Older cars can take hard knocks

Safety doesn’t have to go out the win­dow when buy­ing a used car, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

CHEAP and cheer­ful does not nec­es­sar­ily mean dar­ing and danger­ous when buy­ing a safe sec­ond-hand car. Bud­get buy­ers can still af­ford a de­gree of safety, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Monash Uni­ver­sity Ac­ci­dent Re­search Cen­tre used-car crash rat­ings.

A $2000 1996 Chrysler Neon was one of the star per­form­ers of the 239 ve­hi­cles sur­veyed.

‘‘It shows that sec­ond-hand car buy­ers do not have to limit their op­tions when it comes to buy­ing a safe car,’’ MUARC re­searcher Stu­art New­stead says.

Safe sec­ond-hand ve­hi­cles ex­ist in most mar­ket seg­ments, he says.

‘‘There is a safer choice for ev­ery driver, from small cars to larger cars and com­mer­cial vans.’’

Be­yond the Neon, the Ford Fo­cus ( 2005-07), Volk­swa­gen Golf ( 2004-07), Mazda MX5/ Eunos ( 1998-2005) and Peu­geot 307 (2001-07) also achieved the top rank­ing among small cars.

Used prices for th­ese mod­els vary from $6500 to $15,000.

The study as­sesses pop­u­lar cars, com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, vans, peo­ple movers and four-wheel drives back to 1982.

Among the com­pact and medium four-wheel drives the Honda CR-V ( 2002-07), Subaru Forester (1997-2002) and Mit­subishi Pa­jero (2000-07) rated best.

They were joined by the Ford Ex­plorer (2001-05), Jeep Grand Chero­kee (1996-99) and MercedesBenz M-Class (1998-2005) in the large four-wheel drive cat­e­gory.

MUARC’s find­ings were com­piled from 3.6 mil­lion ve­hi­cles and 740,000 in­jured road users in crashes from 1992 to 2007.

They show that the risk of death of se­ri­ous in­jury in­creases five­fold from the best-rated ve­hi­cles to the worst.

Small and light cars are poor stand­outs with 13 out of 19 in the worst cat­e­gory. Not sur­pris­ingly, ve­hi­cles built be­fore 1995 dom­i­nated the worst per­form­ers.

‘‘Th­ese ve­hi­cles gen­er­ally do not have the safety fea­tures of some of the more mod­ern cars, like airbags and stronger bodies,’’ New­stead says.

‘‘Gen­er­ally, the newer the car, the bet­ter the pro­tec­tion for driver and pas­sen­gers.’’

Among the worst per­form­ers were pre-1995 ver­sions of the Hyundai Ex­cel, Mit­subishi Lancer and Nis­san NX.

Some pre-1995 mi­cro cars, com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles and four-wheel drives also rated poorly.

The MUARC study ranked older ver­sions of the Dai­hatsu Mira, Subaru Sherpa, Suzuki Alto, Suzuki Carry van and Dai­hatsu Rocky as very poor.

Other mod­els that scored poorly in­cluded the Dai­hatsu Mira built be­tween 1990 and 1996 and the Nis­san Pin­tara of 1989-92.

Many late-model Aus­tralian­made cars scored above av­er­age but Euro­pean and Ja­panese-built cars dom­i­nated the best per­form­ers.

Ford Fal­cons and Holden Com­modores from 2002-07 scored good rat­ings but older Saabs, MercedesBen­zes, Audis and BMWs have ex­cel­lent crash pro­tec­tion.

The rat­ings are in their 17th year and ve­hi­cles have been rated for their oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion and im­pact on other road users, in­clud­ing cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans.

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