Friday, 27 April 2018 11:32

Where have our stars gone? Image sourced under license: Shutterstock

Some of the most respected car manufacturers are releasing models or variants that are receiving 3 or 4 star Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) safety ratings. We investigate the story behind the stars.

With the recent 'shock' crash test evaluations awarding some reputable and technologically sophisticated passenger vehicle models 3 or 4 stars and the latest Ute from Mercedes-Benz being awarded a 5 star rating, it may cause the average consumer to wonder exactly what 'makes' a 5 star car. Even more confusing for consumers is the fact that the same vehicle model may have different ratings across its specification variants.

This all boils down to a simple reason. New and stricter criteria. It should be noted that comparing 5 star cars may not be a 'like for like' comparison and special attention should be given to the year in which the rating was awarded, as we explore below.

2015-2017 represented a migration period for ANCAP, where the implementation of standards consistent with that of the Euro NCAP protocols occurred. The move to a consistent standards program also had the aim of allowing ANCAP to adopt scores awarded by the European body, without having to test the vehicles themselves. As of 2018, the policies and protocols are now consistent between the testing bodies, which has seen the addition of several new criterion in the ANCAP testing, including:

  • The oblique pole test
  • Full width test (re-introduced)
  • Updated side impact test
  • New dummies
  • Autonomous emergency system testing (if installed)
  • Child occupant protection

Overall, there are four assessment areas, being Adult Occupant Protection (AOP) Child Occupant Protection (COP) Pedestrian Protection (PP) and Safety Assist (SA). Each area has a point allocation, weighted to the most important safety consideration. For example, of the total 48 assessment points available in the Pedestrian Protection assessment, 24 of those are relate to the "head protection" component. Full points scoring can be found here

Some vehicles (particularly 'base' model variants) that are not meeting the 5 star criteria have failed to do so due to the omission of Autonomous Emergency Braking. Whilst not the only reason for 3 or 4 star ratings necessarily, it has certainly placed pressure on manufacturers to include this technology as standard across the range.

Mercedes-Benz' X-Class was the first Ute in Australia to include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard across the range. Other important safety inclusions include rear curtain airbags, child restraint systems and pedestrian injury mitigation. Companies such as KIA have been quick to respond to the stricter assessments, after two of their six "Stinger" models did not meet the 5 star criteria. KIA have announced that AEB will soon be included as standard across the Stinger range.

The final and most important consideration for consumers to consider when comparing safety ratings is to look closely at the "Year Tested" description when a star rating is quoted. For what was 5 stars in 2015 or 2016 may not meet even 4 stars by 2018 standards.

We recommend doing your research through the ANCAP website and searching for the particular vehicles that you are comparing and looking carefully at the year that the rating was awarded to ensure that you are making an informed decision. You can do this via

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