It used to be if you wanted a fuel-efficient tire, your choices were limited to original equipment tires; automobile manufacturers often request fuel-efficient tires to bolster fuel mileage ratings. But times are changing as there is increased interest in fuel economy, and clearly tires are where the rubber meets the road.
Last year Goodyear introduced the Assurance Fuel Max, marketing it as a fuel-efficient replacement tire. On Goodyear's heels, Michelin and Cooper introduced two new competing models. Also, Continental recently introduced the ProContact EcoPlus+, which we're testing now for a future report. (See our complete tire ratings and buying advice.)
Both the Michelin Energy Saver A/S and Cooper GFE performed well. The Michelin garnered an excellent overall score, second only to its sibling the long- wearing Michelin HydroEdge. The Energy Saver has exceptionally low rolling resistance and rated Good or better in nearly every test category, except for snow traction where it achieved only a Fair relative rating -- same as the HydroEdge. But where the HydroEdge excels in tread life, the Energy Saver A/S was just average achieving a Good rating.
The Cooper GFE is a very good choice overall, suitable for all-weather conditions and low-rolling resistance, but not as low as the Michelin Energy Saver A/S. Tread life is just Fair based on our test assessment, but Cooper does offer a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty, whereas the Michelin has none.Buying tires
You might be tempted to buy a tire solely based on fuel efficiency, but keep in mind the savings are relatively small. A 10 or 20 percent difference in rolling resistance between two tires might just mean only a one or two percent improvement in fuel economy.No matter of what tire you buy, check the inflation pressure routinely, since underinflated tires have higher rolling resistance and will cost you miles per gallon.
When considering what tire to buy, we suggest looking at a model in our ratings with a high overall score that has good braking, handling, and hydroplaning resistance. Then, from a short list, consider a tire that suits your needs including winter grip, comfort, and tread life, and then use rolling resistance as a tiebreaker.—Gene Petersen