A Which? test in conjunction with the German Automobile Association (ADAC) today highlights a serious safety risk with a trio of identikit small MPV vehicles from Citroën, Fiat and Peugeot.
When the Citroën Nemo Multispace was driven through the emergency obstacle avoidance manoeuvre (sometimes known as the ‘elk test’) at 50mph, it rolled over onto its roof. Peugeot confirmed that its Bipper Tepee would share the same critical handling characteristics, although we did not repeat the test for safety reasons.
Conversely, the virtually identical Fiat Qubo MPV fitted with stability control passed through the manoeuvre at a higher speed (56mph) without incident.
Electronic stability control (ESC) is an optional extra that costs £310 on most diesel versions of the Qubo. It isn’t offered at all on petrol Qubos and, without ESC, we would expect the Fiat Qubo to behave similarly to the Citroën and Peugeot models. The specification is virtually identical, so again, we did not test the non-ESC Qubo for safety reasons.
ESC is not offered on any variants of the Citroën Nemo Multispace and Peugeot Bipper Tepee – either as a option, or as standard fit.
Stability control is a device that can brake individual wheels to correct a skid and maintain the drivers’ desired course.
It’s particularly effective in emergency lane-change manoeuvres where the vehicle is turned one way then rapidly turned in the opposite direction – such as if you swerve to avoid an accident on the motorway. This is exactly what the Which?/ADAC ‘elk test’ replicates.
Which? senior researcher George Marshall-Thornhill said: ‘This test highlights the importance of stability control. Which? wants all cars to be fitted with stability control as standard, as research by the Department for Transport has shown ESC-equipped vehicles are involved in 25% fewer fatal road accidents. Such a vital safety feature shouldn’t be optional – it should be built in from the start.
‘Rival manufacturers lead the field in this respect. For example, the new Volkswagen Polo has stability control fitted as standard across its range, and prices start at under £10,000 – proving price needn’t be a barrier to decent accident avoidance safety.’
Manufacturers respond to safety risk
PSA, the parent company of Peugeot-Citroën, has reacted to the findings and, in view of the test results, will now fit both vehicles (Citroën Nemo and Peugeot Bipper) with ESC as a standard feature. Diesel variants will come with standard ESC from July 2010 and PSA plans to equip its petrol models with ESC as soon as possible, however no later than autumn 2011. Both Peugeot UK and Citroen UK confirmed this would be the case for UK vehicles.
The reason for the later introduction of ESC in petrol models is that while ESC for diesel cars is already available (developed by Fiat), the stability control system for petrol vehicles must be developed from scratch. Given the cooperation between PSA and Fiat, ESC will also be available for the petrol variants of the Fiat Qubo.
Standard ESC is on the way
Euro NCAP awards additional points for cars fitted with standard ESC. From 2012, EU legislation requires all brand-new models to have ESC as standard, and for existing model ranges it must be standard by 2014.
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