Updated: Jun 3
When you are looking for a new vehicle, you're most likely to think about vehicles dependent on specific qualities. Which is least expensive? Which has the most features? Which has the best fuel efficiency? Which is the most secure? Should I buy second hand or new?
Safety would be towards the top of anyone’s ‘new car’ list and to help navigate what cars are safe most of you would or more importantly, should, rely on the ANCAP safety ratings. When researching the safety ratings of the cars on your list, you might be pleasantly surprised that most of them come with a 5-star safety rating but be warned- this rating may come with conditions.
Starting with the date of testing, this date makes a big difference to how safe a car may be. Any cars that tested with a result of a 5-star safety rating in 2010, may not receive the same high praise if tested today. With safety features constantly being upgraded in new vehicles, checking the testing date the ANCAP safety testing was performed is just as important as the test itself. The more recent the testing was carried out- the higher the safety standard and the more features the testing included.
To better understand what all this means, let us look at ANCAP; who they are and what do they stand for?
ANCAP is an independent vehicle safety authority, standing for- Australian New Car Assessment Program.
Although ANCAP is not a regulatory body, their high profile does manage to have a significant influence on manufacturers when it comes to fitting out vehicles with extra safety technology. A lot of the time this extra safety technology is yet to even be mandated by the Australia Design Rules Government Regulations.
Many vehicle manufacturers have been known to add extra safety technology to their vehicles after a poor ANCAP safety result, so although ANCAP is a non-regulated, independent program, they do seem to have a lot of sway over the safety design of vehicles.
In 2018, ANCAP aligned its standards and procedures with their European Counterpart, EURO NCAP. This allows ANCAP to use and publish the results of EURO NCAP when they are unable to perform the safety test themselves.
SAFETY KEY AREAS
Since 2018, all vehicles are surveyed under four key categories: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Vulnerable Road User Protection, and Safety Assist.
Vehicles get a score for each category. The overall star rating of a car is constrained by the lowest score it receives for any one of the four categories.
To accomplish five stars, a vehicle must get a score of 80 percent or higher in Adult Occupant Protection and Child Occupant Protection, 60 percent or higher in Vulnerable Road User Protection, and 70 percent or higher in Safety Assist.
For example, A vehicle might perform well in crash tests, receiving 80 percent for 3 of the 4 categories, however, its active safety technology is inadequately aligned or non-existent, receiving only 55 percent; Its low score in Safety Assist will haul down the overall star rating for the vehicle. This will result in the car getting a 3-star ANCAP Safety Rating.
Every category covers a considerable number of tests. The Adult Occupant Protection and Child Occupant protection scores incorporate front and side effect of impact crash tests. The Child Occupant protection classification additionally tests the adequacy of child restraints.
Additionally, ANCAP test the adequacy of autonomous emergency braking systems under both the Vulnerable Road User Protection and Safety Assist classes.
All the tests that are carried out by ANCAP are illustrative of ordinary, typical collisions or impacts. For instance, the side impact test. ANCAP will send a 1.4 ton (the average weight of a vehicle) travelling at 50 kilometres per hour into the front driver’s side of a test vehicle to simulate a car being t-boned. This will test the impact on the driver and passengers of the vehicle as well as testing the structural impact of the vehicle itself.
Or the oblique pole test, where ANCAP simulates a car travelling at 32 kilometres per hour hitting a pole at a 75-degree angle.
The test you may have seen most being advertised is of the frontal offset test, this test tries to replicate a vehicles impact, front on into another vehicle moving at the same speed. Normally done at 50 kilometres per hour.
WHY DOESN’T MY CAR HAVE AN ANCAP SAFETY RATING?
Because ANCAP isn’t a government regulated body, it is not compulsory for any vehicle to be tested by ANCAP in Australia.
Although you will find many of the well know Australian cars to have been tested, like Holden, Ford and Mazda. If you own a low- volume vehicle, like a Citroen, Haval or Lexus, you might find that ANCAP or EURO NCAP has yet to test their safeness.
ANCAP AND RE-TESTING
If your vehicle has an old stamp date, chances are that ANCAP wont revisit or revise testing, assuming it was tested in the first place. Typically, ANCAP will only re-test a vehicle if there has been a significant change in a safety feature design that warrants new testing to be performed.
ANCAP's measures are continually advancing.
For instance, the full-width frontal test was reintroduced in 2018.
That year, the barrier utilised for the side impact test was made heavier and stiffer, while keeping inline with newer safety technology, tests have also been introduced to assess that effectiveness of autonomous emergency breaking, speed assistance systems and lane- keeping technology.
Vehicles that were tested prior to 2018, received a score out of 16 for each frontal offset and side impact crash tests, a score out of 2 for the pole test and a score out of 3 for seat belt reminders- this is instead of the 4 category testing that was introduced from 2018.
Cars tested prior to 2018 also got a score of ‘good’ or ‘poor’ for whiplash impact and pedestrian protection.
A vehicle needed to meet a base score in every one of the physical crash tests and furthermore incorporate the key safety features ANCAP required to get a 5-star rating.
So, it’s clear to see that as time went on and vehicle safety systems evolved so did the framework to test the effectiveness of the newer safety technology now installed in vehicles. This demonstrates how older vehicles would not achieve 5-star ratings today, because they simply do not have the safety technology installed, like brake assist, to even test. This doesn’t mean that your car is completely not safe and you should avoid it entirely, it just means that if it is compared to a new 2020 model car, the safety features are sub- standard in comparison.
MANDATORY 5 STAR RATING FEATURES
ANCAPs mandated features and the year they were introduced include:
- Head protecting airbags, 2003
- Electronic stability control, 2008
- Three-point seat belts, 2012
- Emergency breaking assist, 2013
- Intelligent seat belt reminders, 2013
- Top- tether child restraint anchor points, 2017
ANCAP set certain standards to encourage vehicle manufacturers and designers to include safety improvements before governing bodies require them to do so. What might be an ‘extra safety feature’ in an upgraded model of one vehicle, will soon become a ‘standard’ feature in the subsequent models.
Overall, ANCAP is just the independent testing body that encourages manufacturers to make the safest possible cars to put on Australian Roads.
RATING FROM UCSR, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
When you visit www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au, you will find some older model vehicles with a rating set by UCSR. This stands for Used Car Safety Report.
USCR are reported annually by the Monash University Accident Research Unit (MUARC). Ratings are based on data from real crashed reported to the Australian and New Zealand police.
The reports are of remarkably high standard and provide data on the impact of crashes and the relative safety of cars and the protection they provided their drivers and passengers in the event of an accident.
The UCSR report classifies cars according to where their ratings lie in relation to a best performance benchmark.
SO, THE SAFEST CAR IS?
ANCAP states that the wisest choice when it comes to finding a safe car is to look for the highest star rating with the newest testing date stamp.
Remembering also that the size and weight of the car is also going to play a part in the safety of your car. In theory, a larger SUV type car will fare better in a crash then a smaller car- but similar aged cars could both have a 5-star safety rating.
ANCAP does provide Australians with an easy navigation system when it comes to deciding on a new or used vehicle and the safety rating of the vehicle in question. It is definitely something all Australians should consider when purchasing a new or used vehicle.