Car enthusiasts are in a constant search for cheaper performance tires, simply because they wear very fast. Even after several visits to the race track, performance tires can become unusable for street driving. And replacing a few sets of performance tires each year can be very expensive.
Fortunately, companies like Nankang produce budget-oriented performance tires aimed at enthusiasts. And, if Nankang is a novel name in the minds of most people, let me give you a short history lesson.
Nankang is actually the largest tire manufacturer in Taiwan, a country that has few of them. The company was founded in 1940. Moreover, the company claims that it invented the radial tire, on which there is a debate.
Now, I won’t get into that debate, but given the reason that Nankang is mentioned there, it gives the manufacturer importance. However, that doesn’t mean that you should trust Nankang right away, especially because the market is flooded with bad cheap tires.
Fortunately, you’ve come just in the right place to find about Nankang tires. In this Nankang tires review, I won’t only cover the performance tire range, but also models for a comfortable street drive, and SUV and truck tires.
The company even has motorhome, RV, trailer, and agricultural in its portfolio, so yes, the company is big. However, I will cover only passenger-car and performance tires in this article.
Best SUV Touring Tire
The SP-9 Cross-Sport is one of the most popular tires from Nankang, mostly because SUVs and crossovers are all the rage today. With this tire, the Taiwanese manufacturer wants to provide drivers of these vehicles with a balanced blend of performance, traction, comfort, and tread life. The tire comes with a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty, which is good for the price.
In real life, the SP-9 Cross-Sport is very agreeable. The tires are responsive enough for a fluid driving experience, and they grip the road very well on dry roads. Wet handling is slightly behind the curve, but still satisfying.
That said, I would’ve liked shorter braking distances on rainy and snowy days. On a more positive note, the ride is actually smooth, and noise isn’t a very big issue, at least until you hit highway speeds.
Best All-Season Ultra-High-Performance Tire
For the price, the Nankang AS-1 offers one of the most exhilarating driving experiences. The steering on these tires is very quick and precise. Moreover, the cornering grip is great for the price, and the tire is even very comfortable over uneven surfaces.
Nevertheless, even though the AS-1 is an all-season tire, you shouldn’t plan on using it in severe wintry conditions. Also, the wet braking isn’t overly impressive, and some owners report accelerated treadwear, despite the 40,000-mile treadwear warranty.
Best Race-Track Tires
The NS-2R is the most popular Nankang tire among the enthusiast community. That’s especially true for owners of older or less-powerful sports cars that aren’t prepared to spend too much on tires, yet want the higher levels of grip.
The Nankang NS-2R is a great tire to drive, especially on lighter vehicles, like the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The handling is responsive, cornering is grippy, and the braking distances are short.
Nonetheless, traction during hard acceleration might prove to be an issue on very powerful cars. Also, NS-2R isn’t the best choice for driving in the rain.
Best Performance SUV Tire
The SP-7 is aimed at owners of SUVs and crossovers with more powerful V6 or turbocharged engines. The tire handles everyday tasks very well, with good overall handling and responsiveness, both over dry and wet surfaces.
Nevertheless, the Nankang SP-7 isn’t overly comfortable or quiet, and the 40,000-mile treadwear warranty is far from impressive. Also, despite the all-season moniker, the tire isn’t the best choice for wintry conditions.
Best All-Terrain Tire
If you mostly drive on hardpacked surfaces, you will be completely satisfied with the Nankang AT5 Conqueror A/T. Traction on dirt and gravel is excellent, without damaging the on-road traction, even in wet conditions. However, this tire won’t be the best choice for drivers that want extreme off-roading, such as driving in mud or for rock-crawling.
Nankang Tires Review: Buying Guide
Nankang has a very comprehensive portfolio of tires, which are available in many sizes. The company aims to produce sizes that cover modern cars, crossovers, SUVs, and trucks, but also older vehicles.
The Taiwanese company offers both summer and all-season tread compounds, unlike many other cheap tire brands. However, Nankang doesn’t offer winter tires in North America, but they offer such products in Europe and the United Kingdom.
1. Nankang Tires Positive Aspects
Well-Engineered, Developed, and Researched Tires
Many companies that produce cheap tires buy the design of the products. These companies don’t design the tires themselves – they simply buy a rubber material and a mock-up, and then produce the tire. Usually, these designs aren’t researched and developed properly, which results in poor performance.
Nankang, fortunately, isn’t that kind of company. The Taiwanese manufacturer has an R&D department and designs its own models. That’s a good thing because these tires are tested before they hit the road, which sadly is a luxury among manufacturers of very cheap tires.
Which brings me to the price of Nankang tires. Compared to premium-grade tires, the Nankang ones cost up to two times less. That’s not insignificant, especially for owners that want to safe on tires.
That said, you can go much further down below. Brands like Lionhart and Lexani offer even cheaper products. However, the difference in performance between these companies and Nankang is pretty significant, and I would totally go with the Taiwanese products.
Very Good Performance Overall
Nankang tires won’t win any competition, especially when compared to premium companies like Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli, Goodyear, and Continental. Even companies like Cooper, General, Kumho, and Hankook make higher-quality tires. You get the idea.
However, Nankang still produces tires that provide a safe driving experience in most conditions. Dry handling is especially good, but you will also feel safe on wet pavement, and some all-season tires even work well on snow-covered streets.
These things aren’t insignificant – safety should always come first.
Good Treadlife for the Price
Nankang doesn’t produce the longest-lasting tires on the market, of course. However, for the price you pay, the treadlife is actually very good. I’ve seen many Nankang owners being very satisfied with how long the tires last. Moreover, the company uses advanced tread compounds, which always last more than cheaper rubber.
2. Nankang Tires Negative Aspects
Still not a Match for Premium Tires
In my opinion, if you have the budget, premium-grade tires should always be the No1 option. These tires are excellent throughout the board and don’t have real disadvantages. On the opposite side, budget-oriented companies must cut corners somewhere in the development and production stage.
Nankang looks like it knows what it does – its products are of very high quality. However, you still can’t compare them directly to premium tires. The difference in some categories will be huge, most often in categories like handling and braking.
What I want to say is that there is a reason why premium tires cost that much – the excel in almost category. What I don’t want to say is that Nankang tires are bad, because they aren’t.
Treadwear Warranties Could be Longer
Nankang doesn’t offer ground-breaking treadwear companies, like, for example, Mastercraft, a manufacturer that excels in this category. Even the all-season touring tires Nankang offers come with a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty, which is pretty average in 2020.
Not that you should care much about the warranty – you can prolong the treadlife of your tires with proper care, like rotating the tires each 6,000-miles. However, it’s good to know where Nankang stands when compared to other tire manufacturers.
Nankang is an interesting tire manufacturer, especially for people that require good performance at very low prices. That’s especially true for enthusiast drivers – the Nankang performance tires undercut the premium competition by a significant margin.
And, of course, you shouldn’t expect the same performance – that’s obvious. Nonetheless, Nankang somehow managed to produce usable tires which will make their owners happy, at prices that won’t break the bank. And, in my opinion, that’s a success.