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Top ten safe cars, top ten worst cars

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    Best-of-the-best... Volvo has ranked the safest with a total of five-star safety rating. Photo Gallery

  • Volvo's new prestige XC60 SUV tops the field ahead of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and A-Class.
  • "Any vehicle with less than four stars is to be avoided unless you don't have any other choice."
  • It will take more work for ford and Holden to get to the top end of the ANCAP scale.

The brand that made its name with safety is back on top in Australia.

Volvo rates as best-of-the-best in a new listing of the safest cars in Australian showrooms, with Mitsubishi tailing the field.

The Swedish maker has done the job with its newest model, the impressive new XC60, edging out a classy bunch of five-star cars.

But Mitsubishi's outdated Express van trails in a miserable last, even if the latest Mahindra Pik-Up does not do much better.

The results are revealed in a special Carsguide breakdown of the safety star rankings provided under the Australian New-Car Assessment Program.

"The XC60 is less than half a point away from the maximum possible. It would be extremely difficult to be any better than that. It's an extremely impressive car," says Michael Case, chief engineer of the RACV and also a spokesman for ANCAP.

"But any vehicle with less than four stars is to be avoided unless you don't have any other choice. Anything less than four stars is unsatisfactory when there is so much choice. An increasing number of vehicles achieve a four-star, and even five-star, ranking.

"Why buy a car at one or two stars and risk your safety? It's been a long time since one or two stars has been acceptable.

"The bar has really risen to five stars, and the gap between the star ratings is big. There is a gulf."

The safest cars are all officially ranked as five star by ANCAP — including the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore — but drilling deeper shows the differences between the best of the best.

It's a similar story at the bottom end, even if the Express only gets one star, as the two and three-star vehicles can also be listed on the basis of their detailed NCAP scores.

At the top, Volvo's new prestige SUV tops the field ahead of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and A-Class, followed by the Renault Laguna and the latest Volkswagen Golf.

From the bottom, it's the Express and Pik-Up, then the Hyundai Elantra sedan, Kia Cerato hatch and Hyundai Accent.

The results show the gulf between European prestige and luxury cars at one end and price-driven Korean cars at the other, with the majority of models sitting somewhere in the middle ground.

And that's what ANCAP is all about.

The organisation was created in 1992 in a joint venture between motoring clubs and state safety organisations, and published its first results in 1993. Since then it has tested dozens of vehicles in all classes, from micro-minis through to four-wheel drives and pick-ups.

But the results and reach of the ANCAP program has been extended by taking results from the mirror-image program run by the European NCAP organisation.

"Each of the crash tests costs in the vicinity of $40,000-50,000. And that's without the cost of the vehicle involved," says Case.

"You need one vehicle for the offset frontal, which basically destroys the car. Then a second car for the Moving Deformable Barrier test and, while the damage is much less, you cannot use it for anything else.

"The pole test looks innocuous, but does a lot of damage. With the pedestrian protection test you can repair the car and it is the same as before, you don't have to consume the car."

ANCAP budgets for 10-12 vehicles each year, which means at least 20 individual crash tests.

The testing is done at the NSW RTA Crashlab in Sydney, Autolive at Campbellfield in Melbourne and The Centre for Automotive Safety Research, which is part of the University of Adelaide.

There was some controversy when ANCAP cars were allegedly repaired and put back on the road, but Case says they are now stripped to ensure they are only suitable for spare parts.

"They have their identity removed and they are sold. They should go for spare parts," says Case.

But it's a big program and a big deal.

"If you do the complete suite of tests it's $150,000 plus the cost of three cars. We use an independent car buying agent. We buy a car like a normal consumer would to ensure the results are impartial."

Even so, carmakers continue to fight against ANCAP because they say they do thousands of crash tests — both 'real world' and 'virtual', using the latest computer simulations — and NCAP is only a single crash.

But a growing number are now happy to use their ANCAP scores to promote their cars, including Ford, Subaru and Renault.

But it's not surprise those are three brands with a five-star result to tout.

The latest ANCAP results show the quality of Volvo and Mercedes-Benz's safety engineering, and the questions over the Koreans, but Case says safety is a moving target.

"It just takes continuous improvement to get higher NCAP scores, and the locals have just broken into the five-star range," he says.

"It will take more work yet for Ford and Holden to get to the top end. Other manufacturers have been there for a while and they are making further improvements."

But he says safety engineering is improving all the time, in everything from the types of steels used in cars to the design of 'crash paths' through the body and even the growing number of airbags and things like pop-up bonnets to protect pedestrians.

"It's more about timing than capability," says Case.


