Great news! From 1 November last year, all new cars that go on sale have to be fitted with electronic stability control (ESC). So why are some manufacturers using a loophole to charge extra for this safety feature?
This ingenious piece of kit uses a number of sensors around a car to assess if its wheels are starting to skid. If it detects any slippage, it intervenes, automatically braking or accelerating the relevant wheels to bring the car back into line.
According to one ESC manufacturer, it could eliminate 80% of skidding accidents. Department for Transport statistics also show that cars fitted with ESC have 25% fewer accidents than those not fitted with it.
Why pay more for ESC?
Unfortunately, it seems Fiat isn’t quite the safety saint we’d like it to be. Its all-new Panda, launched in the UK on 1 February (three months after the compulsory ESC date) doesn’t come with ESC as standard. Instead, buyers have to pay more than £400 extra for it.
Has Fiat sidestepped the new legislation? No, we found out that the compulsory ESC rule applies to the date a new model is type-approved, and that was done months before the deadline.
And Fiat isn’t the only carmaker to have released a non-standard ESC car shortly before the deadline. Buyers of the cheapest version of VW’s new Up city car must pay £400 extra to get ESC. We wonder if the VW’s siblings – the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo – will follow suit?
Why we think ESC is worthwhile
Does your car have ESC? Do you think it’s fair that you have to pay extra for this essential safety equipment?
If you’re in any doubt about the effectiveness of ESC, our 2010 test of the Citroën Nemo should convince you of its worth. The Nemo was put through Which? Car’s emergency obstacle avoidance test as part of our full road test, along with its twin, the Fiat Qubo.
In dramatic contrast, the Citroën skidded and then flipped over, while the ESC-equipped Fiat completed the course without incident. We were pleased that Citroën decided to make this feature standard on the Nemo after our test, as has Fiat on most Qubo models.
So, come on Fiat and VW, give car buyers ESC for free on your new city cars.