Five-star safety ratings at risk for Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Toyota Prado – and dozens of others

Five-star safety ratings for some of Australia’s most popular new cars are at risk of being erased as Australia’s crash-test authority issues expiry dates for older models – to make it easier for consumers to compare like-for-like scores. 

EXCLUSIVE

It will soon be easier for new-car buyers to compare safety ratings after Australia’s peak crash test authority announced plans to wipe five-star scores from older vehicles still on sale – and which are well past their expected ‘used-by’ date.

More than a dozen popular models such as the Toyota Prado, Mitsubishi Triton, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Navara, Mazda CX-3, Mazda2, Suzuki Vitara, Volkswagen Amarok, and Volkswagen Passat are at risk of having their five-star safety ratings erased at the end of this year – unless they are replaced by new models, or undergo a safety upgrade and a new round of tests.

Another dozen or so popular vehicles – such as the Hyundai i30, Kia Rio, Kia Stonic, Mazda CX-9, Mazda MX-5, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Compass, LDV T60 ute and LDV D90 SUV – also risk being stripped of their five-star scores by the end of 2023 or 2024 unless they too are replaced by new models, or undergo safety upgrades and a new round of tests.

Under previous crash-test rating guidelines, car companies were allowed to advertise a five-star safety score – even if it was up to, or more than, a decade old – despite the vehicle being unlikely to earn a five-star score if assessed against recent criteria.

For example, the Volkswagen Amarok ute and Toyota Prado four-wheel-drive wagon on sale in showrooms today both have five-star safety ratings from 2011.

However, they don’t have the same advanced safety aids and occupant protection as recently-introduced rivals – which have been tested against more stringent crash test criteria.

This anomaly has made it difficult for new-car buyers to compare five-star ratings across similar vehicle types, without delving into the forensic details.

Some five-star scores for vehicles still on sale today – such as the Fiat 500 – date back to 2008. The five-star scores for other vehicles, such as the Mitsubishi ASX and Mini Cooper, date back to 2014.

A vehicle issued with a five-star rating in recent years is deemed safer than a vehicle issued with a five-star safety rating prior to 2015.

It is normal practice for car companies to replace older vehicles with newer models within five to seven years, hence the adoption of a new six-year expiry. 

Each time a new car goes on sale, it is tested to higher safety standards.

However, there is a list of almost 30 vehicles still on sale in Australia, that have been in production for so long, they are still able to advertise outdated five-star safety ratings.

Popular cars – such as the Suzuki Swift, MG ZS, Mazda CX-9, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series – are at risk of having their safety scores wiped at the end of 2023 or 2024 unless they are replaced by new models or undergo safety upgrades and new tests.

New guidelines being introduced by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) – a not-for-profit crash-test authority funded by state and federal governments – will from the end of this year erase the current safety scores of vehicles tested prior to 2015, but which are still on sale.

Once the pre-2015 safety ratings – applied to cars still on sale – have been erased at the end of this year, ANCAP will then begin to mandate its six-year expiry on all safety scores from the end of each year onwards.

Used-car buyers will still be able to access online the safety scores of more than 500 vehicles dating back almost 30 years.

However, once the latest ANCAP ratings data is streamlined, no current safety scores will be older than six years – making it easier for consumers to more accurately compare the star ratings for new cars.

  • ANCAP safety ratings with a date stamp of 2015 or earlier expire 31 December 2022 
  • ANCAP safety ratings with a date stamp of 2016 will expire 31 December 2023
  • ANCAP safety ratings with a date stamp of 2017 will expire 31 December 2024

The CEO of ANCAP, Carla Hoorweg, told Drive: “The presence of older ratings had the potential to create confusion among consumers, and inappropriate comparisons between vehicles that have been designed and rated against different protocols. 

“From 2025, every vehicle with a current ANCAP safety rating will only have a date-stamp lifespan of six years.”

Ms Hoorweg said the six-year expiry for crash safety scores is intended to align with the changeover times for new models.

The exceptions to this timeline are utes, four-wheel-drives, and vans – which typically have lifespans of 10 years or so before being replaced by an all-new model.

The introduction of expiry dates will oblige manufacturers of utes, four-wheel-drives and vans to upgrade the safety of existing vehicles and resubmit them for tests mid-way through their model cycle – or replace them with new models. 

The six-year expiry dates will reward car companies who make safety upgrades during a vehicle’s model cycle – and penalise car companies that don’t make improvements.

For example, because Volkswagen was allowed to advertise an outdated five-star score on the Amarok (pictured above) for more than a decade, there was no incentive for the German car giant to invest in important safety upgrades over the life of the vehicle. 

As it happens, the curtain will come down on the current Volkswagen Amarok as an all-new model – based on the next-generation Ford Ranger – arrives in showrooms late this year or early next year.

“We expect (the expiry dates) will encourage manufacturers with vehicle models that have longer product life-cycles to upgrade the safety specifications of those existing models during their life-cycles,” said Ms Hoorweg.

“The manufacturers obviously would prefer that we didn’t do this (but) they understand why we’re doing it. This is a clearer incentive for them to upgrade the safety specifications of their vehicles as they age.”

Conversely, Ms Hoorweg added: “Had the five-star ratings continued in perpetuity, that could act as a disincentive for manufacturers to update their vehicles.”

Ms Hoorweg said the six-year expiry of safety ratings is “about rewarding vehicle manufacturers who have invested heavily in engineering upgrades and safety technology to meet the latest five-star safety criteria. They’ve put a lot of commitment into that, and that should be recognised.”

ANCAP says the car industry is up to speed with – and was consulted on – the six-year deadlines, and individual car companies are already aware which of their models are potentially affected.

However, ANCAP said it was up to each car company to determine if their vehicles will be updated, replaced by a new model, or withdrawn from sale as each deadline looms.

“A number of vehicles that we were initially expecting would be affected by this policy have already been withdrawn from the market, or will have new models introduced very soon after the expiry of their older safety ratings,” said Ms Hoorweg.

New cars that have the clock ticking on their crash safety ratings are listed below.

Crash test ratings from 2015 and earlier, expiring at the end of 2022:

  • Toyota Prado, tested 2011, five stars
  • Volkswagen Amarok, tested 2011, five stars
  • Mitsubishi Triton, tested 2015, five stars
  • Nissan Navara, tested 2015, five stars
  • Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, tested 2015, five stars
  • Mitsubishi ASX, tested 2014, five stars
  • Mazda2, tested 2015, five stars
  • Mazda CX-3, tested 2015, five stars
  • Suzuki Vitara, tested 2015, five stars
  • LDV G10 van, tested 2015, three stars
  • LDV V80 van, tested 2013, three stars
  • Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross, tested 2013, five stars
  • VW Passat, tested 2015, five stars
  • Mini Cooper, tested 2014, four stars
  • BMW i3, tested 2014, five stars
  • Alfa Romeo Guilietta, tested 2011, five stars
  • Fiat 500, tested 2008, five stars

Crash test ratings from 2016, expiring at the end of 2023:

  • Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series cab-chassis, tested 2016, five stars
  • Mazda CX-9, tested 2016, five stars
  • Mazda MX-5, tested 2016, five stars
  • Jeep Cherokee, tested 2016, five stars

Crash test ratings from 2017, expiring at the end of 2024:

  • LDV T60 Ute, tested 2017, five stars
  • LDV D90 SUV, tested 2017, five stars
  • Suzuki Swift, tested 2017, five stars
  • MG ZS, tested 2017, four stars
  • Hyundai i30, tested 2017, five stars
  • Jeep Compass, tested 2017, five stars
  • Kia Rio and Kia Stonic, tested 2017, five stars

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