Is VSA in Honda good for driving in the snow?

I rolled my car on black ice a few years ago, and since then I’m terrified of driving in weather.

I’m buying a new car now and debating between a Subaru Impreza (with All Wheel Drive) and a Honda Fit (with Vehicle Stability Assist). Will the VSA be as good as the AWL in weather driving?

VSA and AWD are not “as good” as one another, they do completely different things. VSA will do a better job of keeping your car going in a straight line. AWD will give you much better traction in a forward motion. So if you are more concerned with not rolling over again, get the Honda. AWD compared to front wheel drive does not keep the vehicle from sliding sideways. If you can find a vehicle with both you’ll be all set.

Honestly though, even a VSA system may not be able to overcome the extreme slipperiness of black ice. The absolute most important thing in slippery driving conditions are you tires, hands down.

I’d get the Subaru. It has AWD, traction control and stability control. I should warn you: all Imprezas are available with stability assist. You’ll need another reason to get the Fit Sport with Navigation, which is the only Fit with VSA. No brainer.

I know it is Unamerican and prohibited in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. But the only way to keep a vehicle from doing unfortunate things on surfaces with no traction is to SLOW DOWN. Since slowing down to a safe speed increases the chances of getting (safely) stuck, you may prefer the Subaru which will have four wheels trying to get you moving again rather than just two.

Unless you live in an area where drivers are used to driving in snow, you will probably find that snow brings out a bunch of lunatics who insist on their God given right to drive the posted speed limit or faster no matter what the road conditions. Ignore them.

Stability Control is not nearly as effective as AWD in adverse conditions. Stability Control is mainly for helping you stay on the road in extreme situations, like if you have to swerve around something at high speed. AWD keeps you on the road in normal driving situations on snow and dirt.

Snow and ice bring out the lunatics that have AWD or 4WD that think they can safely go 80 in a blizzard. The majority of vehicles I see in the ditch are SUVs and trucks…

AWD gives you forward traction, it does not “keep you on the road” one bit. Any 2WD econobox can stay on the road just as easily as a fancy AWD/4WD vehicle.

It’s been my experience that 4WD trumps 2WD every time in snow. My Bronco is much better on the snow than my Mustang is. In 4WD if I notice that my vehicle is plowing forward, I simply turn the steering wheel to the desired direction I want to go, give it a stab of throttle and the front tires bite and turn the vehicle. Similar to the way a Jetski operates, when your off the throttle they don’t turn well, but when you give them throttle the turning performance improves.

Ok yes, awd/4wd is better than rear wheel drive. But it is not better for tracking than front wheel drive.

If you want the ultimate in safety and stability, do as I do: Buy a Subaru with AWD, vehicle stability control, and traction control and then equip it with a set of winter tires during the snowy/icy months.

Those features, coupled with sane, careful driving will prevent virtually any problems except for being run into by other vehicles that are out of control.

If you want the ultimate in safety and stability, do as I do:
Throw another log on the woodstove.
Pour another cup of tea.
Sit at the living room window and watch your neighbors dig their cars out of the snow, other cars get stuck or drive by too fast.

So you don’t have to go to work when it snows?

Whatever car you decide to buy, be it a 4-Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive or Front Wheel Drive, with or without Vehicle Stability Control, and with or without ABS (ABS stands for Automatic Braking System, not Anti-Lock Braking System), please don’t be fooled into thinking any or all of those things will keep you from rolling over another vehicle if you hit black ice again. Most of the responders either don’t know what black ice is or they have never encountered it. Black ice is when you encounter a thin layer of ice on the surface of a road that doesn’t have the whitish looking appearance normal ice does and looks like normal pavement, hence the name black ice. I’ve hit black ice many times, in both rear wheel and four wheel drive vehicles. Easter weekend of 1970, I was driving to respond to a spring ice storm in Northern Illinois. Thankfully I was the only vehicle on a straight section of a two lane road. I was tooling along at the speed limit, 55, when I hit black ice and did a complete 360 spin. There were trees along both sides of the road (reason for the black ice) and if my car had went off the road it would have been destroyed and I would have been badly hurt or killed. The second time was when my wife and I were in our '77 Dodge Power Wagon, with the 4-Wheel Drive engaged in High, after a winter storm. We were driving the speed limit, 55, when we hit a patch of black ice and lost control on a curve. Only corrective steering and light tapping of the brakes kept us from leaving the road, and possibly rolling over. Yes, I had 4-wheel drive and though I had superior traction. I didn’t, which is the point. Pay attention to your driving and the road conditions when you are driving, or else don’t drive. That is the best advise for whatever car you happen to buy.

