So I don't know if this is a real thing or something in my head but searching mainly returns issues with broken/spongy brakes and I don't think this is that. So I figured I'd ask you guys.

All my life I driven mainly one car - a 2006 Nissan Altima. I know it isn't the nicest car but after 15 years of ownership I have gotten very used to it and it runs well-enough. The one thing I like about it is that the brake (and accelerator) feels firm. Even at low speeds the brake requires a bit of foot force to depress.

Over the years while traveling, I have had the opportunity to drive other (rental) cars and I've noticed something: many of these cars tend to have incredibly "soft" brakes. This is especially true when I just start the car up and idle/drive slowly out of the parking lot. The brake is so soft and I'm not used to it so I end up constantly slamming the brakes. The soft brakes are mostly noticeable when driving very slowly and they do tend to stiffen a bit when traveling at normal road speeds.

I don't think the soft brakes are a mechanical issue since I notice it mainly on newer (rental) cars. As far as I can tell this is only a subset of new cars and might inflict luxury vehicles more than economy cars? My partners 2019 Mini Cooper is especially affected by this issue.

So my question is - why would some cars have softer brake pedals than others?


Most cars ( any I know ) have had power brakes for decades . Usually vacuum assist. The manufacturer designs them for the resistance , or assist he thinks customers want. So different manufacture and different models have different pressure requirements. Of course if there is a malfunction, brake pedal effort will increase .

  • So is there some way to figure out what cars have what "assist". Or even better is there a way to change the assist?
    – John
    May 11 '21 at 20:57
  • There’s a lot of variation and it’s hard to predict. I can see some sense though in setting a vehicle up so that the accelerator and brake pedals require about the same amount of force in normal operation, since you operate them with the same foot.
    – Frog
    May 12 '21 at 6:41
  • I have not seen a car without power brakes in decades. May 12 '21 at 13:52

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