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Mixed NCAP results for Suzuki, Fiat, Mazda

Four for 500X: Fiat’s 500X baby crossover failed to reach Euro NCAP’s maximum five-star rating, but fitment of an autonomous braking system as standard might have made the difference.

Euro NCAP hands five-star rating to Suzuki Vitara, but Fiat 500X, Mazda2 score four

23 Apr 2015

SUZUKI has scored a maximum five-star safety rating with its all-new Vitara compact SUV in the latest round of European New Car Assessment Program (ENCAP) tests, but Fiat’s similarly sized 500X high-rider and the latest Mazda2 light hatchback pulled up short with just four stars.

While all three models scored well for occupant and pedestrian protection, the Fiat and Mazda’s overall result were each dragged down by a 64 per cent result in the ‘safety assistance’ category, which requires a minimum of 70 per cent for a five-star rating. The Suzuki scored 75 per cent.

This is partly due to ENCAP’s ruling on each vehicle’s application of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) technology, which significantly mitigates the likelihood and severity of nose-to-tail and pedestrian collisions and which now figures heavily in the safety authority’s assessment criteria.

All three models have AEB available as an option in Europe but the fact that none of them are fitted standard with the technology meant that the system did not qualify for inclusion in the assessment “at the low speeds typical of city driving”.

Whereas the Mazda2’s AEB system does not operate at higher speeds, the technology on the Vitara and 500X does include high-speed ‘inter-urban’ functionality which is typically included in the assessment.

However, ENCAP said: “Fiat do not expect most cars to be equipped with the system so its higher-speed functionality was not included.”

With Vitara, ENCAP simply said “its functionality at the higher speeds typical of inter-urban driving was included and its performance was good” – hence the higher rating.

Notably, the 500X and Mazda2 are also available in Europe with a lane-departure warning system – a factor that was “rewarded in the assessment” of both vehicles, despite being optional – while the Vitara does not have this technology available.

But this was not enough for them to reach the coveted five-star mark.

European results are often used to help determine star ratings of vehicles sold in Australia for the Australasian NCAP regime. However, the specific AEB requirements will not apply here until 2018 and ANCAP has previously warned against predetermining assessments for this market.

In terms of adult occupant protection, the Vitara scored 89 per cent versus the 500X’s 86 per cent. The Mazda2, which can only be directly compared against other vehicles in its segment, also scored 86 per cent in this category.

Both the Vitara and 500X scored 85 per cent for child occupant safety, while the Suzuki was narrowly ahead of the Fiat in terms of pedestrian protection – 76 per cent compared to 74.

The Mazda2 managed 78 per cent for child occupant safety and 84 per cent for pedestrian protection.

Suzuki said in a statement that the Vitara’s performance was as a result of “particular attention to child safety in accordance with the latest European legislation” as well as good impact protection from its so-called ‘Total Effective Control Technology’, which is “highly crashworthy and fuel efficient”.

The Mazda2 hatch was launched in Australia in October last year, and has yet to be tested by ANCAP. The previous generation qualified for a maximum five-star rating.

Both the Vitara and 500X will enter in Australia’s booming compact SUV market this year, with the Suzuki touching down this quarter and the Fiat due early in the second half.

Renault’s new-generation Espace, which is not currently on the agenda for Australia, was also part of the latest round of ENCAP testing, achieving five stars.

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