Tyre-some ar­gu­ment

Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - Twit­ter @PaulWardGover

COM­PLAINTS are on the rise about the harsh ride and tyre noise in cars. Run-flat tyres on pres­tige mod­els used to be the main source of grief be­cause of the rock-hard side­walls needed to keep them rolling with­out air — but now low-pro­file tyres are shap­ing up as cul­prits.

A Mazda3 SP25 owner emailed about ride and roar. His car has 45-se­ries tyres on 18-inch rims, un­like the 60se­ries rub­ber and 16-inch­ers on the lower-spec Maxx and Neo.

What that means is the side­wall is shorter and stiffer, with less “give” on small bumps and pot­holes, and the tyre is more in­clined to trans­mit road noise into the body. For him, that’s a lose-lose.

He is now look­ing at a po­ten­tially costly switch to the smaller wheels and taller tyres, al­though he should have no trou­ble find­ing a buyer.

And that’s the prob­lem. The de­sign­ers and mar­keters have suck­ered too many peo­ple into buy­ing big wheels, claim­ing they look bet­ter and give more grip in cor­ners. That’s not the full story. A lower-pro­file tyre can im­prove a car’s han­dling but not on the roads where most of us drive. They need a smooth, con­sis­tent sur­face and that’s rare on coun­try roads.

On the styling front, there is all this talk about “fill­ing out the guards” with big wheels and low-pro­file tyres.

Whether stan­dard fit­ment or over­sized, the cir­cum­fer­ence is usu­ally the same, to main­tain the car’s gear­ing and the ac­cu­racy of the speedome­ter. So the look is more about the width of the rim. De­sign­ers save their best work for the big­ger rims, de­lib­er­ately making any ba­sic al­loy look like it be­longs on a poverty-pack car.

One famed de­signer says: “Of course the big­ger wheels will look bet­ter. We style them so peo­ple will spend more on their cars. If we did the best de­sign for the small­est wheel there would be no in­cen­tive to move up the range.”

So big­ger is of­ten not bet­ter. When you’re shop­ping, ask ques­tions about what the more ex­pen­sive wheels really mean to your driv­ing en­joy­ment.

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