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Not all modern used cars are safe: study

Cheap trick: Holden, Ford and Honda rank well in Monash Uni crash studies, while it pays to steer clear of older small and light cars that were cheap to begin with.

Study by Monash University outlines safest – and not so safe – second hand buys

4 Sep 2015

DATA from more than seven million crashes over 26 years has been collated into a scorecard for second-hand vehicle safety, revealing the safest options for used vehicle shoppers.

The crash info, collected from Australian and New Zealand police-reported incidents, is compiled and updated annually by the Monash University Accident Research Centre in Melbourne, and released by the RACQ.

“This process started for us 25 years ago, after a Parliamentary inquiry in Victoria into vehicle safety,” Monash University associate professor Stuart Newstead told GoAuto.

“One of the results of the inquiry asked whether claims about vehicle safety were actually correct is it just ADRs keeping us safe, or is there more going on, so we developed some metrics of vehicle safety.”

Professor Newstead said that the work focuses not on crash avoidance ability, but rather on how vehicles can protect their occupants in the event of a crash.

“That’s where the vehicle has traditionally being able to provide the most influence on your outcomes after a crash,” he said.

“What appears in the work mentioned in the RACQ article is a measure of how well the vehicle protects its occupants in the event of a crash, a measure we call crashworthiness. It basically looks at the risk of being seriously injured or killed in the case of a crash.”

Vehicles have been scored on an internationally validated method, and are influenced by factors including the vehicle’s weight, body structure and safety features, according to the RACQ.

Cars have been ranked from one star (very poor) through to five stars (excellent), with a ‘Safe Pick’ award given to vehicles that not only protects its occupants, but also looks after pedestrians, cyclists and occupants of other cars.

Unsurprisingly, later model cars fare much better than their older counterparts, with five-star rankings going to vehicles built from 1999 and onwards, while smaller, cheaper vehicles generally score badly.

“One of the good things that adds a lot of face validity to this process in terms of rating is you can actually see how things have improved over the years, with the introduction of new design rules and the introduction of airbags and other safety tech,” said Mr Newstead. “It shows how far we’ve come in the last forty years. The improvements are incredible.”

Of the local brands, Holden scored several top results its 2009 to 2013 Cruze range topped the small car category, while the VE Ute took out the commercial vehicles – ute category.

The 2003 to 2005 Vectra ranks second in medium, while the 2003 to 2006 Statesman/Caprice is third best in the large car category.

“Holden has always been at the forefront of the safety standings, from being the first Australian manufacturer to offer seat-belts and airbags, to the first local manufacturer to introduce Electronic Stability Control across a vehicle range,” said Holden’s vehicle safety manager, Stewart Sheffield.

Other top marks in the small car category were achieved by Honda’s 2006 to 2011 Civic and Peugeot’s 2001 to 2009 307.

One-star performers in the category include the 2000 to 2006 Hyundai Accent and the 1993 to 2000 Subaru Impreza.

The medium car category is topped by European marques, with Audi’s 2001 to 2004 A4 at the top, with Volkswagen’s 1998 to 2006 Passat in second. Conversely, Toyota’s 1994 to 1998 Celica and 1998- to 2002 Camry each only scored two stars.

The BMW E39 5 Series heads the rankings in the large car category, with Ford’s Falcon FG coming second. The 1995 to 1999 Nissan Maxima could only manage two stars.

Ford’s latest Fiesta tops the light cars rankings, but the list of one-star cars is long, and includes many cars that were sold at low prices when new.

These include the Toyota Starlet, 2002 to 2007 Mazda2, 2002 to 2011 Hyundai Getz and 1998 to 2004 Daihatsu Sirion.

The advent of SUVs has seen a variety of body construction types across the category, but there is one that is far safer than the others, according to the professor.

“Since we’ve gone into this more unitary method of construction for four-wheel drives or SUVs, they’ve become more like a large car in how they perform in safety performance,” he said.

“The ones that stand out that are the ones built body-on-chassis they can perform well for their occupants, but not so well with the vehicles they collide with.

“That’s why you find the large SUVs that are of unitary construction give the base best pick in the category.”

Mitsubishi’s 2006 to 2012 Outlander and its Pegueot 4007 twin earns a Safe Pick award, topping the compact SUV list, while Suzuki’s 1988 to1998 Vitara is ranked last.

Medium SUVs earned more five-star ratings than any other category, with Holden’s Captiva topping the charts. The Mazda CX-7 and Nissan Pathfinder also earned Safe Pick merits, while Honda’s first generation CR-V, Jeep’s previous-generation Cherokee, the Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Forester and Suzuki Grand Vitara also scored five stars.

No medium SUVs scored the lowest rating, but neither Toyota’s first or second generation RAV4s rank highly.

Ford’s 2004 to 2010 Territory is the safe pick in the large SUV category, followed by the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. Toyota’s Kluger ranks third.

People movers scored well across the ranks, with all but the first generation Toyota Tarago scoring four or better. Honda’s second generation Odyssey tops the field, earning itself a Safe Pick gong to boot.

Only late-models fared well in the ute and one-tonne rankings, with the exception of Ford’s AU and BA/BF models. No ute earned a Safe Pick award, though the Ford Ranger/Mazda BT50, Mitsubishi ML/MN Triton and Nissan Navara earned five-star scores. No Chinese-branded utes were listed.

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