Still too much of a compromise for UK winters, but Chinese brands are improving.
There’s no doubt budget tyres from the Far East are improving and getting closer to the performance of premium brands. In our snow tests, the Chinese Zeta was within five per cent of the best. At around half the price of rivals here, it looks tempting, as it was a long way in front of the summer tyre. If we expected snow-covered roads throughout winter it would be an option, but its wet-road performance would be a big compromise in the UK. On the wet handling track, we didn’t need a stopwatch to tell us the Antarctica lacked grip. With the power on, it easily pushed wide, and off the throttle the rear was keen to slide. It lacked the bite of rivals here and although the grip loss was progressive, it was substantial. More worrying is the Zeta’s stopping ability. It needed an average of more than eight metres more than the winner to stop – close to two car lengths. It fared better in the dry, but lacked the sharpness of rivals and required more steering lock on the handling track. As in the wet test, you needed to wait before getting back on the throttle. Rolling resistance was strong, though.