If you’re not confused already by car safety ratings you will be after you read the AA and NZ Transport Agency’s reaction to the latest round of Australian ANCAP crash tests
Because safety ratings will vary between cars from the same model range and according to how the car is specified and what equipment is fitted to it.
In a joint statement, the AA and NZTA, which are both also members of ANCAP, say they’re disappointed “that only one of the popular vehicles tested…scored a top safety rating of five stars.”
That car was the Holden VE Commodore Omega sedan. But “the Ford Falcon Ute and Honda Jazz scored four stars, and the Nissan Micra and Nissan Navara D22 4WD received three-star ratings in the crash tests.”
The Commodore is not the first Australian-built car to achieve an ANCAP five-star rating. Earlier this year, petrol versions of the Ford Falcon FG sedan became the first Aussie-built cars to achieve that status.
AA technical chief, Stella Stocks, commenting on the latest round of ANCAP tests, says the three-star rating for the Nissans is “a poor result given the increasing number of vehicles now achieving five stars in crash testing.
“It’s entirely possible for new cars to achieve five stars, so it’s surprising that popular vehicles such as these are not all reaching a top safety standard.
“New car buyers should expect new vehicles on the market to be equipped with the safety features which provide the level of protection needed to achieve top ratings.”
Fair comment, and NZTA vehicles manager, Don Hutchinson, gets into the act.
He says that given the increasing number of five-star ratings, manufacturers should be aiming high and equipping more models with Electronic Stability Control and extra airbags.
“Recent crash test results show that vehicles with both Electronic Stability Control and additional airbags are the ones that are scoring five stars.”
So much fir the rhetoric, it’s as we get into the nitty gritty of the detail that things start to get confusing.
The AA/NZTA communiqué notes that “although the Holden Commodore Omega sedan achieved a five-star rating, other Commodore models will not become eligible for the five-star rating until Holden incorporates a passenger seatbelt reminder warning in their other variants during 2009.”
Then there’s the case of the Honda Jazz. The base model with dual airbags performed well in crash tests and achieved four stars, the communiqué notes.
“But the six-airbag variants were not eligible for five stars because they did not have Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a proven life saving technology that is now a requirement to achieve five stars in ANCAP tests,” say the two watchdog groups.
Turning to the Ford Falcon Ute, the statement notes that it “performed well in crash tests and Electronic Stability Control is now available.
“However Ford did not submit the Ute for the optional side pole test necessary to demonstrate five-star performance.”
‘The AA and NZTA await the arrival of a five star commercial vehicle so that tradespeople, couriers and other such vehicle users have the same level of safety as company executives.”
As for pedestrians, the message from the AA and NZTA seems to be: don’t get run over by the Navara ute. The long in the tooth D22 got only one star for pedestrian protection.
You’re not going to fare much better if you’re bowled by a Falcon Ute or a Micra. They only got two stars and the Honda Jazz achieved three stars out of a possible four.
Frankly, if you’re unlucky enough to get run over, I don’t think it’s really going to matter much which car you’re hit by, especially if it’s travelling at greater than walking speed.
If your head meets the pavement your prospects won’t be good regardless of whether the car achieved five stars or only one.
The lesson here is that if you really want to know how safe a particular car is you really do need to do some careful research, check out the ratings in detail and find out why a car may have failed to achieve five stars.