Stop and start

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q: I read or heard there’s a mid-size American car (the U.S. part is important to us) — not a hybrid — that has an automatic cut-off/cut-on function for when you’re at stoplights. I haven’t been able to learn what car that is. Can you help?

A: The 2014 Chevy Malibu got a lot of attention for being the first mainstream midsize sold in the U.S. with what’s termed “stop-start technology” as a standard feature. Fact is, this feature is increasingly available, sometimes standard and sometimes for extra cash.

Here’s how it works: The engine shuts off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop (as when you’re stopped at a stoplight or in a traffic jam). The car turns back on in a fraction of a second once the pressure on the brake pedal is released.

It’s regarded as a fuel-saver (though, of course, that depends on the kind of driving you do — how many stoplights you regularly hit; how much stop-and-go traffic you encounter). Chevrolet reported that its first-year Malibu provided a 14 percent gain in city fuel economy. Most manufacturers say the savings is 5 percent to 10 percent or so.

It’s available from many carmakers, including some models of Chevrolets, Chryslers, Fords, Hondas and BMWs. It’s safe to say it will be offered on an even greater proportion of the 2016 crop of vehicles that’ll be at dealerships soon. Ford, for one, said last year its stop-start technology would be on about half of its models by 2017.

Some who have purchased vehicles with the feature have loved it; others have said it has taken much getting used to (especially when parking). Worse, some hapless buyers have reported that they wound up with this feature without realizing it (poor sales people?) and believed the car was acting up or breaking down within minutes of driving away from the lot.

So, note to all soon-to-be buyers: ask whether this is on the car you’re buying, on the chance that your salesperson might not think to mention it. (The function can be switched off — at least in the vehicles that have offered so far — but you’ve got to be aware of its existence to know it’s possible to make it disappear.)

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email