Reaching for the stars
Safety is important, but who should we listen to?
A different tech talk topic this month, but one that affects us all: safety.
Nobody buying a modern 4WD can escape the awareness of safety. Vehicle makers tout the safety of their products more than they do fuel economy or even emissions. New Zealand doesn’t test vehicles for safety. So how do buyers work out what is safe and what is not?
What New Zealand does have is a website called Rightcar. It’s what is known as an aggregator, and it draws information from a range of sources. Rightcar is probably a good starting point when looking for safety information.
If safety is a strong consideration though, maybe it’s best to look a bit closer.
There are any number of programmes that offer safety ratings to inform buyers. The Euro New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) is more or less aligned with the Australian NCAP (ANCAP) ratings. In the USA there are rival programmes run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Confusingly, each programme comes to its own conclusion about a vehicle, and each has different ways of testing crash safety.
An example: a popular double cab 4WD ute scores ‘acceptable’ for lower leg protection with the IIHS, but gets a green-light top score in ANCAP testing. The ute’s Euro NCAP rating is from 2012, is five stars and is ‘expired’.
One interesting aspect of all this steers us toward the most local safety rating: the ANCAP site does have a rating for bull-bars, and says this ute is rated ‘green’ with two OEM designs, an ARB bar and two from Smartbar.
Finally, pay attention to the safety star rating. Most sites will also list when the vehicle was tested. A five-star rating from 2015 or 2017 may not be as good as one from 2021-2022 because the standards of testing become more strict over time. These days almost all utes and SUVs protect occupants very well. In modern safety programmes the vehicles are now tested for their ability to protect pedestrians as well as occupants.
Unibody 4WDs tend to meet a recent five-star rating much more easily than a body-on-chassis due to the simplicity of designing in crumple zones that protect occupants by absorbing crash energy. www.iihs.com www.nhtsa.gov www.ANCAP.com.au www.euroncap.com rightcar.govt.nz