Purchasing tires is something that some people find to be tedious, while others find it interesting. Most of the time, this starts with choosing which brands to look at. Even in this regard, there are some mixed opinions.
Some people like a certain brand and go for it. I don’t consider myself to be a fanboy, so I’m always open to looking at other brands. It’s important for me to have a set of tires that will perform well.
When choosing brands, most of us have different opinions about them. Some would recommend the premium ones, while others would suggest the mid-range ones. Both sides are correct, but the right answer depends on many aspects.
Mid-range and premium manufacturers often get compared and with good reason. The “cheaper” options have gotten quite strong in the past several decades, producing tires that can perform almost or sometimes better than the “expensive” ones. This brings me to today’s comparison.
I often mention that the difference between mid-range and premium brands isn’t too massive. With that said, how close have they become? To answer that, I’ll be comparing Nankang, a well-known brand in the mid-range segment, and Michelin, one of the most popular manufacturers in the industry.
What's In This Guide?
In the world of tire manufacturers, Nankang is a company that can be considered relatively young. The company was founded in 1959 in Taipei, becoming the first serious Taiwanese tire manufacturer. Despite its birth in an era when the older companies were already well established, this manufacturer still showed its strength and quality.
For a manufacturer to succeed, it needs to deliver excellent products. Soon after the Taiwanese plant was established, the company developed the first steel-belted radial tires. In the following years, it began making these kinds of tires for buses and trucks.
As the success story increased, Nankang began making tires for passenger cars, which helped it climb up the ladder. Throughout the years, the high-quality products enabled this manufacturer to get plenty of certifications and begin selling tires in other parts of the world.
Being able to produce good tires meant Nankang can take part in racing. While we won’t see this manufacturer in popular series like NASCAR or Formula 1, its appearance isn’t terrible. Apart from many drifting series, we can see this manufacturer in the BMW 116i Trophy, Focus Cup, Classic VW Cup, and many more. There are two series, the BMW Compact Cup and City Car Cup organized by Nankang.
Some may think that a mid-range manufacturer cannot be good, but Nankang is here to prove them wrong. It was founded in an area where many manufacturers were already on the market for a long time but still positioned itself as an excellent option.
Nankang’s tire families
On a global scale, Nankang has its tires separated into multiple families, which I’ll outline in this section. With that said, some retailers here don’t categorize them as such, but the names are the same, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to distinguish them.
With performance driving, Nankang isn’t a brand that can deliver some excellent models in this category. Sportnex offers the tires you’ll be getting if you own a vehicle capable of sporty driving.
In the all-season UHP segment for passenger cars, you have models like the NS-25 or AS-1. Both are designed for excellent performance without a massive sacrifice in terms of refinement. On the summer side of things, there’s the NS-2R Sportnex, which is road legal, but you can use them on a track.
Acting as the complete opposite of the previous family, Nankang has the NK Comfort family of tires. There aren’t tons of options here, but both cover the passenger segment nicely.
There are two models here, the AS-1 and the RX-615 and both are summer tires. One of them is a bit more sporty than the other. Another difference is the size options, with the AS-1 offering a wider range.
For the most touring-like properties, Nankang has the Econex lineup of tires. These are models with no compromise on refinement and low rolling resistance. You’re getting comfortable, quiet, and efficient tires with good performance for daily use.
Like with the previous lineup, the models here are summer only, so things differ in terms of the driving features and sizes. Here you have the NA-1, Eco-2+, and Nev-1.
Moving away from the passenger segment, we have a group of tires dedicated to larger vehicles. Rollnex offers tires for SUVs and light trucks.
The SP-7 and SP-9 cover the touring or performance segment in this family. They offer solid performance, combined with long treadwear life and excellent refinement. If you’re looking for tires with off-road capabilities, there are more to choose from. Nankang has the AT-5, R/T, MT-1, FT-9, N-889, and N-870. Each has different levels of performance on the road and off it.
Nankang takes a simple approach to grouping its tires, so it puts its winter tires in a separate family. The Winter Activa is a group of tires that can be used during winter.
On the passenger side of things, you have the latest SV-4, but the SV-3 is still available with some retailers. The SL-6 is available for sale, which is more of a commercial-grade tire. Finally, for SUVs and some light trucks, you have the SV-55.
