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The best tires of 2012

While tires continue to improve, new vehicle tires could give cause for concern, says Consumer Reports

Choosing good tires is critical - they can bring out the best in a car's braking and handling capabilities and keep occupants safe in an emergency situation. In its latest tests of more than 150 tires, Consumer Reports identified a selection of good choices in nine categories. Models from Bridgestone, Continental, Cooper, Dunlop, General, Goodyear, Hankook, Kumho, Michelin, Nokian, Pirelli and Sumitomo were among the high-scoring tires across the categories.

A full list of these high-scoring tires can be found in Consumer Reports Annual Auto issue and at

Consumer Reports tests each tire for the following: wet, dry and ice braking, handling, hydroplaning, snow traction, ride comfort, noise, rolling resistance, and tread life to determine an overall score. The Annual Auto issue highlights top-performers in the following nine categories: all-season tires for cars and SUVs/trucks; all-terrain tires for SUVs/trucks; H- and V-rated performance all-season tires, ultra-high-performance (UHP) all-season tires; UHP summer tires; winter tires for cars and SUVs and trucks; and performance winter tires for cars.

“Tires are getting better and better,” said Jennifer Stockburger, Consumer Reports' senior automotive engineer. “Consumers no longer have to make performance trade-offs between traction and tread life - plenty of models are long-lasting and offer impressive grip.”

Beware of new trends

Consumer Reports cautions car buyers that they may have to research new vehicle models carefully. Some new cars no longer come with a spare tire or jack. For example, the Hyundai Accent is only equipped with a small air compressor and sealant kit to re-inflate a flat tire.

Consumer Reports also advises consumers to be mindful of the type of tire that comes on a new vehicle as even some mainstream cars, including the Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, and Toyota Camry, feature performance tires, either standard or optional. While these tires offer advantages such as better handling and braking, when it comes time for new tires, owners may discover that their 'economy' car requires costly replacements.

When purchasing any vehicle, new or used, Consumer Reports suggests watching out for cars that feature run-flat tires, which can cost more to replace, and all-wheel-drive vehicles that require all four tires be replaced at once, even if only one is damaged.

Choosing the right type of tire

When buying tires, Consumer Reports recommends staying with the size and speed rating of the tires that originally came on the vehicle, as it will give the best balance of performance and comfort.

Below are the most common types of tires and the conditions in which they perform best:

All-season tires are the best overall choice for most weather conditions and provide good grip, tread life and a comfortable ride.

All-terrain SUV and truck tires are best for light-duty off-road use and can provide added grip on snowy and unpaved surfaces. However, all-terrain SUV and truck tires generally don't provide as much grip in normal driving as all-season tires.

Performance tires are designed for crisp handling, improved braking and cornering grip, but will likely not last as long as regular tires. Ultra-high-performance (UHP) models are relatively stiff-riding all-seasons. UHP tires provide good grip in all weather conditions, whereas summer UHP tires give even more grip but are poor in wintery conditions.

Winter tires deliver maximum traction on ice and snow but only middling traction on cleared pavement. They also wear faster than all-season tires and as a result, are best for areas with severe winters.

Posted Mar. 19, 2012 ©

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