Not just el cheapo tires

Aug 21, 2001

The Bottom Line Kumho tires can be a great value, combining good traction, performance and treadwear at a good price. Beware the bargain basement models though, because that's just what they are.

For some reason, it seems that Korean products seem to have gotten a reputation of being bargain-basement, “El Cheapo” items in the years past. While the few surviving Hyundai Ponys on the road certainly prove that this is not all false, many recent Korean products can certainly offer great value. This is the case of Kumho tires.

I must admit that I did not know anything of Kumho tires until a brand new set of 4 Kumho Power Max II tires would up on my 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier coupe when I purchased it in 2000. The original tires were completely worn out, and I asked the dealer to install summer tires rather than 4-season ones, since I drive enough in the winter to warrant purchasing a separate set of winter tires.

I’ve used these tires for a while, and also talked to other drivers who use Kumho tires, and here’s what I’ve have to say about them.


-The touring tires and performance tires are certainly comparable to many major brands on the market, and they are often sold at a lower price point, which make them an excellent value. They are certainly better than the no-name tires that the big chains often advertise at really low prices.

-The high-end Kumho tires, such as the ECSTA, are actually very well regarded among performance enthusiasts, and are great tires. At this point, the price difference becomes less obvious, and shopping around between brands might be useful. Kumho tires seem to be utilized a lot in Autocrossing, which is one of the hardest punishments you can do to a tire.

-The more widespread Kumho touring tires are essentially a compromise of the many things a tire must accomplish. They typically achieve good ratings in traction and heating, while conserving good treadwear qualities, although the balance is often tipped on the side of treadwear, which is not necessarily a bad thing.


-As with other companies, Kumho makes some low-end tires, and that’s just what they are. Some of these have found themselves on new Korean cars in past years, and were not considered to be the best tires in most weather conditions.

-Kumho’s touring tires, just like the performance tires, are not meant for winter driving. My Power Max II tires, for example, become extremely hard in temperatures close to freezing, and considerably lose their traction even on dry pavement.

-Kumho tires might be harder to find than other more common domestic tire brands. More and more shops sell them, but they’re not always in stock.

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