Australia's crash test authority ANCAP delivered another own goal this week, making it even more confusing for buyers wanting to know a car's true safety score.
The Renault Captur SUV scored five stars despite having just four airbags (and no airbag coverage for back seat passengers) while the Suzuki Celerio hatch received a four-star rating despite having six airbags (giving front and rear airbag protection) and performing better in a crash than the five-star rated Mitsubishi Mirage.
The independent crash test authority, which is funded mostly by taxpayers, made it easier for less safe cars to earn a five-star safety rating from January 1, after it bowed to pressure from the car industry and Euro NCAP (which has weaker standards for side impacts and offset frontal crashes).
Without a hint of irony, ANCAP issued a statement this week highlighting the benefits of side airbags in the four-star Suzuki, even though it has just applied a five-star rating to a Renault which lacks airbags in the rear.
"Side curtain airbags are a vital safety feature, particularly effective in reducing the chance of serious head injury in side impacts" ANCAP chairman Lauchlan McIntosh said.
The question must be asked: should taxpayers be funding such a flawed rating system?
"ANCAP has put pressure on manufacturers to include head-protecting side airbags for many years, introducing this as a mandatory 5-star requirement in 2004," he continued. What ANCAP neglected to mention is that it quietly removed this airbag requirement on January 1 for back seat occupants.
Had the Renault Captur been launched late last year as planned, it would have scored four stars. Had the Suzuki Celerio been launched late last year as planned, it would have scored five stars.
Suzuki says if the Celerio had just one safety accessory from a list of 40 items — such as daytime running lights, emergency braking lights or automatic headlights — it would have scored a higher rating than the five-star Mitsubishi in the same class.
In the meantime, car buyers are none the wiser. The question must be asked: should taxpayers be funding such a flawed rating system?