MGF and TF Tyre Options

Words: Rob Bell

Page contents:  Introduction | Recommended tyre sizes | Tyre Survey results | Tyre Advisory
Introduction: why worry about tyres? VVC_alloy.gif (6532 bytes)

What is all the fuss about? Why worry about those rather dull looking bits of black rubber that frame those sexy shiny alloys on your MG? Well, some there are some rather good and compelling reasons in fact. Perhaps most importantly, they form an

... most importantly, the tyres form an essential contact between your car and the road ... providing mechanical grip ensuring that you and your car keep on the road through rain and shine.

essential contact between your car and the road. They filter much of the road surface's irregularities from the occupants by absorbing bumps through the tyre's side wall deflections, whilst also providing mechanical grip ensuring that you and your car keep on the road through rain and shine. Depending upon how the tyre is constructed, you will also get varying amount of information being transferred through to the steering wheel, providing the driver with essential information regarding grip and road surface.

What tyres are fitted on your MG? Three types of tyre were fitted to our MGs as standard over the 10 years of production from 1995 to 2005. If your MG has 15" wheels, MGFs on these rims were equipped with Goodyear NCT-3, whereas on MGTFs, Continental Premium Contacts were specified (probably because by then, the NCT-3 had become obsolete). In contrast, if you have 16" wheels, then you were much better served, with standard fitment of Goodyear's unidirectional F1's (the now superseded GS-D2 model). Interestingly, the performance of the tyres fitted to 15" rims compared to those fitted to 16" are poles apart, as you might predict given the positions that each of these tyres hold in the respective manufacturer's ranges and the difference in price!

Goodyear Touring NCT-3s are the only tyres that MG Rover recommended for the MGF equipped with 15" wheels - and similarly for the Continental for the TF. Following some reports of ill-handling with similar specification tyres from other tyre manufacturers, this approach is unsurprising - and MG Rover issued a warning that no other tyre should be fitted to the car. Largely, this policy is to prevent confusions and ambiguity- limiting any come back to MG and to the tyre fitters themselves.

Does this mean that no other tyre should be fitted to the MGF or TF? No - but the story isn't as straightforward as it may at first seem.

... all mid-engined cars appear to require a tyre with a far stiffer side wall to promote predictable and reliable handling characteristics. Indeed, Toyota recognised this and with Yokohama developed the Advan tyre range specifically for the MR2 with specially reinforced sidewalls.

For starters, it must be noted (as mentioned above) that MG Rover themselves specify Goodyear F1 tyres for MGFs fitted with 16" alloy wheels. So it would be inaccurate to assume that no other tyre would be suitable for the F on 15" rims. What is interesting, however, is that it would appear that high performance tyres better suit the mid-engined roadster. This observation was borne out by comments made by Vehicle Handling Solutions' (VHS) Alan Phillips, who was involved in the development of the MGF and more latterly TF suspension design. His comment was that all mid-engined cars appear to require a far stiffer side wall (than front engined cars) to promote predictable and reliable handling characteristics. Indeed, Toyota also recognised this - and with Yokohama, developed the Advan tyre range specifically for the MR2, with specially reinforced sidewalls. Unfortunately, Toyota prohibited Yokohama from supplying these tyres directly to MG Rover for OEM fitment - but this doesn't stop third party applications. But as all Z-rated, high load tyres use heavily reinforced sidewalls, these are the tyres to search out for use with the MGF and TF. The Goodyear F1 is one good example - and the Bridgestone S-02 another.

However, Ultra-performance tyres bring with them a penalty: higher weight. Based on vehicle performance, and weight loadings, MGF/TFs require only a V-rated tyres, and yet ultra-performance tyres have a far higher speed rating and a Z-rating is typical. This is not a problem per se, BUT because they are engineered to cope with far higher velocities and often higher axle weight loads, they are also significantly heavier. This can cause problems with excessive un-sprung weight, which will impact upon ride and handling.

For more information on tyres, and what the lettering on their sides mean, have a look at the Tyre and Wheel bible.

