Don't get me started on stop-start systems...
15 January 2010 09:55
All these supposed eco-cars with their start/stop systems are driving me nuts. They just don’t do what they’re claimed to do.
It seems simple enough in concept: you roll to a halt, pop it into neutral and the engine cuts out. As soon as you’re ready to move off, the engine re-starts when you press the clutch; into gear and you’re away. Seamless, and an obvious practical benefit to fuel consumption and emissions.
Except so few of them work. In fact, the only seamless start/stop system I can think of is BMW’s, fitted to so many cars in its range that BMW doesn’t bother with stupid stick-on green badges, steel wheels and hair-shirt trim to ram the point home. It works so consistently that you get used to it within a couple of miles of stop/start traffic. The novelty wears off and it just becomes part of life behind the wheel.
If only the same were true of others. I’ve recently been commuting in a Kia Ceed EcoDynamics. Fine car in many respects; well-made and decently equipped for its £14k asking. But the start/stop thing, well, it just doesn’t. There’s a list of caveats in the handbook (the system doesn’t operate when the engine’s cold/when the battery needs charging etc), but conditions were fine.
On the first day I drove it, I deliberately tooled round a housing estate, stopping at every junction, waiting for the engine to cut out. It didn’t. So I repeated the process at the other end of my 20-odd mile commute. Still didn’t work. Drove into town after work for a bit of Christmas shopping; despite traffic queues, still no joy. I turned the air-con off, the heated rear screen and even the radio: no dice. And it didn’t cut out in the car park this morning after a spirited warm-up drive into work.
Now, Kia tells me that the system doesn’t cut in when the ambient temp is below 5deg C. Fair enough, but yesterday morning the dashboard insisted it was 7deg C. And Kia’s not the only offender: a sequence of newly introduced Toyotas continued to pump CO2 skywards at a standstill last winter.
And you can’t just blame cold weather because I drove an Audi A4 thus equipped around that same housing estate last July, and only after notching back the air-con, turning off the radio, and being very deliberate about stopping and selecting neutral did it finally work: as if it was too polite to silence the engine because, you never know, I might need it.
So Kia, Audi and Toyota, a heartfelt plea. If you can’t make it work like BMW does, don’t bloody bother.