Older cars can take hard knocks
Safety doesn’t have to go out the window when buying a used car, writes NEIL McDONALD
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.