I think you have been misinformed. ABS does in fact stand for Anti Lock Braking System. I’m quite sure of it. Originally it was used in airplanes. "Automatic Braking System would infer that the vehicle does the braking for you without the drivers input. Incidentally, Auto-Braking is a feature found in some aircraft. Mercedes also has a similar feature in their newer S-Class models that works off of the radar-assisted cruise control. As far as black ice goes. I know what it is and have had experience driving over a patch of it here and there, fortunately I’ve never spun off the road or even left my lane of travel because of it. The only time I’ve ever involuntarily left the road was during the blizzard of 96 when I was driving to school before the roads were plowed in my 1974 F-100 2WD with a 4bbl 390, 4.11 gears and an open diff. I was 17 at the time and a bit overexuberent with the throttle. There was no black ice involved. Just my dumba**ersy.

Driving 55 MPH in icy conditions is asking for trouble.

“Ok yes, awd/4wd is better than rear wheel drive. But it is not better for tracking than front wheel drive.”

At the risk of offending you…you cannot make a statement like that and be taken seriously about car discussions in other areas as well.
Controlled power to as many wheels as possible is as important for car control in the same way controlled 4 wheel braking is more benificial than two wheel braking. To pretend otherwise, is wrong.
With good traction conditions the difference just isn’t worth the added expense of awd…in poor conditions, you make the choice personally between $$$$$ and added safety.

Hitting black ice at speed is best handled by experience and what ever help you can get from stability control which operates on the braking system more quickly than the drive train can respond. Instantly free wheeling all wheels is the best but as yet unattainable response technologically.

But generally, accelerating on ice, is always aided by awd for directional control.And if this same crew that argues that reasonable acceleration is a safety feature in good conditions, why wouldn’t it be a feature in poor when trying to merge or make an emergency maneuver or climb a hill with the aid of a modern AWD. A car hitting black ice while accelerating or cruising with power on maintains more control in AWD than FWD or RWD. A fact that somehow has managed to allude many on this forum for a long time…usually those that have never spent an entire winter in snow/ice with a modern AWD car.

It’s real easy to say…we should slow down. But here in NE you can hit black ice without warning in seemingly, perfectly dry conditions. So, does everyone drive less than 55 mph just because it’s below freezing ? I think not…

Thank you all for your answers. I should add that I drive very very very slowly during weather (20mph at most. Yes, I know the other drivers hate me. I don’t care.) and do try to stay home on blizzard days, but that’s not always possible.
I guess the majority of you are saying to get the AWD, rather than the VSA.

It’s been my experience that 4WD trumps 2WD every time in snow

4WD or AWD will out perform 2WD any time when the question is the ability to get moving.  It has no advantage (in a few cases it can even be a disadvantage) when it comes to direction control and stopping.  

In short AWD will help you get out of the ditch once you slide into it, but it will not help you stay out of the ditch.
Far too often AWD and 4WD give drivers a false sense of safety.

The one thing that can help you with both better forward traction (getting out of the ditch) and directional stability (Staying out of the ditch) is a good set of real winter (not all season) tyres. Remember they are not perfect and don’t get over confident.

I don’t know the majority would say that…it’s still a personal decision of how much your willing to spend for that extra margin of safety of AWD that still includes, appropriate tire, driving experience and common sense. If you have to be out on “blizzard days”, the added expense may be well worth it.