The previous tire lineup offered good winter performance, but the Ice Activa are tires designed for better performance on ice. There are multiple models here, so there’s excellent vehicle coverage.
On the passenger side of things, Nankang has the Ice-2 and Ice-1. With the WS-1, the manufacturer covers passenger cars, CUVs, and SUVs. All of these so far are studless. If you’re looking for a tire that you can fit studs to, you have the SW-9, SW-8, or SW-7, all of which are for passenger cars and some CUVs. The IV-1 is technically a tire for vans, so you could fit it to some smaller SUVs.
Even though this is not the most innovative name, Nankang has a dedicated family for all-season tires. There aren’t many models like with previous ones, but the coverage is excellent.
As part of the All-Season family of tires, there’s the AW-6, designed to be fitted on anything from small hatchbacks to SUVs. There’s also the AW-8, which, like some of the previous models, is for vans. As a result, a fitment to some SUVs is available as well.
Many of the manufacturers we know and love today started out long before cars were even invented. Michelin is one of those brands that was founded in 1899 in Clermont-Ferrand. The name comes from the last name of the founder, whose idea was to make a bicycle tire that can be replaced easily. Before them, a damaged tire took several hours to fix, which was a problem sometimes. The good news for the company was that the product was an instant success.
Michelin’s bicycle tires quickly gained popularity, so the company didn’t have too many problems with sales. To prove how good the tires were, it entered a bicycle race leading to the first win with its tires.
Soon after, cars appeared on the market, so the Michelin brothers hopped aboard that train and continued “winning” the market. The previous success from the bicycle industry meant that it didn’t take long for people to figure out that the car tires are excellent. With the success over the years and the multiple innovations and improvements in its models meant this manufacturer could stay at the top as one of the best.
The success in the car tire industry meant that Michelin could attack the racing segment, which continued to show excellent results. Over the years, the manufacturer has been involved in multiple series, including Formula 1, Le Mans, WRC, WEC, etc.
Considering the rich and successful history Michelin had, it’s no wonder why we’re seeing it show up on many lists as the best manufacturer in the industry.
Michelin’s tire families
When you consider how long Michelin has been in the business, you can probably guess that it has plenty of models. To make things easier for its customers, the manufacturer categorizes them into families, depending on the type of driving characteristics they can offer.
Each tire manufacturer is known for some tire models and for Michelin, that’s the Pilot lineup. These are performance-oriented models, designed to provide the highest levels of grip and traction possible and combine that with dynamic handling characteristics. As a result, you can probably guess that the comfort and noise levels won’t be as good as something from the touring lineup.
If you’re after summer tires for passenger cars, you have the Pilot Sport 4, 4S, or 5 on offer. These are the latest addition to the family, but you can find the Sport 3 in some stores. There’s also the Sport 4 SUV and as you can guess, it’s the summer version designed for SUVs or light trucks. Some people are after a solid all-season performer and if you’re one of those, then you can check out the All-Season 4 or Sport A/S. Keep in mind that these are for passenger cars only. The Alpin group of tires covers the winter segment, which come in sizes that can be fitted on a wide range of vehicles.
Some people fancy a more refined driving experience, which is where the Primacy family comes into play. Within this group, you’ll find tires designed primarily for high comfort and low noise levels. As for the performance, they won’t outperform the Pilot models but will offer a good and safe experience.
The models in the Primacy lineup come in summer and all-season variants. In the all-season segment for passenger cars, Michelin has the MXM4, MXV4, Tour A/S, and the regular A/S. For the same vehicle type, but in summer variants you have the Primacy 3 and 4. SUV and light truck owners are in luck, as this family also offers the LTX and XC, both of which are all-season models.
If you compare the Premier family of tires with the Primacy, you won’t find many differences in terms of features. Even though different technologies are used for construction, the result is the same. These are touring tires, offering longevity, refinement, and good performance, which is what most people are after.
Only two models cover the entire Premier lineup, both of which are all-season ones. Michelin has the A/S, a tire designed for passenger cars, while the CUV and SUV segment is covered by the LTX.
We’ve seen several models from previous families that cover the CUV, SUV, and light truck segment, but Michelin has a dedicated group of tires. The Latitude family offers several models, depending on the type of driving you have in mind and the weather conditions.
