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ENCAP: Four stars for BMW’s electric i3

Assault and battery: BMW’s electric i3 hits the wall in the European NCAP crash tests, earning four stars.

BMW’s carbon-fibre i3 misses out on five-star rating, but Mazda3 sails through

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General News logo28 Nov 2013

By RON HAMMERTON

BMW’S first mass-produced electric car, the i3 city runabout, has scored four stars in the latest round of European New Car Assessment Program (ENCAP) crash tests announced overnight.

Ford’s new baby SUV, the Fiesta-based EcoSport, also failed to score maximum marks in the tests, earning four stars, even though Ford Australia is hoping for a five-star rating under Australia’s ANCAP system for the car that arrives here next month.

The new generation of Australia’s top-selling car, the Mazda3, gained the top five-star score, as did the similarly sized Peugeot 308, hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Infiniti Q50 and Maserati Ghibli.

Although the carbon-fibre-clad BMW i3 scored well in the front offset and side barrier occupant protection tests, it was let down by poor performance in tests for side pole impact, whiplash and pedestrian impact.

In the pole test, the pioneering carbon-fibre panels and aluminium frame provided only weak protection of the dummy’s chest, while the seats provided only marginal protection for the neck in a rear impact.

In the pedestrian impact protection test, the i3’s front bumper scored maximum points for leg protection, but the front edge of the bonnet was described as poor, as was the base of the windscreen and A-pillars.

Inexplicably, the i3 lost points for not having rear seat seatbelt reminders and standard fitment of a speed limiter.

The i3, which is the world’s first mass-produced carbon-fibre car, is set to go on sale in Australia in about July next year, priced about $70,000.

BMW Australia’s general manager corporate communications, Lenore Fletcher, said the i3 had been built as an inherently safe car that probably would have scored five-stars a year or two ago.

She said the i3 had advanced safety features such as an emergency call system that were not yet taken into account in the ENCAP tests.

The four-star rating for the new Ford EcoSport also dented the safety credentials for the new entry level mini SUV that was launched to the media in Australia just this week.

In occupant protection, the EcoSport scored an excellent 93 per cent score for adults and 77 per cent for children, while winning praise for its performance in the tough side pole test.

But again, the EcoSport was let down by some areas of pedestrian impact protection – particularly in the pelvic area – and the lack of rear-seat seatbelt reminders and speed limitation device.

The new Mazda3 – due in Australia in January – scored the same 93 per cent for adult occupant protection as the EcoSport, but did much better in the child protection, pedestrian protection and safety assist categories.

The Mazda cause was helped by the fitment of standard rear-seat seatbelt reminders and a driver-set speed limiter.

The Peugeot 308 – due in Australia in the first quarter of next year – received good all-round scores, as did the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

One of the best-performed cars in occupant protection in the latest tests was the new Maserati Ghibli luxury sedan – the Italian brand’s sub-Quattroporte 5 Series competitor – which score 95 per cent.

Like the BMW i3, it was let down by a lack of adequate whiplash protection.

VW’s T5 Transporter Kombi van scored just average ratings across most categories to garner a four-star result.

However, the blunt nose of the big van did no favours to pedestrians, scoring a lowly 32 per cent.

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