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Laudable: The Ford Ranger has been hailed as the safest ute ever tested by Euro NCAP.

European safety watchdog sings the praises of Aussie-engineered Ford Ranger

Ford logo1 Feb 2012

THE Australian-developed Ford Ranger has been singled out for special praise in the annual European New Car Assessment (ENCAP) safety awards, being lauded as the safest ute ever tested by the organisation.

The plaudits from the independent European safety watchdog are a feather in the cap for the hundreds of engineers and designers at Ford Australia’s technical centres in Victoria where the new-generation Ranger was developed in parallel with Mazda’s BT-50 one-tonner ahead of their release last year.

Although ENCAP does not have a specific category for utes in its annual awards, the organisation was moved to mention the Ranger after its five-star performance in crash tests – a tough ask for a two-tonne ladder-chassis truck.

“Special mention should be made of the Ford Ranger, the only pickup tested by Euro NCAP in 2011,” ENCAP said in its statement announcing the Best Cars of 2011.

“The Ranger is the safest pickup yet tested by the organisation and scored highly in all areas of assessment, most notably in pedestrian protection.”

Ford Australia brand communications manager Neil McDonald said the accolades were validation of the efforts of the engineers and designers who had worked on the Ranger project.

27 center imageEuro NCAP frontal crash test pictures from top: Mercedes-Benz B-class, Chevrolet Aveo, Ford Focus, Volvo V60, Chevrolet Malibu and Dacia Duster.

When it was tested for ENCAP last year, the 2.2-litre diesel dual-cab Ranger scored a remarkable 96 per cent for adult occupant protection – superior to four of the five passenger car category winners in the 2011 ENCAP awards.

Only Mercedes-Benz’s B-class – winner of the award for the best small MPV tested by ENCAP in 2011 – scored a higher adult protection rating of 97 per cent, but even then, the Ranger scored higher child and pedestrian protection scores.

The B-class, which is due to be launched in Australia in April, scored 81 and 56 per cent respectively for child and pedestrian protection, while the Ranger blitzed the tests with scores of 86 and 81 per cent.

The ENCAP result for Ranger was rubber-stamped by Australian NCAP, except for two single-cab cab-chassis variants in which head-protecting side airbags – standard on all other models – are only optional, reducing their rating to four stars.

The Ranger’s crash result bodes well for the safety rating of a new SUV – likely to be called Everest – being engineered on the same T6 platform at Ford Australia.

The good news for Australian car buyers is that all five 2011 ENCAP passenger vehicle category winners are either available in local showrooms or will be soon, and that they include a couple of the most affordable new cars on the road.

The latest Holden Barina – known as the Chevrolet Aveo in Europe – was judged the top achiever among ‘supermini’ cars tested in 2011, while the new Ford Focus was triumphant in the small-car class.

The Audi Q3 was awarded the gong for the best compact 4x4 offroader, while Volvo’s V60 wagon was named best large family car.

Among the runners-up were the Chevrolet Malibu, Mercedes M-class, Toyota Yaris, Lexus CT200h, Opel Zafira Tourer, Hyundai ix20 and BMW X1.

Of these, the Toyota Yaris, Lexus CT200h and BMW X1 are already on the Australian market, while the Chevrolet Malibu – to be sold here under Holden badges from late 2012 or early 2013 – and Mercedes M-class – due in April – are on their way.

So far, there are no plans to sell either the Opel Zafira or Hyundai ix20 in Australia.

The award winners were selected from 53 new models tested by ENCAP in 2011. Of these, about three quarters achieved five stars, while 11 were rated four-star performers.

The dunce of the class of ’11 was the Romanian-made Dacia Duster – a compact SUV built on a Nissan platform by Renault’s budget brand – which scored just three stars, along with some stinging criticism from ENCAP engineers.

ENCAP tested the first electric cars in 2011, with Nissan’s Leaf becoming the first EV to score a five-star rating.

ENCAP praised Volvo and Mercedes-Benz for their inclusion of pioneering autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems that use radar to detect an imminent collision and automatically brake the vehicle.

Euro NCAP secretary general Dr Michiel van Ratingen said ENCAP would add AEB to the list of other technologies such as ESC that are already required for a five-star rating.

“The safety case for AEB systems is very strong, and we are therefore strongly encourage manufacturers to increase the availability of such systems on new cars,” he said.

“We are well underway to add the assessment of these systems to the overall rating and to make these systems a requirement for five stars in the future.”

This year, ENCAP has already raised the bar for five-star achievement, demanding a 60 per cent pedestrian protection assessment – up from 40 per cent – as a minimum.

Based on that criteria, only two of the five category winners in this year’s ENCAP awards – the Ford Focus and Volvo V60 would retain their five-star rating.

The Ford Ranger would also remain a five-star vehicle, but the Mercedes M-class would drop a rung.

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