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Kia Picanto targeted for ANCAP retest

Not satisfied: ANCAP is re-testing the Kia Picanto, after dismal results in its ASEAN NCAP tests.

Five-star Kia put back through ANCAP test battery after conflicting overseas reports

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General News logo23 Jun 2016

By TIM ROBSON

SENIOR figures from Kia’s Australian and Korean offices have watched with considerable interest as their Australian-spec Picanto light car was put through the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) 64km/h frontal offset test at the independent Crashlab test centre in western Sydney this week.

ANCAP was doing a seldom-performed audit test on the Picanto after receiving reports that an Asian-market version of the car had fared poorly in a similar test in Malaysia.

The Picanto, which was launched in May this year, has already been assigned a five-star rating based on Euro NCAP data.

“We’ve received information from two different sources that have shown different results – a European NCAP result and an ASEAN NCAP result have shown different structural integrity of the vehicle,” ANCAP CEO James Goodwin told GoAuto. “It’s one of the reasons why we felt that that was a candidate to do an audit test.”

A white automatic Picanto was bought via a car broker and shipped to Crashlab in Sydney, before Kia Motors Australia's (KMAu) head office was informed that the testing would take place a week later.

Two senior engineers from Kia’s head office in South Korea arrived in Sydney on the morning of the test, and were accompanied by engineers and senior figures from Kia Australia including KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith and CEO CH Cho.

No one from KMAu or Kia was prepared to comment on the record, but senior officials indicated that the company respected the audit process.

Mr Goodwin said that while the audit tests were not standard procedure for the Australian body, they were done “from time to time”.

“It is unusual, but we do do this from time to time very often for different reasons,” he said. “It might be that we need to use a different dummy or we need to test the capability of a laboratory, or we need to do a research piece on the different speeds and so on.

“This one, the Kia Picanto, the main reason it’s a candidate for an audit test is because of the different results in the different NCAP regions.”

Only six other similar audit tests have been done at ANCAP.

The most damning of the overseas reports was conducted by the Malaysian-based ASEAN NCAP organisation, which tested a non-air bag equipped Thai market version of the Picanto known as the Morning. The two cars are built on the same platform, but the right-hand-drive Morning does not have air bags or stability control.

The 2015-build Morning scored just 1.48 out of 16 in the adult occupant protection test when the crash dummy ‘driver’ partially exited the car through an opened door in the frontal offset test. It resulted in a zero-star score.

A 2013 airbag-equipped Picanto scored 12.67 out of 16 for a four-star score on the same ASEAN test, while a 2011 Picanto was scored at 86 per cent and earned four stars in Euro NCAP testing.

Mr Goodwin argued that the Morning should have scored better, even without air bags fitted.

“We are not comparing its specifications we are looking at the structural integrity of that car and how it performs,” he said. “Even if a car has no airbags or more airbags, the structure of the car should stay the same.

“It is the same car, so that’s the reason why we are conducting the audit test of the Picanto to make sure that the structural integrity is the same across all those different regions, and to ensure that the product that we’ve got here meets up to the rating that we have in the market place.”

The results of the retest will not be available for at least a couple of weeks.

Kia engineers were able to inspect the crashed car after the test, but were not permitted to touch it. A meeting between Kia and ANCAP officials took place immediately after the test.

The cost of the test – estimated to be around $200,000 – will be borne by ANCAP, who receives part of its funding via a 23-strong membership group that includes motoring clubs, Australian state, federal and territory governments, the New Zealand government and the FIA.

“We want to know that the vehicle that’s being sold here in Australia retains the rating that we have for it at the moment,” said Mr Goodwin, “and we also want to give assurance to consumers that we are independent and that they can trust our brand and they can trust the ratings that we put out there in the market place.”

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