1. Volvo XC60 - 36.53

2. Mercedes C-Class - 36.15

3. Mercedes A-Class - 35.96

4. Renault Laguna - 35.91

5. Volkswagen Golf - 35.72

6. Subaru Liberty - 35.52

7. Subaru Outback - 35.52

8. Pegueot 407 - 35.41

9. Peugeot 308 - 35.32

10. Ford Mondeo - 35.13


1. Mitsubishi Express - 8.49

2. Mahindra Pik-Up - 16.49

3. Hyundai Elantra - 19.81

4. Kia Cerato - 19.90

5. Hyundai Elantra (curtain airbags) - 20.76

6. Hyundai Accent - 21.21

7. Holden Colorado - 21.40

8. Nissan Navara - 21.57

9. Hyundai Getz - 21.78

10. Nissan Patrol - 22.17


For complete ANCAP safety ratings go to:


Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 26 comments

  • Guys, this is an old article.

    Jay Posted on 01 March 2014 2:28am
  • We have to choose what is the greatest car for us, what ever the brand is, safety starts from the driver smile

    top safest cars Posted on 28 February 2014 7:11am
  • A load of cobblers!

    Fred Logan of ACT Posted on 07 July 2013 5:33pm
  • Why is the Alfa Romeo Giulietta not on the list.It scored 36.44 out of 37 point which is just behind the Volvo in safety rating. And scored higher than the V.W Golf

    Kieran of BROOKWATER Posted on 28 February 2013 11:57pm
  • Travis, this article is about 4 years old. The later model Accents rate much better than what they did in 2009.

    lea Posted on 28 February 2013 4:31pm
  • I don't get it, the accent is five star rated? This is completely incorrect

    Travis of Dunt, South Australia Posted on 10 February 2013 11:54pm
  • Well Steve, this is a feature about the safest cars on the road, not a "fiscally-minded" safest cars feature. If a $60,000 Volvo is the safest car, then so it is. If this is such a problem, I notice that the Volkswagen Golf is ranked highly on the list, and this vehicle only starts at only $23 000, which is similar money to the Hyundai Elantra. I certainly know which one I would rather be in an accident in...

    Shane of WA Posted on 09 September 2011 11:49pm
  • To Steve of Perth. NOT all 4WD are big cars. Not all 4WD drivers are lunatic either! I drive a 4WD Toyota Twin Cab Hilux ute - It doubles as a family car and a work vehicle. We drive in the suburbs & city but also spend many weekends off road & towing a large boat. Some people buy them for the towing capacity, others for the recreational possibilities. Not many people can afford a car for work, a car for the city & and car for weekends. If you don't like 4WD's then don't buy one! But don't assume that all 4WD's are used only in the city!

    Sharon of Bayswater Posted on 24 August 2011 10:12am
  • A $14,000 used Volvo would dominate a new Accent in a crash. No doubts. For 14 grand you could get a 2002 Volvo anyway which gets 4 star safety.

    Nick of byron Posted on 10 September 2010 4:10pm
  • Melinda, yes they have less deaths in a 4WD but more deaths in what they hit. There is absolutely no reason why anyone needs a large 4X4 in a city environment, there are no rough bogy roads or soft sand around and all they do is block other road users view of what?s ahead. I work on a mine site and most of the time do not use 4 wheel drive as its not needed and these are on dirt roads. Also statistics can be manipulated to show what ever the user wants them to show. Lies, lies and statistics. Apart from that how many average people are able to afford a $90,000 Volvo or over $100,000 for a Merc. Why doesn't the writer of this article keep the list to cars that the average person can afford.

    Steve of Perth W.A. Posted on 03 September 2010 3:17am
  • Euro NCAP is stricted and the winner there is Renault with 8 or 9, 5 star cars... In the Euro NCAP. One example of the rules is: If you dont have ESP, you don't get 5 stars,

    Brian of Adelaide Posted on 02 September 2010 10:05am
  • There's a few comments on here about bullbars and I completly agree. It should be illegal to have a bull bar (and I don't see the point in nudge bars) fitted to a vehicle that does not travel in remote/outback/offroad environments on a regular basis. As this articles explains alot of effort, technology, research & money goes into crash tests. Add a bull bar on a car and all that goes down the drain. PS: Is it possible to make a 'detachable' bullbar?

    alex Posted on 27 August 2010 3:34pm
  • Melinda...4WD have less deaths but they cause more pedestrian deaths than any other car on the for ANCAP 5star ratings,they only give people a false sense of security that they can take more risks than someone driving a 3star rated car.My car stops when it needs to and avoids accidents when needed.It is also easy to control in an aqua-planing situation...the most surprising thing about all this is...I drive a 1990 Ford Laser Ghia...ANCAPs ratings are a sales pitch and nothing more if you don't know how to drive safely in the first place

    Pookie of Narwee Posted on 07 May 2010 8:35pm
  • 4WD's were developed so that people that live out west could have a better journey over difficult roads. THEY were never meant to be driven by the average housewife in the City. Aa a former out west person I am horrified at the number of 4WD's I see driven agressively by townies mostly housewives I might add. Yes I am a woman! So if the number of deaths are low at the moment it is no thanks to the 4WD divers in the towns!

