/ Motoring

Car makers should be upfront about brake distances

Car braking with skid marks

Do you know how long it would take your car to come to a halt from 60mph? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Shouldn’t car makers tell us what distance their vehicles are able to stop in?

Car manufacturers are all too happy to tell us how swiftly their vehicles can sprint to 60mph, but most of them don’t make it easy for us to find out how long our motors will take to stop from that speed.

Maybe this is because the figures don’t make such compelling advertising copy. They definitely don’t for those cars that come last in the Which? Car brake test programme.

In this programme we tested the stopping power of around 160 new cars each year, putting them each through an identical series of tests. In our latest tests the worst offenders took up to eight metres longer to stop than the best in class.

This year the VW Polo topped the chart, stopping in just 34.16 metres, compared to the worst, the Suzuki Alto, stopping in 42.52 metres. The gap between the two is the length of a Routemaster bus, and could mean the difference between life and death.

Give us a brake

As a parent, I feel that this vital piece of safety information should be made widely available on every vehicle – it’s something that would influence my choice of car.

The figures would have to be comparable though, so I believe we should be pushing for a new European standard for brake testing, just as there is to measure fuel consumption.

With this in place we’d be able to compare the stopping distances of all cars. That in turn could put pressure on car makers to improve the brake technology of their vehicles. Maybe, then, they would include the latest safety technology in all their models, too, rather than just the big, expensive vehicles.


Interesting that even the worst performing vehicle still stops well within the 73 metres quoted in the Highway Code and that the best come to a halt in less than half that distance.

I have one simple complaint about this – surely it depends on all conditions?

A few – wear on tyres
road conditions
ability of a driver to judge distances

It is far better to use the Highway code distance of 73 metres for the “standard” car rather than relying on that of 34.16 meters judged at 60mph in an brand new car. Many drivers can’t even judge the kerb!!

In all honesty until all cars are fitted with a radar operated automatic braking system – this seems a tad pointless. Drivers are far too variable in their performance and judgement for this to be very relevant.

Sorry about taking this down for a while, we jumped the gun a bit – as we should have waited for this to be on The One Show. You may have seen our very own Richard Headland talking about Which? Car’s brake tests.

You can re-watch Which? Car’s The One Show appearance about their brake tests on BBC’s iPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00wv37d/The_One_Show_15_12_2010/

Colin Vaughan says:
17 December 2010

I think this test was not anyway comprehensive enough. There are many factors than can effect stopping distances . One of the most important is the make of tyre fitted. In a recent survey of tyres conducted by Auto Express, there were very large differences on stopping distances demonstrated using the same class of car, same driver, a proffesional, but differing manufacturers. So not very immpressed.

ken maudsley says:
17 December 2010

Well done, an excellent idea but a very limited piece; did both cars have the same make of tyre?. What a shame you didn’t take the opportunity to objectively test winter tyres on both cars to supplement the disgracefully subjective comment made in newsletter 2 weeks ago. Leading specialist car magazines have shown reduced cold weather braking distances and superior grip for winter tyres, not just superior snow performance, why can’t Which do these tests? We do get cold weather every winter!

Nicholas Duffin says:
18 December 2010

Years ago (I am 76) the two top motoring magazines Motor and Autocar included in their road tests measured braking distances as well as turning circle and interior dimensions.

I’d be nervous of saying “…an identical series of tests…”. I presume the tyres, road and air temperatures, relative humidities and road-surface type (probably other parameters as well) were “identical” across all tests throughout the year? If not then these should be quantified and quoted in the test results.

Back in the 70’s manufacturers included this information. I remember the difference between saloons and big 4×4’s was worrying. I still worry when being tailgated by these vehicles. If it takes them an extra 10mtrs to stop from 70 then I can end up as the meat in the sandwich.
Braking distance should be one of the main selling points. It saves lives!

Which do car tests so why arn’t they included. Im not saying they are going to be 100% acurate but they would give a guide.