There are other issues too, but there is not space to cover them here (look at the Tyre bible for more information). Given that there are so many variables impacting upon a particular tyre's suitability for the mid-engined MG, how does one go about making an informed choice of tyre? To aid with this process, a group of enthusiasts conducted a recent survey on the MGF BBS - which has revealed some interesting options from a variety of tyre manufacturers.
Recommended tyre sizes VVC_alloy.gif (6532 bytes)

  Front Rear
15" wheel styles 185/55* or 195/50 195/50 or 205/50*
16" wheel styles 195/45**, 205/45 or 215/40* 205/45 or 215/40*
Pressures (MG recommended): 1.8 bar (26 psi) 2.0 bar (28 psi)

* = Standard tyre size for wheel rim, ** = Standard on front wheels of Trophy 160 and all MGTF

The tyre performance survey VVC_alloy.gif (6532 bytes)

For the average MG enthusiast, it can be frustratingly difficult to get a reliable recommendation as to the best tyre to buy - a problem compounded by MG Rover's own edict on fitting only specific rubber that may no longer be readily available. With this situation in mind, we've been running a regular tyre survey to determine the "what's hot and what's not" tyres for our favourite mid-engined roadster.

You can download the the latest (2005) tyre survey result, in full, here (an .xls file), but the results are summarised below, in descending order of preference. Only those tyres for which we have 2 or more responses for are included in the summary list below (and hence the obvious absence of tyres such as the Bridgestone S-03).


Sizes: 16" only 205/45 front, 205/45 rear.

Bridgetone S-02 Pole Position

Rating: BBS rating:  9.8/10.

Superlative grip, progression and feel. Simply the best.

Unfortunately now only available for fitment on 16" rims, they have a great asymmetric directional tread design. Large tread blocks. Very stiff tyre walls, with a shoulder to help prevent damage to alloys- nice feature! Communication and progressive on limit adhesion is unparalleled. If you ever had any doubts with regard to your MG's handling this tyre will restore your faith.


Sizes: 15" rims 195/50 front, 205/50 rear.
16" rims 195/45 front, 215/40 rear

Toyo T-1R Proxes

Rating: BBS rating:  8.75/10.

Excellent tyres- great dry grip and enough wet grip.

These tyres are the latest performance road tyres from Toyo, a brand increasingly recognised for offering excellent road tyres at extremely competitive prices. Usefully, these tyres are available in a range of sizes for both 15 and 16" rims.


tyre_F1_GSD2.jpg (35050 bytes)
Sizes: 15" rims 185/50 front, 205/50 rear.
16" rims 195/45 front, 215/40 rear

Goodyear F1 GS-D2

Rating: BBS rating:  8.6/10.

Great looks, great grip, a great tyre.

Available for fitment on both 15" and 16" rims, these tyres come in a variety of sizes including 195/50 R15, 205/50 R15 suitable for front and rear fitment, plus 215/40 R16 for 16" wheel fitments. Fantastic looks (possibly the sexiest tyres ever made- if tyres could ever be considered truly sexy!) from asymmetric directional tread pattern. Big, wide tread block design clearly designed for performance purposes.
Good communication of on-limit adhesion, grip is great- especially in the wet. Unfortunately, availability of these tyres are now starting to become tricky - but they are worth searching out in the correct sizes (especially for 16" rims - use 195/45 front on all models)


Sizes: 15" rims 185/50 front, 205/50 rear.
16" rims 195/45 front, 215/40 rear

Toyo T-1S Proxes

Rating: BBS rating:  8.55/10.

Looks good, and grips well in the dry. Great budget buy.

Terrific looking asymmetrical tyre pattern- almost as good as the Goodyear F1 in fact- praise indeed! Good grip under the majority of conditions, although not so confidence inspiring in the wet. These tyres have just been replaced in the Toyo road tyre range by the much improved T-1R, which is probably the tyre to go for.


Sizes: 16" rims 195/45 front, 215/40 rear

Goodyear F1 GS-D3

Rating: BBS rating:  8.5/10.

Excellent grip (especially in the wet) on the road or track, very good wear rate for the type of tyre.

This is, perhaps, the most controversial tyre in the whole survey - and who'd have thought it would be a Goodyear F1 tyre? There surely hasn't been another tyre with more negative feedback - particularly from those replacing worn rear Goodyear F1 GS-D2s - and yet, these tyres can perform incredibly well. The knack, it would seem, is to replace all four tyres together. Thereafter, the stiffer side wall and larger tread blocks seem to better suit track conditions than even its superb predecessor, the GS-D2.


