Tyres are one of the most important purchases a car owner will make during their ownership period, and many factors have to be considered. Price is probably the biggest one for most, especially in the case of the budget-conscious small hatchback/sedan vehicle class the Mazda 3 is a part of.
However, other considerations like wet and dry handling (important measures of performance and safety), tyre wear, and comfort also play a part. Here, we look at some of the points that tyre manufacturers focus on when developing a tyre, and choose the best tyres that factor in the choices most Mazda 3 owners should consider when buying.
Our recommended Mazda 3 Tyres:
- Best Overall 16″ Tyre: Continental UltraContact 6
- Best Overall 18″ Tyre: Goodyear F1 Sport
- Best High Performance 16″ Tyre: Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance
- Best High Performance 18″ Tyre: Michelin Pilot Sport 4
- Best Comfort 16″ Tyre: Bridgestone Turanza T005
- Best Comfort 16″ Tyre: Michelin Primacy 4
A note on our tyre selection:
We’ve broken down the choices into three categories; best overall, best high performance, and best comfort, and selected a 16″ and 18″ option for each. Over the last decade the Mazda 3 and many of its competitors have had a 205/60 R16 tyre size and a 215/45 R18 option.
If your car has tyres of a different size, don’t worry; the guide can still be used to make an informed choice, as characteristics should be similar across a tyre’s range of sizes.
Each brand here represents some of the best work on tyre development, and while cheaper tyres are always available, they more often than not come with the caveat of performing worse than the more expensive, premium tyres.
Best overall 16″: Continental UltraContact 6
Excellent grip means great performance, and the Continental UC6 delivers both in spades. Priced very well for its overall high results in handling, feedback, and comfort, these tyres are an excellent choice on almost any car, not just a Mazda 3.
Best overall 18″: Goodyear F1 Sport
The Goodyear F1 Sport is a great overall choice for your Mazda; its name hints at its intended market, and excellent wet and dry grip in both handling and braking is complemented by very good driving feedback. Not overly loud and great value.
Best High Performance 16″: Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance
A supremely capable all-rounder, not only handling well in the dry and especially the wet, but against its biggest competitors it is one of the quietest and most comfortable tyres. Very well priced for such a well-balanced tyre, and representing great value.
Best High Performance 18″: Michelin Pilot Sport 4
One of the best tyres to come out of the French brand’s facilities, the Michelin PS4 is the ultimate choice if money is no object. Excellent wet and dry performance and great feedback while driving. Its higher price is easily justified by how brilliantly it performs.
Best Comfort 16″: Bridgestone Turanza T005
The latest Bridgestone Turanza T005 has been receiving very good reviews from the press overseas for its performance in almost all conditions, but selected here because of the better than average comfort it brings to the party. Perhaps a little noisier than some other tyres, we think the tradeoff for superior handling in an emergency situation is worth it.
Best Comfort 16″: Michelin Primacy 4
Subjectively rated a very comfortable tyre, and among the top of the class for road noise, The Michelin Primacy 4 is a great choice. Without sacrificing overall handling and braking ability, it doesn’t give much away to the EfficientGrip Performance above.
While it is also more expensive, the Primacy is fitted to cars like the Toyota Prius where fuel economy is the focus. With a low rolling resistance tyre wear will be good, while also bringing some savings at the pump.
Key Points when Developing (and Choosing) a Tyre
Tyre brands like Dunlop, Yokohama, Continental, and Pirelli spend tens of millions of dollars a year on tyre development, and you need only look back a few years to see how far we have come. For example; how many cars today don’t even carry a spare? It’s a challenge now to even ask for one as an option, and part of this is due to just how robust and durable the modern tyre is compared to previous generations.
More importantly, those black circles wrapped around your wheels are the only things keeping you driving on the road and not spearing off it, so buying the best tyres you can afford is almost always the best decision you can make from a safety point of view.
Tyre manufacturers have facilities all over the world to develop and test various tyre designs in many different weather and environmental conditions, to test tyres on the following points:
Dry Handling and Braking
One of the most important factors in your tyre choice should be how art handles; not necessarily because you drive a sports car, but because how a tyre performs at its extreme is how it will likely perform in an emergency, like a swerve-and-avoid manoeuvre or an emergency stop.
Wet Handling and Braking
Wet performance might be a higher priority for those living along the coast, and the same principles apply for why a tyre that handles well is of life-saving importance. Often wet handling and braking comes at the expense of dry ability, but the modern-day tyre has come a long way to really be a Jack-of-all-trades.
Formally the domain of efficiency-seeking hybrids and electric cars, even the regular Mazda 3 owner can see the benefits of having a set of tyres last 40,000km instead of 20,000km. When the cost of a set of tyres can be upwards of $600, buying tyres that will get high mileage also makes financial sense.
Tyre Noise and Comfort
Noise and comfort go hand in hand, and the design of a tyre’s tread pattern will go some way to determining how quiet it will be. While driving comfort is subjective, it is obviously relevant to many a car owner. A quiet and comfortable set of tyres reduces driving fatigue, which by extension also means improved road safety.
There are other considerations that may never come to mind that are also tested, like driving in wet conditions the amount of water spray that comes up off the tyre, durability against punctures, rolling resistance and its effect on fuel economy and mileage, and while it doesn’t play such a big role in Australia, handling and braking on snow and ice, just to name a few.
Understanding Tyre Sizes (and Other Numbers)
Tyre sidewalls are covered in numbers and understanding what they mean is useful and important.
Let’s take a look at a common size found on the Mazda 3, a 205/60 R16 92V:
This is the cross-section, or width, of the tyre measured in millimetres. It is what is in contact with the road.
This is the profile, or sidewall, of the tyre and is a percentage of the cross-section above. In this case, the sidewall is 60% of 205mm. Sports cars will generally have a lower profile, and 4x4s and SUVs higher profile.
R is a reference to the tyre being of radial construction, and over 95% of tyres sold today are radials. 16 means the tyre is meant to be mounted on a wheel 16 inches in diameter.
This number refers to a tyre’s maximum load rating index, the maximum weight each can carry. A load index of 96 means one tyre can carry a maximum load of 630kg.
This letter refers to the speed rating of the tyre, or the maximum it is designed for, in this case 240km/h.
Treadwear is almost impossible to measure in isolation, and in tests it is compared to a control tyre. 400 means it will wear four times better than a tyre with a treadwear score of 100. Generally, the higher the treadwear, the harder the tyre’s compound. High performance tyres will have a lower treadwear than economy tyres.
Often printed in an oval, most tyres found now should have their manufacturing date printed on them using four numbers. The first pair of numbers represent the calendar week, and the second pair the year. In this case, the tyre was manufactured in the 34th week of 2020. This is important information because rubber degrades as it ages, even when sitting on a shelf. Generally five-six years is considered the maximum age tyres can last before degradation becomes a problem.