Braking distance is a crucial performance measure of modern cars. It’s not only important for the safety of the driver, but also for other road users and pedestrians. That’s why we test the braking distance of every car that passes through the Which? Test Lab.
By taking an average reading from 10 runs using a GPS measuring system, braking from 62mph to a standstill at half load, we are able to record an accurate braking figure and take into account possible brake fade.
Superminis are the car of choice in towns and cities – where there are plenty of obstacles – so we’ve identified the top and bottom five cars we’ve tested in this sector for braking performance.
1. Volkswagen Polo – 34.2m
The VW Polo excels in many areas, and braking is no exception. With an average braking distance of 34.2 metres the 1.2-litre, 70bhp Polo we tested tops our charts. The brakes are fade-free, although we found the braking distance increased slightly on BlueMotion models, probably due to its low-resistance tyres.
2. Ford Fiesta – 34.7m
Last year’s best-selling car in the UK performed well in our braking test. Standard kit on all models includes anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), which boosts braking pressure for emergency stops. The 1.25-litre model recorded the best figure of those tested at 34.7 metres.
3. Skoda Fabia – 34.9m
The effective, responsive brakes on the Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI impressed our testers. The Fabia also manages to smooth out bumps while retaining good handling. Unfortunately standard equipment is not great, so the Fabia is no longer the bargain proposition it once was.
4. Mini Cooper S Convertible – 35.7m
The Mini Cooper S Convertible is great fun to drive and overall performance is good. The brakes respond well, have plenty of feel and bring the car to a standstill from 62mph in 35.7 metres – on a par with larger, more premium convertibles such as the BMW 3 Series Cabriolet.
5. Volkswagen Up – 36.1m
The second VW to make our top five list is the brand new Up. We tested the High Up which achieved an average braking distance of 36.1 metres. True to VW form, we also found no brake fade after repeated use. However, we would like to see stability control made standard on all models.
1. Citroën C1 – 44.1m
The C1’s ABS system helps bring you to a halt safely, but doing so takes nearly 10 metres more than the best supermini tested, which is poor. On a positive note, the C1 is cheap to buy and run, and a refresh in April bought a facelift and a more frugal engine.
2. Toyota Aygo – 43.1m
As a sister car to the Citroen C1, it’s not surprising that the Toyota Aygo is also found towards the bottom of our list. It was briefly downgraded to a Which? Don’t Buy after Toyota deleted the ESC (Electronic Stability Control) option. However, the this vital piece of safety kit has now been added back onto the options list.
3. Suzuki Alto – 42.5m
Brake assist may come as standard on the Alto, but we’re concerned by the braking distances needed to stop the car: 42.5m to come to a full stop from 62mph is poor for a modern car. Stability control is only fitted to the top-spec SZ4 version – we’d like to see it as standard across the range.
4. Nissan Pixo – 42.4m
The Nissan Pixo is essentially a badge-engineered Suzuki Alto that’s built in India – the only differences are minor styling, trim and badging items, so no surprise to see it sitting here next to the Alto. The average braking distance for the Pixo is 42.4 metres, some way off our top five.
5. Kia Picanto – 42.1m
The Picanto takes a lengthy 42.1 metres to brake to a standstill from 62mph – considering it’s a light-weight little car this is very surprising. On the plus side, the brakes show no sign of fade after repeated use. The model we tested had the 1.0-litre petrol engine, which felt lethargic at speed.