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What is a hill start? And how to perfect it

Hill starts can be daunting even for the best drivers. We have all been there, having to set off on a steep hill and trying not to roll back or stall, that's why we want to help. We will support you with:

  • What is a hill start?
  • How to perform a hill start correctly
  • What is hill start assist?
  • What’s the difference between hill start and auto-hold?
  • Do EVs have hill start assist?
  • What cars have hill start assist?

When learning to drive, you learn many skills to keep you driving safely on the roads such as anticipation and observation which can be classed as general skills. Others such as reverse bay parking and clutch control are specific skills that every learner must perfect. A hill start is one of these skills.

What is a hill start?

A hill start is the action of moving off from a parked position on an incline without the vehicle rolling backwards.

How to perform a hill start correctly

Performing a hill start in a car equipped with a manual gearbox typically involves utilising the handbrake.

The handbrake serves to prevent the car from rolling backward, and you release it gradually while engaging the clutch until it reaches the biting point. This requires precise timing: releasing the handbrake too early might cause the car to roll backward, while releasing it too late could result in stalling the car as the engine tries to move the wheels while the handbrake holds the car stationary.

Alternatively, it is also possible to execute a hill start using the foot brake instead of the handbrake, although this method necessitates quick footwork, so this is usually for experienced drivers.

Hill starts are usually easier in vehicles equipped with automatic gearboxes. With an automatic gearbox, you can effortlessly handle a hill start by keeping the transmission in 'D' while applying the brakes when stopped on an incline. The automatic gearbox has a built-in 'creep' function that causes the car to move forward as soon as you release the brake pedal.

In the event that you need to stop for more than a few seconds, it is advisable to shift the gearbox into 'N' to be gentle on the transmission. You can still keep your foot on the brake while transitioning back to 'D', allowing the transmission to gradually move the vehicle forward once you release the brake pedal.

What is hill start assist and how does it work?

Hill start is a system that holds the brakes of your vehicle for a couple of seconds when you take your foot off the brake pedal, giving you enough time to find the biting point and move off.

In 2023 one of the most important selling points in the world is convenience. This means that car manufacturers constantly release features that make life simpler, and hill start assist is just one of them.

Most modern cars come with hill start assist as standard, but always check with the manufacture’s specifications for confirmation.

What’s the difference between hill start and auto-hold?

Auto-hold brakes use very similar technology to hill start assist but used in different situations. The Hill start system keeps the car stationary when on a incline. Auto-hold keeps you still when stopped in traffic keeping the vehicle stationary until the accelerator is pressed.

Do EVs have hill start assist?

Yes, electric cars do have hill-start assist but it works slightly differently. The hill-start assist in electric cars uses the motors to keep the car stationary instead of the brakes being applied.

What cars have hill start?

Hill-start assist is widely added to new cars by manufacturers which makes it easy to find a car with this system – even on entry level specifications on certain cars. The most affordable cars that this system comes as standard are the Kia Picanto and the Hyundai i10.

But the hill start system is available across a wide range of vehicles from affordable to higher end cars.

As always, check the manufacturer's specifications on the car due to hill-start might only be available on higher specs.

Speak to one of our team at your local Chorley Group dealership who will assist you in finding a car which has hill-start assist and many other features that will make every journey comfortable.

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