Whenever the time comes for a new set of tires, some people struggle to make a solid choice. Sure, there are reviews and recommendations, but as much as we try to make them good, they aren’t written specifically for anyone. To ensure that you are getting the most out of your purchase, you’ll need to look at your use case and base the decision on that.
For many people, myself included, picking the right set of tires begins with the brand. Since I’m not a fanboy of any brand, I keep an open mind to getting a new set of tires from one that I haven’t gotten before. Naturally, for me to even consider them, they’ll need to be good.
Everyone knows that the premium segment is the one to go for the best possible performance. With that said, in recent years, the mid-range options have begun catching up and can deliver very good tires for a fraction of the cost.
Considering this, today, I’ll be making another mid vs. premium comparison to see how much more you’ll be getting with the expensive tires. My picks for this comparison are Nexen and Michelin, both of which are excellent companies that I’ve had the pleasure of driving their tires. Without further ado, let’s see what’s what.
What's In This Guide?
When you consider that there are tire manufacturers that have been in business for over a century and a half, you may think that younger companies like Nexen are not something to look at.
Founded in 1942 in Yangsan, South Korea, the company was initially called Heung-A Tire Company. For over a decade, the company was working on producing rubber products, but with WW2 and the Korean war, there wasn’t too much interest in passenger car tires. Things began to change a few years after the Korean war when the company returned to its roots and continued working on “normal” tires.
Until the 80s and 90s, the company was producing tires and didn’t have too much to brag about. In 1984, Heung-A began with constructing the first plant for constructing radial tires. Meanwhile, the company went under the management of the Woosung Group in 1986, and less than a decade after that, it changed its name accordingly. Meanwhile, the company had a partnership contract with Michelin (yes, the second brand I’ve chosen for today) that lasted several years.
In the early 90s, the company began developing and producing tires with a one-directional pattern, also known as V-shaped ones. Near the end of the decade, the company took the management rights of Nexen and changed the name into the one we know today.
At the turn of the century, Nexen stepped up the game and began to spread throughout the world. By expanding operations into other parts of the globe, the company ensured that its growth wouldn’t go unnoticed. To spice things up, getting into racing series like formula drift, Pikes Peak, and numerous off-road series, the brand ensured that it would position itself as a powerful mid-range contender.
Nexen’s tire families
Unlike some of its competitors, Nexen takes a slightly different approach to categorizing its tires, and things may get a bit confusing.
Probably the most common family of tires Nexen has is the N’Fera. These tires are packed full of features that enable them to deliver the best performance possible. Even though the company advertises them as performance-inclined options, there are some which are sensible and can be seen as touring tires, even though they are not.
Making a clear distinction is difficult, but you may figure things out if you dive into the tires. You have options like the Primus or SUR4G, tires designed for more performance, meaning that the longevity and refinement are sacrificed.
On the other hand, tires like the Supreme or the AU7 offer a more comfortable ride and don’t have a massive impact on longevity, making them the touring-like options. Naturally, there are plenty of other models, including ones like the Supreme SUV or RU1, which also cover the CUV and SUV segment. In total, you get a wide range of cars from tires that are summer and all-season, depending on the model.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have the N’Priz family of tires designed with different purposes in mind. Unlike the N’Fera, these are proper touring tires, set up for better comfort, lower noise levels, and long life. With that said, some models throw in a bit of fun into the mix.
Similar to the previous family of tires, the N’Priz covers a wide range of vehicles. On the CUV and SUV side of things, you have models like the RH7, while for passenger cars, you have AH5 or AH8. The number of models isn’t as extensive as the previous family, but you won’t have too many problems finding one that will fit. As for driving conditions, you have models that cover the all-season and summer segment.
In many ways, the N’Blue tire lineup is similar to the N’Priz, but it’s the more affordable option, if I may call it that. Both tire families are designed for comfort and longevity, but the performance won’t be as pronounced since this one doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles. With that said, safety is one area where Nexen made no compromises.
Again, there are a handful of models which aim to cover the passenger car and SUV, and light truck segment. To be fair, the second segment is covered by a commercial-grade tire, the 4Season Van, but it comes in a decent number of sizes. For passenger cars, you have the HD Plus and 4Season, which are the summer and all-season models, respectively.
You may have noticed that the models I’ve mentioned are summer or all-season so far. For winter driving, Nexen has a separate family of tires called WinGuard. This group of tires offers the most flexibility as it has more models than some of the other families of tires that Nexen has.
The winter side of Nexen offers plenty of models, depending on the use case and the vehicle type. You have separate snow models like the Sport 2 or Snow G3, studless tires for maximum traction on snow. In icy conditions, I’d recommend going for the Ice 2 or Ice Plus, while on the studded side of things, you have the WinSpike series. If you’re driving an SUV or a light truck, some of these models have larger sizes, so you have Sport 2 SUV, WinSpike SUV, or Ice SUV.
Like most prominent tire manufacturers, Nexen has a separate line of tires designed for larger vehicles likes SUVs and light trucks. There are some overlaps with some of the previous families, but generally, these are designed with different driving conditions in mind.
Even though there are already touring tires from other families, Nexen also has the Roadian HTX RH5, which is advertised as a highway tire. For the off-road enthusiasts, there are the AT Pro RA8, AT 4×4, and the MTX, which cover the all-terrain and mud-terrain sections. There are also commercial versions – the CT8 and CT8 HL, which are along the lines of highway tires. All of these models combined cover the all-season and summer segment of the market.
As far as premium tire manufacturers go, the list isn’t too extensive, but Michelin is part of it. Being among the oldest brands means that there is a lot of experience, resulting in a company capable of making excellent tires.
The company came into existence in 1889 and was founded in Clermont-Ferrand, France, by the Michelin brothers. Initially, the company was making rubber products, but the idea came when a bicycle needed to have its tire repaired. The process was long and tedious, so the brothers tried to find a way to speed things up.
Initially, apart from the rubber products, the company began producing replaceable tires for bicycles. Within a few years, the company was already off to the races, supplying tires for bicycle races which resulted in a win, putting Michelin on the radar.
Throughout the years, the company worked on improving its products, and thanks to several research and development centers, the company managed to take things to the next level. While it managed to offer some innovations to the market, it also managed to improve some of the ones that were already available from other brands.
Keeping up with the rest of the pack and making constant improvements to its tires meant that Michelin could try its models in racing. Thanks to its technologies, the company has a rich racing history, proving itself to be dominant in series like Formula 1, Le Mans, WRC, and many more.
The best part of these racing technologies is that some of them find their way into the road-going tires. As a result, Michelin manages to deliver tires that are among the best, not only in their class but also in the entire industry.
Michelin’s tire families
Unlike Nexen, Michelin takes a slightly more classic approach to the family of tires, and for the most part, you have one family of tires with a unique set of features.
Michelin is known for making excellently performing tires which is why the Pilot family of tires are among the most popular ones. With these, you are looking at the best possible performance from a road-legal tire, which is an ideal option for people looking for the sportiest experience. Despite these characteristics, some models are set up to be slightly better refined, so daily driving them may be more bearable.
With models like the Sport 4s, Sport All-Season 4, or Alpin 5, you cover every driving condition for passenger cars – summer, winter, and all-season. Plus, you also have the SUV options from these models and the Diamaris one. Combining all of these together, Michelin managed to cover a massive list of cars and all driving conditions for the road. Then there are the models like the Pilot MXM4; a tire set up to be more comfortable for daily use.
Not every car owner is after a tire capable of maximum attack. If you fall in this category and feel like touring tires are your cup of tea, then the Primacy family might be a good option. Designed with refinement and longevity in mind, these are among the most common types of tires I’d recommend for most people.
Like with the previous family, there are loads of options that cover multiple vehicle types that range from hatchback to light trucks. You have models like the XC, Tour A/S, or the LTX, which already cover the entire range of cars I mentioned. Those 3 are all-season variants, and if you’re after summer tires, you have the Primacy 3 and the HP models, but keep in mind that they are only available for passenger cars.
The Primacy lineup isn’t the only one delivering well-refined tires that can last long. Michelin also has another set of touring tires called the Premier, which more or less seems to deliver a similar set of features. The main difference is how the models are set up and what is offered.
Even though the options may seem a bit limited, there is a nice variety. There are two models, the A/S and the LTX, which cover a wide gamma of vehicles. The A/S is for passenger cars, while the LTX is a CUV and SUV option. An important note here is that both options are all-season tires.
Michelin already has plenty of models from other families that cover the SUV and CUV segment, but it also has a separate group of tires for them, with a slightly different set of features. Despite that, they are set up as touring tires and offer everything you’d need in terms of refinement and longevity.
