. Now, I wouldn’t put it as the best, but it’s not too bad. The better part is the noise levels, which are pretty low even at higher speeds. Comfort levels, on the other hand, are good enough for daily driving, and as long as you accept some vibrations and jolt here and there, you’ll be a happy camper.
The biggest surprise is the fact that even though the Potenza RE92 is a performance-oriented tire, Bridgestone offers a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty. All of this comes in a package with a starting price of above $100, which isn’t the most expensive option.
- Excellent performance in dry conditions
- Refinement is decent
- 40,000-mile treadwear warranty
- Almost unusable in winter
- Wet performance isn’t on par with its rivals