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Safe cars from $5000
Latest Used Car Safety Ratings reveal surprising disparities in crash protection
22 Jul 2008
REAL-WORLD car crash data has revealed vehicles costing a little as $5000 can provide a high level of occupant protection.
The 2008 Used Car Safety Ratings compiled by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), with support from motoring groups such as the RACV, TAC and VicRoads, reveal that safety doesn't have to cost a fortune.
It also revealed that some other models, especially commercial vehicles, had alarmingly low levels of occupant protection. To come up with the results, the MUARC team analysed 3.2 million crashes in Australia and New Zealand involving 349 different cars between 1986 and 2006.
The in-depth survey revealed some of the safest used cars cost less than $10,000.
Indeed, among the cars deemed the safest by MUARC is the 1994-2001 Peugeot 306 which can be bought for as little as $5000 and the 1997-2003 Holden Vectra which starts off for around the same amount.
Also earning recognition for high levels of safety are the 1997-2002 Subaru Forester, which has a starting price of around $7000 and the 1997-2001 Honda CR-V, which costs as little as $8000.
Another used car under $10,000 that was singled out for its safety was the 1999-2003 Mitsubishi Nimbus which starts at about $9000.
Dr Stuart Newstead, a senior researcher at Muarc, said that of the 349 vehicles rated, 89 of them scored 'better' than average, while 26 of them scored 'much better' than average.
He said it was positive to see some of the most affordable models recording strong results, it was disappointing to see how poorly some other vehicles performed.
"As we've seen with previous year's results, very few commercial vehicles, either large 4WDs or light vehicles, scored well, which remains a big concern given these vehicles continued popularity," he said.
"In fact, only one of the commercial vans, the Ford Transit from 2001 to 2006, rated above average. Dr Newstead said there was a dramatic difference in the safety levels of the used cars.
"The worst-rating vehicle (Daihatsu Rocky 1985-98) presented more than eight times the risk of death or serious injury to people in a crash than best-rated vehicles such as the VW Golf/Jetta (2004-2006)," he said.
Left: 2002 Hyundai Getz.
Perhaps predictably, older vehicles were not deemed as safe as more modern vehicles, but there were some exceptions.
"Pre-1995 models again dominated the worst performers in each class, although some relatively new vehicles such as Hyundai Getz models from 2002 to 2006 also performed poorly," said Dr Newstead.
Of the models on the Best Performing Vehicles list, the oldest were the 1986-1994 Citroen BX, the 1986-1997 Saab 9000 and the 1994-2001 Peugeot 306.
The newest vehicles on the Worst Performing Vehicles list include the 2002-2006 Getz, the 1989-1995 Holden Rodeo, 1990-1995 Toyota HiAce, 1982-2000 Suzuki Carry, 1991-1996 Nissan NX, 1990-1996 Daihatsu Mira and the 1985-2000 Suzuki Alto.
Dr Newstead said MUARC had changed the way it tabled the data for this year's study. While last year's ratings evaluated how a vehicle protected its occupants and other road users involved in the crash separately, this time around it combined both of these aspects into a single rating.
"We've introduced the new ratings system to express the relative performance of each vehicle in preventing death or serious injury to everyone involved in a crash – not just the occupants of the rated vehicle, but cyclists, pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles," said Dr Newstead.
He said the used car crash test ratings were especially relevant because they were calculated with real world data rather than simulated crash tests. RACV chief engineer Michael Case said motorists can cite the used car crash test results to help them make safer buying decisions.
"If everyone was driving vehicles in the category providing the highest level of injury protection in a crash, a dramatic reduction in the road toll is likely," Mr Case said.
MUARC started collecting information for the Used Car Safety Ratingprogram in 1990 and the research body says it is the largest study of its kind in the world.
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