The list of available models is quite extensive but is divided into 3 sub-groups: Sport, Tour, and Alpin. As you can probably guess, thanks to this, you are looking at models that are designed as summer, winter, and all-season options. Also, this also means that you can have a set of tires that can offer a sportier or a mode comfortable ride, depending on your preference.
Within each group of tires I mentioned to far, Michelin has had a model which is designed for winter conditions. If those are not something you think would work for you, then there’s the X-Ice family of tires, which are set up to provide a proper winter experience without any compromises.
In terms of available options, Michelin doesn’t offer tons of models, but they are pretty flexible. In the non-studdable section, you have the Xi2, Xi3, and Snow models, which come in a wide range of sizes, meaning that even larger vehicles can take advantage of them. On the other hand, if you’re after maximum ice performance with studs, the North model is the one to go for.
Michelin’s Defender lineup is another set of touring-like tires, so you may see many similarities with some of the other families on this list. With that said, the technologies and features may differ a bit, but the end-goal is similar.
There are only two models here – T+H and LTX M/S. The first model is designed for passenger cars, CUVs, and SUVs that are on the smaller side. If you own something bigger, then the second model is an excellent option because it also covers CUVs and SUVs, but there are also sizes for light trucks.
It’s no secret that Michelin is a brand that’s on the more expensive side of the options. To offer something that would compete in the mid-range market, it offers the Energy family of tires. Even though these tend to be slightly cheaper, you shouldn’t expect any compromises in terms of safety.
In this family of tires, you can choose between the Saver or the LX4. As far as driving conditions go, the first model can be found in summer or all-season variants, while the second one comes only in an all-season setup. The best part is that this family of tires covers an extensive range of cars, and even people with older and smaller cars can take advantage of them.
In recent years, Michelin released the CrossClimate family of tires, aiming to be the latest and greatest in the all-season touring segment. These are to provide decent handling characteristics without compromising the refinement or longevity.
The V-shaped pattern that makes these tires stand out from the crow is designed to improve areas where other tires don’t perform as well. You can get the CrossClimate+ or the CrossClimate 2 in plenty of sizes, so you shouldn’t have any fitment issues.
Last but not least is the LTX family of tires. Michelin has distinctive LTX models in other families, but in this case, it went with tires that are specialized for larger vehicles like CUVs, SUVs, or light trucks. The best part is that you can get these tires in two variants, depending on the conditions you drive in.
For people that take their cars off-road, the A/T2 would be an excellent choice. As an all-terrain tire, this brings a nice balance between on-road manners and off-road traction. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a touring-like tire, then the M/S2 is what you should be looking at. Considering that the LTX tires are all-season, you also get usability throughout the year, as long as the winter conditions aren’t harsh.
Differences between Nexen and Michelin
Going into this comparison, you probably guessed that Nexen wouldn’t stand a chance, and you’d be right in some cases. In others, some models have managed to surprise me and even deliver slightly better results than their Michelin counterparts.
Despite the dramatic intro, Michelin’s tires are good, and as overall packages, they are the better performers out of the two. If you start to compare certain conditions, you’ll find situations where a Nexen tire would perform better.
Let’s start off with the winter tires, the studdable ones, to be precise. The WinGuard WinSpike 3 is a direct competitor of Michelin’s X-Ice North 4, and the tire loses dramatically in icy conditions. This is no surprise for some, including me, but the surprise comes in wet conditions. In this case, the Nexen tire outperforms the French competitor both in braking and handling.
In the UHP summer segment, putting the N’Fera Sport SU2 against the Pilot Sport 4 gives the expected results. The Michelin tire beats the Nexen one in every single driving condition. Even though the differences aren’t massive, they are noticeable. With that said, the Korean tire manages to be the quietest in this segment, which may be appealing to some people.
When it comes to the SUV tires, things seem pretty even between the N’Fera Sport SUV and the Primacy 4. Sure, Michelin’s handling characteristics are better than Nexen’s, but on the other hand, the N’Fera Sport SUV manages to deliver higher stability when driving on water.
Even though Michelin isn’t a brand you go to for a tire capable of off-roading, there is the LTX A/T2, which is an all-terrain tire. Putting it against the Nexen Roadian AT Pro reveals some interesting results. While the braking distances on tarmac are considerably shorter with the Nexen, the positions are switched in gravel conditions, and Michelin stops in a shorter distance. Then there’s the performance in sand, an area where Michelin performs better than Nexen.
