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380 crash coup!

Biff: Mitsu's 380 (below) and Ford's Territory (below) hit the ANCAP barrier.

Mitsubishi 380 the ‘safest’ local large car, along with Ford’s big Territory SUV

Mitsubishi logo21 Jun 2006

THE Mitsubishi 380 large car and Ford’s Territory SUV have become arguably the safest Australian-built vehicles on our roads after achieving the highest-ever scores in the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

In terms of overall crash-test ratings, both vehicles were handed four stars out of a possible five – a commendable result that ranks alongside the current Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore and Toyota Camry.

But the 380’s 28.09 points out of a possible 37 was the highest score ever handed to an Australian-built large car.

By comparison, in previous tests the current Ford Falcon managed 27.27, the Holden Commodore 26.74 and the Toyota Camry 26.31.

The previous Mitsubishi Magna scored three stars and 22.19 points.

Comparisons between different classes of vehicles are not valid but, for the record, the Territory – which is Australia’s biggest-selling 4WD and the only 4WD wagon built Down Under – scored 31.57.

21 center imageNotwithstanding the arrival later this year of Holden’s VE Commodore and Toyota’s all-new Camry and Aurion, ANCAP spokesman and RACV chief engineer Michael Case said "broadly speaking" the 380’s result meant it was the safest Australian-built large sedan.

"This will be the case at least until we test the new Camry and new Commodore," he said. "But it’s an excellent result for Mitsubishi."Given the previous Magna managed only a three-star rating, he said "it was a level behind the other locally produced cars which were four stars".

"So not only have they caught up to the other locally produced cars, they’ve inched ahead."The vehicles tested in the latest round were volume-selling versions, which in the case of the Territory was the TX model with curtain airbags.

These are an $800 option but are standard on the TS and Ghia.

ANCAP also praised both the Mitsubishi 380 and Ford Territory for featuring seatbelt reminders as standard.

Research shows that almost a third of drivers killed or seriously injured were not wearing their seatbelt at the time of the crash.

In other ANCAP results released yesterday, Toyota’s Japanese-built three-door Yaris – Australia’s biggest-selling light car – also achieved four stars (29.46 points) in the crash tests, which was an improvement of one star overthe previous-generation Echo.

However, the Yaris result was one star lower than an equivalent test conducted by Euro NCAP on a model fitted with curtain airbags. These safety features are available in Australia in a $750 option pack, which according to Toyota is taken up by only 10 per cent of buyers.

Mr Case said the significance of curtain airbags could not be overstated.

"The difference in points between having a curtain and not having a curtain in that case is enough to make a different star rating," he said.

Mr Case said it was disappointing that the Australian model did not have the head-protecting side curtain airbags as standard.

VicRoads, the RACV and the TAC, whom all support ANCAP, are urging manufacturers to equip all vehicles with curtain airbags as standard to improve occupant protection in side impacts.

"At an engineering level the manufacturers are supportive of curtain airbags, want to see them in vehicles and are happy for us to promote them," Mr Case said.

"Beyond that I think it comes down to a marketing decision to make them either an option or standard equipment and is related to cost.

"From a consumer point of view we know how significant curtain airbags are in terms of protecting occupants in side impacts so we’d like to see them standard equipment.

"We know that if a manufacturer does make it standard it makes it much more cost-effective for them. It’s often the case with new safety technology, where it’s initially an option and then it might progressively become standard equipment and once that happens it changes the economies of scale for manufacturers."When ANCAP launched the initial side-impact tests 18 months ago the preliminary findings on the first group – 4WDs – were startling.

"There was no doubt that curtain airbags made a significant difference to an occupants’ chances of survival," Mr Case said. "Really, it made the difference between life and death."Mr Case said new-vehicle buyers were increasingly looking at independent crash-test ratings as a guide when deciding on what car to buy. He said there was anecdotal evidence to suggest ANCAP results had swayed buyer opinions but many buyers were still bypassing safety for other equipment like upgraded sound systems or other convenience items.

"Safety remains important but it’s not top-of-mind when people are looking to purchase a car," he said. "Manufacturers certainly take NCAP and the results we publish seriously."Mr Case cited the impact of the recent poor Barina crash-test result. He said he was pleased that Holden chairman Denny Mooney had moved to re-assess the vehicle’s two-star ANCAP crash performance.

"We were very pleased to hear that and presumably they’ve had some customer feedback about the car too," he said. "It’s quite clear the motoring media have also been asking more questions about it of Mr Mooney."The ANCAP crash-test procedures involve an off-set frontal test at 64km/h and a side impact test at 50km/h. A 29km/h side-impact pole test is optional. The vehicles also undergo a test to assess likely injuries caused to pedestrians by a vehicle travelling at 40km/h.

The ANCAP results also include the latest Euro NCAP crash-test ratings for the Peugeot 407 coupe and Alfa Romeo, both with curtain airbags, and the Renault Megane CC, which are all sold here.

These Euro offerings scored five stars while the Nissan Pathfinder and Citroen C3 managed four stars.

NCAP pedestrian tests on the Yaris, Pathfinder, 407 coupe, C3 and Megane CC achieved two stars, with the 159 and 380 producing a disappointing one star result.

ANCAP is now testing individual cars as new models are released, instead of grouping crash tests by car class, to ensure consumers get access to crash-rating information sooner.

It plans to do two test programs and two major launch program cycles a year, similar to Euro NCAP. Results will be released progressively in an attempt to keep up-to-date with new-vehicle launches.

So far ANCAP has tested eight new vehicles in its current round. Results still to be published include the Holden Viva, Toyota HiAce, Nissan Tiida and Mitsubishi Colt.

Later this year, ANCAP also plans to test the VE Commodore, Toyota Aurion and Nissan Maxima as well as the new Mitsubishi Triton, Ford Courier/Mazda, Nissan Patrol cab/chassis and Toyota LandCruiser 78 utility.

ANCAP is supported by all Australian and New Zealand motoring organisations, state governments, the New Zealand government and the FIA Foundation.

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