Plain ute force and ig­no­rance

Some of our utes aren’t so beaut for safety, writes GRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

UTE man­u­fac­tur­ers have been urged to lift their game and im­prove oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion af­ter the dis­mal crash-test per­for­mance of some pop­u­lar mod­els sold here.

In the latest round of the Aus­tralian New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gram, sev­eral utes man­aged only two or three stars. The Holden Com­modore ute, achiev­ing four out of five stars.

The Mazda BT50 4x4 and the Nis­san Navara D40 4x4 got three stars over­all but, in the poor­est re­sult, the In­dian-built Mahin­dra Pik-up man­aged only two.

The Navara’s re­sult was based on the EuroNCAP re­sult.

That is not good enough, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion and the Melbourne-based RACV.

The AAA praised the Com­modore ute for hav­ing anti-skid brakes, elec­tronic brake dis­tri­bu­tion and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol as stan­dard.

ANCAP chair Lauch­lan McIn­tosh says the Com­modore ute’s per­for­mance was proof man­u­fac­tur­ers could de­sign and build for oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion.

‘‘We are see­ing more and more four and five-star ve­hi­cles on the Aus­tralian mar­ket th­ese days, and we would ex­pect that a util­ity ve­hi­cle should earn a five-star rat­ing in the near fu­ture,’’ he says.

How­ever, McIn­tosh says many lack ba­sic oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion fea­tures.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, th­ese ve­hi­cles are of­ten pur­chased for fam­ily use,’’ he says.

The Mazda BT50 and the Ford Ranger are based on the same de­sign and are ex­pected to have sim­i­lar crash-wor­thi­ness.

In the frontal off­set crash, the BT50’s pas­sen­ger com­part­ment was se­verely de­formed and the steer­ing col­umn, dash­board com­po­nents and park brake lever were po­ten­tial sources of in­jury.

Af­ter Navara’s poor Euro NCAP re­sults, Nis­san mod­i­fied the soft­ware con­trol­ling the de­ploy­ment of its airbag and retested it.

Nis­san Aus­tralia says the latest three-star rat­ing from Europe ap­plies to airbag-equipped mod­els on sale here. It says a ser­vice cam­paign to up­grade the mod­els here has started.

Nis­san has sent let­ters to all Navara own­ers, ask­ing them to re­turn their ve­hi­cles to their dealer for re­work.

‘‘Ev­ery­one should have re­ceived their let­ters by now,’’ Nis­san spokesman Jeff Fisher says. The job takes about an hour. Isuzu, maker of the Rodeo sold in Aus­tralia by Holden, is in­ves­ti­gat­ing its EuroNCAP re­sults.

The Mahin­dra Pik-Up has min­i­mal safety fea­tures and de­spite a dual-cab con­fig­u­ra­tion pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies, does not in­clude top tether an­chor­ages for child re­straints.

Un­der Aus­tralian reg­u­la­tions th­ese are op­tional on this style of ve­hi­cle, which can be clas­si­fied as com­mer­cial.

‘‘ Mahin­dra has ad­vised ANCAP it will be pro­vid­ing driver and pas­sen­ger airbags in 2008 mod­els and the an­chor­ages will be stan­dard fea­ture from next year,’’ McIn­tosh says.

Star per­former: the Holden Com­modore achieved four out of five stars in the ANCAP safety tests.

Crunch time: Nis­san Navaras have been re­called for new work.

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