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ANCAP inconsistency causing safety confusion

BMW i3 crash test

If you're struggling to understand the latest round of ANCAP testing, you're not the only crash test dummy.

Confusion reigned this week with the latest round of crash test results, where two Mazdas got five-star ratings in Australia despite getting a four-star mark in Europe.

It's not the first time this has happened. BMW's i3 electric car got the same result: four stars in Europe, five here. And if that's not confusing enough, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer scored the opposite — five in Europe but four in Australia.

Then there's the Renault Captur, which scored five stars despite not having airbags for rear passengers. Had it launched in 2014 it would have got four stars, but because it arrived this year it gets five.

The Suzuki Celerio wasn't as lucky. Launched this year, it gets four stars — if it arrived last year it would have got five.

Another source called the ratings system "crazily, crazily confusing for both the makers and the consumers."

Eventually, the Australian and European chapters of NCAP will standardise crash test results. Until they do, people shopping for a new car will have to navigate the intricacies.

Even makers admit they struggle to understand the testing protocols.

For example, the Mazdas were marked down in Europe because their autonomous emergency braking — which can anticipate a low-speed crash and hit the brakes — wasn't standard on enough models.

In Australia, where the technology is an option on all but the most expensive CX-3 variants, it counts towards an overall five-star rating. One industry source, who declined to be named, says the industry is fed up with inconsistencies in the testing regimes. "These types of results just cause more confusion for customers. ANCAP is supposed to provide easy-to-understand ratings that help customers make an informed decision."

Another source called the ratings system "crazily, crazily confusing for both the makers and the consumers".

Both tipped the short-term result of many more cars getting four stars, particularly if they don't fit active safety equipment as standard.

The ANCAP site is terrific for researching the safety of your new car. Just take the star ratings with a grain of salt.