I think that the only area where Michelin’s performance is consistently above Nexen is with the touring models. Regardless of which conditions you’re driving on, Michelin’s tires will perform better, even if we’re talking about smaller margins. On the other hand, some Nexen models manage to remain quieter even than their premium competitors.
If you take a look at the number of families, you’ll have an idea of which manufacturer is better. While that is true, it doesn’t cover every car type or driving condition, meaning that Nexen isn’t the underdog in every case.
For road-going tires, Michelin is a clear winner. The company has more tire families, each one has more available options, and when you factor in the “cheaper” models it offers, there is a lot to choose from. Sure, it can be consuming to decide which family of tires to look for, but having a wider range of options is always better. I’m not saying that Nexen is bad in this regard, but it just doesn’t have as many options.
The thing to keep in mind is the touring tires are the most popular options out there, and Michelin has a few in almost every family. This means that you can pick the driving characteristics, widening the options. Nexen has a handful of touring tires in the summer and all-season segment, which isn’t too bad. The problem is that you will be limited only to those and not be able to pick a touring tire with a sportier edge.
Things seem to change when we look at the winter tires. Sure, Michelin has models with and without studs, but Nexen has more models. Yes, some may be designed for different types of vehicles, but there are also some which are designed for different driving conditions.
It’s a similar story in the off-road segment, which Michelin isn’t too known for. Apart from the LTX A/T2, there aren’t any other off-road capable tires, something that Nexen does much better. Within the Roadian family of tires, you have multiple options, covering the all-terrain segment and the mud-terrain one for the most extreme off-roading conditions.
This will be a short section, as Nexen is the clear winner here. Regardless of which model you choose to compare, the Michelin will always be the more expensive one, even when you consider the Energy tires.
In the touring segment, both the Primacy A/S and the Energy LX4 are more expensive than the N’Priz AH8, and the difference isn’t negligible. With at least a $50-60 difference, you are looking at over $200 for a set of 4 tires. A similar price difference can be seen between the CrossClimate2 and the N’Fera AU7.
What about the off-road competitors? Well, the difference between the LTX A/T2 and the Roadian AT Pro for a 17-inc model with the same speed and load rating is roughly $100.
Paying more for a tire means that you’ll get more in terms of features, and in some cases, that translates to the warranty. Unfortunately, Michelin isn’t a brand for offering the longest warranty, so in this segment, there are models from Nexen which may be a better option. Take the touring tires I mentioned in the previous section. The N’Priz AH8 is the cheaper option but comes with a longer warranty than both of Michelin’s models.
On the other hand, there are the all-terrain models, where Michelin offers a longer treadwear warranty. In this case, I cannot say that one is better than the other because things vary from one model to another.
Advantages of Nexen
- More affordable
- There are certain conditions where the tires can perform almost as good if not better than Michelin’s
- More winter and off-road capable tires
Advantages of Michelin
- Better performance when looking at a tire as an overall package
- Loads more tire options
- Some models come with a larger treadwear warranty
Which brand to choose?
This decision boils down to personal preference, but here are a few things to consider before deciding which one would be the best for you.
When it comes to sheer performance, Michelin is a better option. Even though, in some cases, Nexen’s tires may be close or better, the overall score a Michelin tire would get will be higher even if it’s only a bit. As a result, if you own a sporty coupe or a luxurious limousine, a French set of tires is the choice I’d make. I’m not saying that the Korean tires are bad and won’t perform well, but those types of cars deserve a premium tire.
On the other hand, considering that Nexen is the more affordable brand, if you’re like me, then this would be an excellent option. Considering that I drive a 30-year-old car, the first thing is that there is no need for me to throw hundreds of dollars on tires that I won’t take full advantage of. The second thing is that modern tires rarely come in smaller sizes, so there’s that problem as well. With that said, even if your car isn’t as old as some tire brands on the market, you may be able to utilize Nexen’s options. I wouldn’t fit them to an LFA, but I wouldn’t mind fitting them on a Yaris.
With that said, if you are looking for something capable of off-roading and these two brands are the ones you’re considering, then Nexen is the way to go. You can choose between an all-terrain and a mud-terrain tire, and you won’t be throwing hundreds more. Then there’s the performance, which isn’t massively better with Michelin, so I don’t see a good enough reason to go for that manufacturer.
At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Both brands have their pros and cons, and I cannot say that one is better than the other. In some cases, one is better, while in others, it’s worse. Make the decision based on your needs and preferences.