That's the case with electronic stability control (ESC); it's been shown to reduce accidents, fatal crashes, and rollovers, and with economies of scale doesn't cost as much as you might think. NHTSA had estimated that its mandate for stability control to be standard by 2012 will cost an average of $111 per vehicle but save nearly 10,000 fatalities annually—along with, potentially, hundreds of thousands of injuries and accidents. Including related components, some automakers have placed the total cost of ESC to be $400 or more.
The idea behind electronic stability control is simple: the brakes are applied individually at one or more of the wheels to help restore a traction and/or a vehicle imbalance in an extreme maneuver—perhaps allowing you to avoid an accident.
But while stability control systems for some SUVs and luxury vehicles are already into their second or third generations of this technology, some of the least expensive models on the market still haven't received the lifesaving technology.
The need is especially dire for small cars because of their weight disadvantage in multiple-vehicle accidents.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), electronic stability control was standard on 85 percent of all vehicles for the 2010 model year—including 100 percent of SUVs but 88 percent of cars and just 62 percent of pickups.
Automakers have just over the past couple of years moved quickly to get stability control into compact pickups. The 2011 Chevrolet Colorado, 2011 GMC Canyon, and 2011 Ford Ranger all now come with it standard, and larger pickups have all come with it for several model years.
What remains for 2011—aside from a few wildcards like the four-cylinder Nissan Frontier and the Mazda RX-8—is a surprisingly long list of cheap, small cars that still don't get the feature, or don't have it standard.
A number of the smallest, least-expensive cars, including the 2011 Ford Fiesta, 2011 Toyota Yaris, 2011 Scion xB, 2011 Kia Soul and 2011 Mazda2, now include standard stability control, while a class up, vehicles such as the Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra, and Mitsubishi Lancer all have it standard.
If price-conscious new-car shopping is on order for you or your family, scroll to the next page to take a look through this list of models that even, for 2011, don't include ESC: