Car safety is in the stars
Tuesday, 27 August 2019
In an age of rapid advances in vehicle technology, few areas have seen greater improvements than safety.
Only about four decades ago, the simple seatbelt was pretty much the pinnacle.
Today, the range of safety technology as well as engineering and material improvements literally mean our cars have never been safer.
But, as always, not everyone’s equal. That’s where ANCAP ratings come in.
Since 1992, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has been testing vehicles sold in this country and rating them basically to reflect how well individual models and their occupants fare in a variety of impacts.
And, just like the movies you watch, the more stars, the better.
For the best, five stars reflect the vehicle has achieved the highest standard in all tests and features the most advanced safety technologies.
ANCAP grades cars by crash testing with dummies, analysing car performance, assessing each safety feature and other internationally recognised methods.
Structural integrity: How well a vehicle’s shell withstands and channels away crash forces from the occupants.
Safety features: Think airbags, seat belts, crumple zones, head restraints – physical components that help manage the force of impact.
Safety assist technologies: Inclusions concerned with avoiding crashes, such as electronic stability control, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and fatigue monitoring systems.
How well each vehicle performs in these tests, including the famous ‘driving the car into a wall’ style tests, form the basis of the ratings.
The crash test dummies inside the vehicles provide sophisticated data indicating how well – or otherwise – occupants would fare.
Increasingly, the high-rating vehicles are not just big money European marques.
For example, from 2011 the Toyota Yaris five-door has boasted five stars and performs better in some tests than much larger vehicles.
Ditto the Mazda 3 and VW’s Polo.
So what’s the safest car in Australia for 2018?
It’s not an easy question to answer as ANCAP is constantly raising the bar higher to reflect changing standards of technology.
However, top performers include the perennial safety first marque Volvo with its S90/V90, BMW’s 5 Series, the Genesis G80 and this year’s Toyota Camry.
Meanwhile, one of the success stories of the automotive year, the Ford Mustang, doesn’t reflect its sales success in its ANCAP rating, with a lowly three-star rating for its latest model (that’s up one star from the initial model on sale here).
So what gives?
The low score was a result of the pony car’s poor performance in three areas, adult occupation protection, child occupant protection and safety assist.
Because while you have twice the chance of being killed or seriously injured in a 3-star rated car compared to a 5-star rated car, safety still isn’t the top of the tree when consumers choose a vehicle.
For many, style, price, warranty and features are above it and, let’s be frank, if a Mustang’s what you’re after, performance and turning heads is what it’s all about.
To find out how your car fared or the cars you’re considering buying, check out ANCAP’s comprehensive website with results for more than 500 makes and models at ancap.com.au.
Regardless of the ANCAP rating your vehicle has, in order to keep it in it's safest working order, regular maintenance is a must!
AutoGuru makes it easy by letting you compare and book from a range of local, high-quality mechanics all in one place, easy done!
Lindsay Saunders has been writing, editing and producing words and photos for more than three decades, starting back when he drove a 1971 VW Type 3 fastback.
Now he’s got a Hyundai I30 diesel, a 1999 LWB Hi-Ace (camper project) and wishes his wife’s EJ Holden station wagon was actually his.