Sizes: 15" rims 185/50 front, 205/50 rear.
16" rims 195/45 front, 215/40 rear

Yokohama A539

Rating: BBS rating: 8.3/10.

Found them excellent in both wet and dry seem to wear well.

An excellent entry for Yokohama with the A539. Usefully available in suitable sizes for both 15 and 16" - they appear to make a good choice of tyre, if the price is right.


Sizes: 15" rims 185/50 front, 205/50 rear.

Avon ZV3

Rating:  BBS rating:  8.1/10.

Brilliant on dry and wet. Always felt safe with this combination.

The highest entry from the British tyre manufacturer, Avon. In the ZV3, they've produced a highly competent performer that owners appear to rate well. Looks like a tyre well worth considering.


Sizes: 15" rims 205/50 front, 205/50 rear.
16" rims 205/45 front, 205/45 rear

Fulda Y3000

Rating:  BBS rating:  7.5/10.

Reasonable tyre, good price and 20K miles out of both the front and rears.

The Fulda Y3000 appeared to be well respected by those who have experienced these tyres on their cars. Sadly, however, it appears that the availability of these tyres is becoming restricted.


tyre_RE720.jpg (37456 bytes)
Sizes: 15" rims 185/50 front, 205/50 rear.

Bridgestone RE720

Rating:   BBS rating: 7.4/10.

A good budget alternative to the S-02/ S-03.

These tyres have acquired an excellent reputation amongst MGF enthusiasts as a good performing tyre, with plenty of grip wet and dry. They wear wear well, and represent good value for money.
Not as good as the S-02 or S-03 flagship tyres, but an excellent compromise choice for high mileage drivers. However, in recent years, they've been eclipsed by the superb performing Toyo T-1s. Still worth a look though.


tyre_P7000.jpg (35913 bytes)
Sizes: 15" rims 185/50 front, 205/50 rear.

Pirelli P7000

Rating:   BBS rating: 7/10.

Good grip in the wet and dry.

Arguably the biggest looser in the 2005 tyre survey, the Pirelli appears less popular than it once was, with fewer enthusiasts reporting their experience with this tyre, and a general lower rating compared to previous years (previously had hit the charts in second place, with a score of 9/10). Are the other tyre manufacturers really improving this much?


Sizes: 15" rims 185/50 front, 205/50 rear.

Continental Premium Contact

Rating:   BBS rating: 6.5/10.

Average dry grip however the handling in the wet can be a little scary.

Standard fit tyre for MG TFs equipped with 15" rims, this tyre got a surprisingly high score for some of the very negative comments owners made regarding its performance. But the most positive thing that can be said for this tyre - it is much better than the Goodyear NCT-3!


tyre_nct3.jpg (35369 bytes)
Sizes: 15" rims 185/50 front, 205/50 rear.

Goodyear NCT-3

Rating:  BBS Rating:  4.7/10.

Slippery when wet!

These tyres provide excellent ride and wear characteristics, and are found as OEM on a number of warm and hot hatches. Their tall small bloc pattern design mean that they are unable to generate extreme cornering adhesion as they tend to 'bend' and under extremis, over heat.
In the wet, the non-symmetric pattern is not the best at clearing water from the tread pattern, but are certainly better than the majority of other tyres in this class.


The new number 1? Unfortunately, no.

15" rims 205/50 front, 205/50 rear.

Bridgestone S-03

Rating:  BBS rating: 8.5/10.

 Good, but not as good as the S-02.

This is the tyre that has replaced the legendary S-02 as the flagship tyre of the Bridgestone range. Perhaps the biggest problem the S-03 has faced is the fearsomely good reputation of its immediate ancestor, the near legendary S-02. It appears that Bridgestone had intended for this model to be not as sporty as the S-02, and certainly, these tyres have not received as strong a welcome from the track day community as one might expect. Curiously, these tyres work best on heavy turbo-charged 4WD saloons, and rather less well on lighter mid-engined sports cars.  However, these are nonetheless extremely competent tyres well worth considering for your MGF/ TF.


The Tyre Advisory/ Disclaimer section VVC_alloy.gif (6532 bytes)