Which? brake testing on The One ShowBig difference between best and worst brakes

16 December 2010

Car brake disc

Which? Car discusses how we test brakes

If you think the braking performance of all new cars is the same, then think again.  At Which? Car we've carried out the rigorous research to know that the difference between the best and worst braking distances can be up to eight metres - that's longer than a Routemaster bus. 

We shared our findings with BBC1's The One Show last night (Wednesday 15 December). You can watch the report again on BBC iPlayer.

Which? Car believes car manufacturers should make 62-0mph braking figures more readily available, alongside 0-62mph acceleration stats, to give consumers this vital information when buying a new car.

Find out more about how we test brakes

Make stopping distances more readily available

Car manufacturers are good at telling us how quickly cars get from 0-62mph, but they’re not so good at telling us how quickly they get from 62 to zero. This means braking distances doesn't usually get considered when people are looking to buy a new car.

Many of you might think that new cars’ brakes are all almost on a par, but there are big differences between the best and worst - a difference that could prove fatal in an emergency situation.  

Which? Car tests 160 cars a year, putting each car through identical road tests and procedures, including the brake tests we demonstrated on The One Show. 

Testing brakes is just one dimension of our impartial and rigorous test program, which we conduct so we can tell our members which cars have the best brakes - and which have the worst.

VW Polo

The VW Polo appeared in the feature

How Which? Car tests brakes

In the Which? Car tests, we measure the average distance a car takes to stop from 62mph.

To ensure a realistic result, we set up the car at half load (with two adult passengers) and ensure tyre pressures are correct. We then perform an emergency stop test from 62mph to 0mph and measure the stopping distance using a GPS-based Racelogic tracking computer – the same kit used by racing teams. We repeat this emergency stop test 10 times in quick succession and the average of these 10 braking tests is the overall braking distance figure we quote in our car reviews.

Suzuki Alto

...along with the Suzuki Alto

This gives the brakes a real pounding, and the test is designed to highlight any tendency to fade – that is, where brake performance reduces as brake temperature increases. Any car that exhibits fade is marked down accordingly. Fortunately, it’s less common on modern cars, most of which have strong, predictable braking performance - although we still find exceptions.

Do you think car makers should be more upfront about braking distances? Read our view at Which? Conversation and let us know what you think.

Which? Car on The One Show

To showcase our testing and demonstrate the differences between brake performance, we took a VW Polo and an Suzuki Alto to a test track. Watch the The One Show on iPlayer to find out which car has the better brakes, and to find out more about Which? Car's rigorous testing.

Become a Which? member to access our full car test results

Which Car Survey 2011 image

Which? Car Survey 2011

Which? Car wants to know more about your car. If you fill in the questionnaire online, you'll be in with a chance of winning £5,000.

Last year, we had responses for over 60,000 cars, helping us determine the carmakers you can trust - and those you can't. We've fed the results back to carmakers and they've listened to us. So your input is vital to keep customer satisfaction as a priority for carmakers and dealers. Find out more about the 2010 Car Survey results here

Complete the online survey now for your chance to win £5,000