    Winifred of Brisbane Posted on 14 April 2010 11:49am
  • The most dangerous cars on Australian roads are the ones with quarter windows that you can't see out of when going around corners. They raise the safety rating because in a crash you are safer. But they make you far more likely to crash in the first place. And particularly to hit a pedestrian. I can not understand how these cars came to be designed this way in 2008. And I believe that they should not be allowed on the road in Australia. If you see one of these coming when waiting to cross a pedestrian crossing dont expect it to stop. I have test drove these cars, And have worked professionally as a Bus driver, Truck Driver, Boat driver, Car driver and motorcycle rider. And begun my apprenticeship as a Auto Technician.

    Peter Napper of Dee Why Posted on 28 December 2009 6:20pm
  • P: I think you make a very good point... yes - a $14990 accent is not as safe as a $70000 Volvo, but the question is not how they compare but how does a new $14990 Accent compare to a 10 year old Volvo also at $14990 on the used car lot? I think you'd find the scales actually tipped in favour of the new Accent.

    Hyundais aren't so bad Posted on 13 December 2009 11:04pm
  • Be aware that a 5 star rating isn't all that its cracked up to be by the manufacturers. My wife has an Outback Premium with all the airbags, purchased on the grounds of safety. Imagine our concern when we found that a cargo barrier cannot be fitted. How can a wagon be rated as 5 star safety rating if you survive the initial impact of a crash just to be killed by whatever you are carrying in the back when it comes over the seats and joins you in the front of the car? Not an issue with the sedan but no wagons should have the full sedan rating if cargo barriers can't be fitted.

    Neil Branum of Adelaide Posted on 30 April 2009 4:41pm
  • Subaru are criticised for there apparent tardy fuel consumption - though of the 4 Liberties we've had couldn't be further from the truth (current is 3.0R-SpecB returning better than 10l/100 on average) so you don't need to buy Euro or spend a fortune to get a very safe car. Even the Gold is not going to break the bank either. And my resale still is way better than most around too.

    Simon of Melb Posted on 21 April 2009 8:22pm
  • Look, what you pay is what you ask the euro brands to sell something for $14990 and lets see what safety they can comeup with. The Korean cars have given ppl with a low budget to drive new cars with new safety features. Without them, we'll be lookin for some old second hand car!!

    P Posted on 21 April 2009 12:57am
  • Swedish, always the best. German second. for the rest,for a two thousand $ difference you make the choice

    Marinus of sydney Posted on 18 April 2009 11:54pm
  • The Volvo XC60 maybe a great car in terms of safety, but not an impressive vehicle for anything else. I test drove the top end model for 80k, I would much prefer a Land Rover Freelander 2 for 60k. 20k difference is purely for the safety. The quality is quite average for a luxury SUV. When I spoke to the dealer, only a handful had been ordered since release. No surprise why...

    Joe of Sydney Posted on 18 April 2009 7:19pm
  • Safety features are not going to save you. This seems like an effort by you to mock at the Koreans thts why is believe everyone in australia has stagnated at this village 100 years while the world has moved on. Everyone who reads this do go and buy according to PG's recomendations afterall the village henchman is the supreme authority.

    Open Rationale of Out of Oz Posted on 18 April 2009 1:02pm
  • Failing to take into account active safety is only telling the end of the story. No one wants to crash so surely a 4 star car that wont spin off into a pole in an emergency lane change is safer than the 5 star that would.

    Mr Morris Posted on 18 April 2009 12:55pm
  • might want to consider the opposite many deaths do 4WD's cause in accidents? Particularly with their BULL BARS and ride height in the cities/towns etc!!! Don't see to many BULLS in the city any more!!!

    Concerned...Torrens Park of Torrens Park Posted on 17 April 2009 9:23pm
  • Five of the cars at the bottom are Korean. No surprises there.

    Tony Posted on 17 April 2009 4:32pm
  • Where the saftey of a car/commercial vehicle are rated in terms of saftey features, it becomes an excerise of misleading the public. Accumulated statistics show 4WD's to have less deaths on Australian roads per registered vehicle.

    Melinda of Newtown Posted on 17 April 2009 12:56pm
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