This portion of Michelin’s lineup has several groups, depending on the type of characteristics the tires have. There are the Sport, Tour, Alpin, and X-Ice models, so all weather conditions are covered excellently.
I mentioned several tires or groups for winter driving, but Michelin also has a dedicated family for those conditions. Winter performance is a must in some areas and these tires come as touring options for these conditions.
The most common models from this family are the Xi3 and the older Xi2. Despite not having tons of models, these two come in a plethora of sizes, meaning you can fit them on anything from hatchbacks to SUVs and some light trucks. As studless tires, these offer an acceptable ice performance. If you want something more, you’ll have to go for the studdable North model.
We know Michelin for offering variety, so you should expect to have plenty of options in the touring segment. Like some of the other families on this list, the Defender tires are designed primarily for refinement.
Even though there aren’t tons of different models, the two available cover plenty of segments. For passenger cars and CUVs, Michelin has the T+H. For larger vehicles, like SUVs and light trucks, your option is the LTX M/S. Both models come as all-season variants.
In recent years, as the EV and hybrid markets took over, tire manufacturers have followed the trend. The main thing with these vehicles is to improve mileage, and one way of doing so is by reducing rolling resistance. This is where the Energy tires come into play. They are touring tires like most of the other models, but the rolling resistance is lower.
As part of the Energy lineup, there is the regular Saver model, which is a summer one, and the Saver A/S – an all-season option. Another all-season model in this family of tires is the LX4. Regardless of which models you go for, you’re looking at tires primarily designed for passenger cars. In some cases, you could fit them to some CUVs.
In recent decades, Michelin introduced a family of touring tires, which seem to deliver some surprising results. The CrossClimate lineup gave us some excellent performers and the latest one is one of the best in the industry. There aren’t tons of options to choose from, but they cover a wide portion of cars.
A few months ago, Michelin introduced the CrossClimate 2, a tire I praised highly in my review. The CrossClimate+ is still available, so you have both to choose from. As all-season models, you are getting some light winter performance, which is nice. In terms of fitment, there are loads of sizes to choose from, covering multiple vehicle types.
To the untrained eye, the LXT family of tires will seem identical to the Latitude one. While this is true for some models, there are others unique to this group of tires.
In the LTX family, there are two models for different driving conditions. If you’re looking for road use only, there’s the M/S2 which is a touring option, like many others in this list. Michelin also has an off-road capable model – the A/T2. This is an all-terrain tire, meaning that it combines on and off-road use.
Differences between CrossWind and Michelin
Whenever we compare manufacturers from different classes, we expect to see some differences. The same goes for Nankang and Michelin, but the key question is how big of a difference there is.
Tires that are on the more affordable side of things probably won’t perform as well as the premium ones. With that said, there are some situations where Nankang delivers surprisingly good results.
In the winter segment, Nankang has the SV-4, which goes up against Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4. The dry performance with both tires is very close, with the Michelin being a bit better. The difference in wet is more noticeable in terms of grip and handling. Surprisingly, the SV-4 is better for aquaplaning resistance.
As winter tires, both provide excellent performance and there isn’t a massive difference. One area the Nankang does very well is noise, as it’s noticeably quieter than the Michelin model.
What about performance driving? Putting the Pilot Sport 4 against the NS-2 shows a noticeable difference. Both in dry and wet conditions, the Michelin model outperforms the Nankang one. I’m not saying that the NS-2 is bad. It’s planted enough and can provide a fun experience, but the Pilot Sport 4 does better.
If we compare two touring options – the Primacy 4 and the Eco 2+. In this segment, the Michelin model outperforms the Nankang one in almost every metric.
The Primacy 4 is among the best in its class, with excellent dry and wet performance. On the other hand, the Eco 2+ is a good tire and performs well, but not as good as the Michelin one. The only thing worth praising with it is the low noise levels.
Another touring comparison we can make is with the AW-6 and any of the CrossClimate models. Even the older ones deliver better performance than Nankang’s model. The biggest difference is in wet conditions, where the AW-6 is very limited and has long braking distances.
As far as winter performance is concerned, the AW-6 delivers excellent results. It is still a bit behind Michelin’s models, but it’s not an enormous difference. Like many of the models I mentioned before, the noise levels are excellent, making it among the quietest tires in the category.
