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Nearly 60% of new cars now come with ESC

Stability control fitted to over half of new cars

Peugeot 308

All Peugeot 308s apart from the base-spec Urban model now have ESC as standard

Electronic stability control (ESC) manufacturer Bosch says that 59% of new cars sold are now fitted with this potentially life-saving technology.

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From now on, most versions of the Peugeot 308 will be among them, as the French manufacturer is including it as standard on all but the base model.

What is ESC?

ESC and other stability control systems help vehicles recover from grip loss that could otherwise result in skidding and life-threatening accidents.

It works by swiftly reducing engine performance and/or braking individual wheels to keep the car going in the driver’s intended direction; some more sophisticated systems can even speed individual wheels up to achieve the same result. 

Parts manufacturer Bosch is responsible for the design and development of many such systems supplied to carmakers.

Small car gains

Bosch is reporting that in the first six months of 2009, 59% of all new cars sold came fitted with ESC technology – a rise of 3% over the 2008 figures.

The gains mainly came from the small car sector, with 23% of these now having ESP fitted. However, in the ‘mini compact class’, which has seen the fastest growth in sales, ESC fitment fell from 33% to 19% – so it’s not a universally positive picture.

Legislative requirement

Bosch is ‘optimistic that this will improve in the next few months’, a situation driven by the increasing tendency for carmakers to include stability control as standard. It is also now a requirement for any vehicle wishing to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.

In addition, EU legislation coming into effect in November 2011 will require all new passenger car and commercial vehicle models to be fitted with ESC by 2014.

The UK ESC increase in the first half of 2009 is echoed across nearly all of Europe, with only Germany and France showing a decline, apparently caused by a surge in sales of low-spec small cars brought about by scrappage incentives.

‘A proven life-saver’

AA President Edmund King was pleased about the increased uptake, saying: ‘Particularly in winter it is essential to avoid crashing by skidding, and ESC vehicle active safety technology is a proven life-saver in these conditions. 

‘We urge new car buyers to choose cars fitted with electronic stability control either as standard or as an option before other extras such as alloy wheels or iPod connections are considered.’

Which? agrees with the sentiment. It does point out, however, that it is best to choose a system with a disconnect function. It is sometimes necessary to switch stability and traction control off at low speeds, in order to gain traction. For example, ESC intervention cutting engine power as the wheels begin to slip when moving off from a standstill in snowy conditions can result in you going nowhere. Not all such systems can be switched off.

Peugeot 308 – now with ESC as standard

The news from Bosch coincides with Peugeot’s announcement that all variants of its 308 family hatchback and SW estate will now come with ESC fitted as standard, with the exception of the basic Urban specification.

This system can be ‘disconnected for enhanced traction on difficult road surfaces’, but is automatically reactivated above 31mph – a sensible compromise.

In other Peugeot 308 news, Sport and SE models now gain Bluetooth and a USB connector as standard, and the existing 2.0-litre HDi 136 turbodiesel manual is being replaced with a new Euro 5 emissions-compliant unit, the 2.0-litre HDi 140.


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