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Suzuki’s Aussie Alto becomes a four-star NCAP car

The light stuff: Suzuki Alto's six airbags helped it to achieve four stars.

Suzuki rejoices in four-star Alto as ANCAP bemoans sub-Euro results for Jazz, Soul

15 Jun 2009

SUZUKI Australia’s soon-to-be-launched ultra-light Alto hatchback has achieved a four-star crash-test rating (out of five) under the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), improving on the three-star result handed down by European NCAP late last month.

Under the latest round of ANCAP testing, results for which were released last week, the Honda Jazz and Kia Soul also earned four stars – but these were worse results than the five-stars ratings awarded under Euro NCAP, due largely to the unavailability of electronic stability control (ESC) on the Australian-spec models.

While Suzuki Australia welcomed the improved result for Alto, ANCAP described the result – and a similar four-star rating for the Kia Cerato – as “disappointing for new models”. It said more work was needed on leg protection for these models to achieve five stars, and noted that the Alto also lacked seatbelt reminders for the front and rear passengers.

The lower rating for the Jazz and Soul also prompted ANCAP chairman Lauchlan McIntosh to argue that Australians were being short-changed when it came to safety features on overseas-built vehicles.

“Both models (Jazz and Soul) come with electronic stability control and intelligent seatbelt reminders for all seats in Europe – yet ESC is not available on any Jazz in Australia and the base model only has a driver seatbelt reminder,” Mr McIntosh said.

80 center imageFrom top: Honda Jazz, Kia Soul, Kia Cerato.

“The Australian Soul only has a driver seatbelt reminder and the base model does not have ESC. In contrast, the New Zealand Kia Soul has all these features and earns the top five-star rating from ANCAP.” As reported when the European results were released, Suzuki was confident the Australian-spec version of the Indian-built five-door hatch – which reaches showrooms here on August 1 at a price of around $13,000 – would achieve four stars because it would be fitted standard here with six airbags.

The European-spec model tested last month was not fitted with curtain airbags, which will be standard here. In Europe, the Alto offers ESC across the range, while in Australia the availability of ESC will be restricted to a higher-spec version.

Despite the ANCAP criticism, Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers said this week the Alto would meet the needs of budget-conscious customers who did not want to sacrifice on safety.

“Every passenger car in the Suzuki Australia line-up has achieved a minimum four-star rating, and the Alto maintains the company’s proud safety record,” said Mr Devers. “Suzuki is proud to be the first local car company to offer a vehicle with not only the fuel economy of a hybrid at one third of the price but with such high levels of safety as well.” In contrast, Honda Australia issued a statement last week arguing that had the Jazz GLi been fitted with an optional package that includes side and curtain airbags, “it would have received a five-star rating, as it does in Euro NCAP testing”.

However, Honda also admitted that a five-star ANCAP result was impossible under new rules that require the fitment of ESC.

“Honda Australia acknowledges that due to the unique configuration of the Australian Jazz, Vehicle Stability Assist – Honda’s term for electronic stability control – is currently unavailable,” the company said.

“However, as Honda Australia announced at the media launch of the Jazz in August 2008 and has been widely reported in the media, testing would be conducted by Honda R&D and Vehicle Stability Assist will become a standard feature on all Jazz variants with the introduction of the 2011 Year model, slated for arrival in Australia late 2010.”

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