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As far as compact commuter cars go, my 2013 Kia Forte5 is an appliance like any other.
It’s the car I leave behind when I pick up different vehicles to test each week, and even though the odometer only shows about 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers) most of those were racked up on the highway and took a heavy toll on the tires that have been on the car since new. With plans to get a new set of all-seasons in the not-too-distant future, I jumped at the opportunity to test out the Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring tires to find out what they’re made of.
A True Touring Tire
Billed as the brand’s premium touring tire, the all-season CS5 Ultra Touring is geared towards everyday drivability. That means a focus on smoothness and quietness — more on both of those later — while offering traction in a variety of conditions. (The CS5 is snow-rated, though folks living somewhere that’s routinely exposed to winter conditions should opt for a dedicated set of winter tires.)
With its comfort-first focus, the CS5 Ultra Touring isn’t built to tackle an autocross course — though Cooper didn’t neglect dynamic driving altogether. Instead, the tire was developed with unique features that allow it to better withstand the rigors of daily driving. With its asymmetrical tread pattern, the CS5 was designed to be rotated to any of a vehicle’s four corners to prolong its life and promote even wear.
When it comes to the makeup of the tread pattern itself, the CS5 boasts some unique features that set it apart from others on the market. While water-tackling sipes are used on plenty of tires, the thin grooves here are cut deeper into the tire so they last longer into the tire’s life. But they aren’t just cut deeper, and feature interlocking ridges that stabilize the tread to maximize road surface contact. The CS5 also features what Cooper calls Stabiledge, a series of tiny bumpers that keep the tire’s tread blocks open for improved traction and turning response.
With the tires fitted to the Forte’s 16-inch factory wheels, a newfound quietness quickly emerged. Few would say the first-generation Kia Forte5 of having a quiet cabin, with a fair amount of wind and road noise making its way inside. While the CS5 Ultra Touring didn’t hush things completely, they did keep much of it to a minimum.
But maybe a better sign of the quality of these CS5s is the smoothness they bring to the drive. A good set of all-season tires is going to provide a smooth ride with a low rolling resistance, something these tires definitely deliver. With the relatively tall profile of the 205/55/R16 tires we tested, the CS5 Ultra Touring provided a decent first line of defense against bumps and cracks in the road.
Plenty of Traction
No matter how new a set of all-season tires is, it’s not going to transform a commuter car like my Forte5 into some sort of grab-happy sports car. However, the CS5 Ultra Touring does offer a decent amount of grip on both wet and dry pavement. And it was during the slalom test that the tires’ added level of adhesion was most noticeable, along with a tack-sharp turn-in response that didn’t previously exist.
The factory tires had a tendency to skate somewhat under the heavy lateral loads that come with a pylon run. That problem all but vanished with the CS5s strapped to the wheels, with grip seeming to stick around longer — especially towards the outer limit of adhesion. The tires didn’t want to break loose as the car jostled around one pylon to the next, instead showing an eagerness to keep grabbing as g forces put all the momentum on the outside wheels.
Likewise, the tires responded well to brake input, helping slow the car in approximately 140 ft (42.7 meters) from 60 mph (97 km/h). While that’s not quite as short as the stopping distances of newer cars of this class, it’s about what I expected from a four-year-old Forte5, and is certainly no worse than before.
The Verdict: Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring Tire Review
When it comes tires, there’s a fine line between making a decision driven by pragmatism and making one driven by price. If you drive a compact commuter car like my Kia Forte5 then there’s no need to spend a small fortune on a set of performance tires when a set of all-seasons will do. On the flip side, it’s also important not to take the cheap route just to save a few bucks. Tires do, after all, play an important role in on-road comfort and safety. At about $80 to $120 a tire, the Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring falls somewhere in between, offering plenty of bang for your buck.