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2016 Mazda MX-5 scores five-star ANCAP despite curtain airbag and AEB omission


Best-ever pedestrian ANCAP safety score for Mazda's smallest sports car, but lack of curtain air bags and autonomous emergency braking noted.

The fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 has earned a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, despite the safety organisation's European equivalent only awarding the two-seater sports car four out of five at launch last year.

The result, while revealing the MX-5 to be the safest car ever tested in Australia for pedestrian protection – beating even the Volvo V40 – further adds to the confusion around the current state of the relationship between EuroNCAP and ANCAP.

EuroNCAP rated the fourth generation MX-5, released worldwide in September 2015, at only four stars, thanks mainly to its lack of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – a system also missing from the Australian spec as tested by ANCAP.

Localised testing at ANCAP's crash labs in Western Sydney mirrored the EuroNCAP findings in pedestrian safety and side impact protection, while the MX-5's standard specifications – namely side air bags and post-crash emergency brake assist – met ANCAP's criteria for five stars.

ANCAP chief executive officer James Goodwin noted the lack of the active safety systems, saying it was "concerning" they weren't included.

"Autonomous emergency braking, active lane support and speed assistance systems are lacking," he said. "As a newly designed model – one that is likely to remain in the market for some time – it is concerning to see these important safety technologies have been overlooked."

An AEB system is unlikely to be fitted to the fourth-generation car, given the size of the system and the limited space available in the front end of the MX-5.

The two safety organisations have been cooperating on testing procedures since 1997, and will become more closely aligned from January 2018, when ANCAP adopts the European outfit's tests and calculation methods.

The car scored an impressive 33.76 out of 36 in the local pedestrian safety test, with both EuroNCAP and ANCAP praising the MX-5's active bonnet, which lifts slightly in the event of a pedestrian collision to reduce the severity of impact with the engine or windscreen. It also scored very highly in side impact tests both locally and overseas.

While the MX-5 is fitted with a raft of active and passive safety features, including traction and stability control, an AEB system is unlikely to be fitted to the fourth-generation car, given the size of the system and the limited space available in the front end of the MX-5.

Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak said that "considerable effort went into making the MX-5 the safest two-seater sportscar of its type; ANCAP awarding it five stars validates this approach."

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