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Third-row curtain airbag debate blows up

IN THE BAG: The Mitsubishi Outlander seven-seat SUV has been awarded a full five-star ANCAP safety rating despite not being fitted with third-row curtain airbags.

ANCAP lauds third-row airbag benefits, issues five-star results to cars without them

21 Jan 2022

A RECENT social media post by independent safety body ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) has piqued the interest of numerous safety-conscious owners and would-be buyers of seven-seat SUVs, not to mention the motoring media. 


The post, published on 13 January, said: “ANCAP test criteria encourages the fitting of curtain airbags across all seating rows because we all deserve to ride safe”, which, despite the positivity of its sentiment, does not accurately convey the truth about ANCAP test protocols as they apply to third-row occupants.


For a vehicle to achieve top marks, ANCAP does not require the fitment of curtain airbags in vehicles with three or more rows of seats and does not functionally test third-row curtain airbags where fitted.


In fact, there are no current crash-test protocols for occupant safety when seated in the rearmost positions of a vehicle with three or more rows of seats – be it in the event of a frontal, side, or rear impact collision. 


Furthermore, vehicles without third-row curtain airbags are still eligible to receive a five-star ANCAP safety score, which confuses the issue for many potential buyers.


ANCAP lists whether third-row curtain airbags are fitted to a new vehicle – and marks down vehicles that offer only partial airbag coverage to third-row occupants. Vehicles without third-row head protecting curtain airbags may, however, still earn a five-star safety result.


Of the 44 new seven-seat SUVs and five people movers available on the Australian new-vehicle market, 37 offer head-protecting curtain airbags that extend to the third row of seats.


But a mere handful of these feature curtain airbags that extend fully from the C to D pillars.


ANCAP CEO Carla Hoorweg declined GoAuto’s request for an interview on the topic. Instead, Ms Hoorweg provided an email statement that outlined the independent safety body’s current stance on third-row head protecting airbags.


“The curtain airbag is an important safety feature designed to minimise the risk of injury by hard intrusion through the windows, and also prevents occupant ejection through the windows. ANCAP assesses head-protecting side curtain airbag coverage for all seating rows, including permanent third-row seating,” Ms Hoorweg said in her statement.


However, GoAuto understands that ANCAP’s definition of permanent third-row seating excludes designs that can be folded out of the way, such as flush with the boot floor, as featured in the majority of seven-seat SUVs.


“The vast majority of three-row vehicles assessed by ANCAP since the introduction of common protocols with EuroNCAP in 2018 have been fitted with curtain airbags that extend to the third row,” said Ms Hoorweg.


“ANCAP currently undertakes a dynamic crash test (oblique pole test) combined with a geometric assessment to establish airbag coverage. The dynamic test assesses head protection provided to the driver, with the geometric assessment evaluating coverage of all remaining glazed portions of the side of the vehicle (i.e. side windows).”


It is also of note that ANCAP does not test a vehicle’s structural integrity – nor the potential severity of injuries to third-row occupants – in a rear-end collision scenario.


Third-row seats in many seven-seat SUVs and people movers are positioned close to their rear extremities, reducing the amount of structural protection that may be offered in such kinds of incidents.


This becomes potentially critical when considering that insurer AAMI’s annual Crash Index report consistently cites nose-to-tail collisions as the most common crash type, accounting for around a third of all accidents on Australia's roads.


GoAuto also notes that many of the five-star ratings issued to the seven-seat SUVs and people movers listed below were given beforeANCAP introduced more stringent crash test criteria in 2020.


Vehicles issued with a five-star result before this time may not perform as well in similar crash scenarios, adding further complexity to the current rating system.


The following list is designed to assist family buyers in choosing the safest seven-seat SUV or people mover as possible.


People Movers

Make/Model Third-Row Curtain Airbag ANCAP Rating
Honda Odyssey Yes Five-star (2014)
Hyundai Staria Yes Five-star (2021)
Kia Carnival Yes Five-star (2021)
LDV G10 No Three-star (2015)
Toyota Granvia Yes Five-star (2019)



Make/Model Third-Row Curtain Airbag ANCAP Rating
Ford Everest Yes Five-star (2015)
Haval H9 Yes Four-star (2015)
Isuzu MU-X Yes Five-star (2020) 
Jeep Grand Cherokee L - -
Mitsubishi Pajero No Five-star (2011)
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport No Five-star (2015)
Nissan Patrol     Yes Three-star (2011)
Toyota Fortuner Yes Five-star (2019)
Toyota LandCruiser 300 Yes Five-star (2022)
Toyota LandCruiser Prado Yes Five-star (2011)



Make/Model Third-Row Curtain Airbag ANCAP Rating
Honda CR-V Yes Five-star (2017)
Hyundai Palisade Yes -
Hyundai Santa Fe No Five-star (2018)
Kia Sorento No Five-star (2020)
LDV D90 Yes Five-star (2017)
Mahindra XUV500 No Four-star (2012)
Mazda CX-8 Yes Five-star (2018)
Mazda CX-9 Yes Five-star (2016)
Mitsubishi Outlander No Five-star (2022)
Nissan Pathfinder Yes Five-star (2013)
Nissan X-TRAIL No Five-star (2017)
Peugeot 5008 Yes Five-star (2016)
Skoda Kodiaq Yes Five-star (2017)
SsangYong Rexton Yes -
Toyota Kluger Yes Five-star (2021)
Toyota Prius V Yes Five-star (2015)
Volkswagen Caddy Life Yes Five-star (2021)
Volkswagen Multivan Yes -
Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace Yes Five-star (2016)


Premium SUVs

Make/Model Third-Row Curtain Airbag ANCAP Rating
Audi Q7 Yes Five-star (2019)
Bentley Bentayga - -
BMW X7 Yes -
Genesis GV80 Yes Five-star (2021)
Land Rover Defender Yes Five-star (2020)
Land Rover Discovery Yes Five-star (2017)
Land Rover Discovery Sport Yes Five-star (2014)
Land Rover Range Rover Sport Yes -
Land Rover Range Rover Vogue Yes -
Lexus LX Yes -
Lexus RX L Yes -
Mercedes-Benz GLB Yes Five-star (2019)
Mercedes-Benz GLE Yes Five-star (2019)
Mercedes-Benz GLS Yes -
Volvo XC90 Yes Five-star (2015)


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