When we compare the options, we see some mixed results. Overall, Michelin has more models in its entire lineup, but Nankang has more models in certain categories.
For touring and performance options, Michelin’s advantage is undeniable. There are far more models to choose from, some of which are even older ones that are still available for sale. Nankang isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t have as many.
In the winter segment, Nankang is the winner, but not by a lot. Michelin has a few models that cover the studless and studdable segments and the coverage is excellent. On the other hand, Nankang has more, some of which even seem to offer similar sets of features.
Things continue to go in favor of Nankang when we look at the off-road capable models. Michelin isn’t a brand for focusing too much on all-terrain models, so don’t expect plenty of those. On the other hand, the Taiwanese manufacturer has multiple all-terrain options and a few mud-terrain ones.
The biggest problem with Nankang is finding the tires. Some models are not designed for the US market, but some companies import them, but they can be hard to find.
Finally, let’s talk about fitment sizes, another area where Nankang is at an advantage. Going for the larger side of things, both manufacturers cover them nicely. The advantage that Nankang has is the smaller sizes. Plenty of models can be found with 13-inch tires and some of them go as low as 12 inches.
For price, you can probably guess that Michelin won’t win any of the challenges. We already know it to be a premium manufacturer and with that, the prices for the tires will be higher. Nankang, on the other hand, is positioned as a mid-range company, so you’re looking at affordable options.
In the UHP all-season segment, on the premium side of things, we have the Pilot Sport All-Season 4 versus the NS-25, with the second one being more affordable. Nankang’s model is roughly $20 cheaper than the Michelin one for a 16-inch tire.
On the SUV side of things, the SP-7 is a performance-oriented (sort of) model from Nankang. From Michelin’s lineup, we can compare it with the Pilot Sport 4 SUV. The price difference for similarly sized 18-inch models is around $40. Michelin also has the Latitude Sport 3 which is around $60 more expensive.
In this segment, we can also look at the SP-9, which goes up against both of Michelin’s models I mentioned above. For a 17-inch model, you have a price difference of roughly $50 when compared to both of Michelin’s tires.
Looking at the comparisons I made, it’s clear that Nankang is the more affordable brand here. Unlike other mid-range vs premium comparisons I’ve made in the past, the difference here is noticeable.
Many manufacturers offer a warranty, which is a good way to advertise that their tires will “survive” for a certain amount of time. With mid-range brands, the lower price point usually means that you won’t get the same warranty.
I’ll take the previous comparison from the SUV segment. Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 SUV and Latitude Sport 3 come with a 20,000-mile treadwear warranty. Nankang’s SP-9, on the other hand, doesn’t have one.
When we look at the UHP all-season segment, we see a different story. Nankang offers the NS-25 with a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty. The premium Pilot Sport All-Season 4 comes with 5,000 miles less.
In this comparison, a definitive winner cannot be determined when looking at both manufacturers as a whole. With some models, Michelin can offer more, while with others Nankang will come out on top.
Advantages of Nankang
- More off-road capable models
- Winter performance is covered better
Advantages of Michelin
- Performance levels are higher
- Most tires have longer treadwear warranty
- More touring and performance options are available
Which brand to choose?
The goal of these comparisons is to decide which brand is better so that you know which one to look at next time you’re getting a new set of tires. With that said, giving a definitive answer isn’t always as simple as you think, and I can say the same about Nankang and Michelin.
Generally, Michelin is a better brand and makes better tires. Higher performance levels and plenty of models to choose from are only two of the many advantages this brand offers. Besides that, you’re also getting a longer treadwear warranty with some models. As good as all of this sounds, keep in mind that all of this doesn’t come cheap, and you will pay a premium price.
On the more affordable side of things, you have an option like Nankang. As a mid-range manufacturer, this company provides models with solid performance, one that won’t disappoint. Naturally, it won’t be on the same levels as what Michelin has, so you should be mindful of that. To be fair, for most drivers that want a safe tire, something from this manufacturer should satisfy their needs.
If the price isn’t a problem and your budget isn’t limited, then I’d recommend going for Michelin. On the other hand, if you drive an older car with not a lot of power and you’re looking for something on a budget, then Nankang will satisfy your needs. As always, not all tires are equally good, so check out the individual reviews before you decide to make the purchase.