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Ford Falcon Ute goes five star

Side on: Ford's Falcon Ute has received top marks for safety, but only on models with all the safety gear.

Ford’s workhorse ute earns top marks for safety – on some models

17 Jun 2010

FORD’S Falcon Ute has joined its Holden rival in the ranks of five-star crash safety performers, but only on its high-end models or those equipped with the optional $500 Safety Enhancement Pack.

A Ford FG XR6 ute equipped with a chest and head-protecting side airbag and electronic stability control (ESC) – both introduced as standard on XR6, XR6 Turbo and R6 ute models this month – scored 33.58 points out of a possible 37 points in the latest round of Australian New Car Assessment (ANCAP) crash tests.

The result bettered the Holden Ute’s 33.16 points, making the Ford effort the best recorded for a utility in Australia.

But while all Holden Utes are five-star across the range, entry-level Falcon Utes remain four-star because side airbags and ESC remain optional.

According to ANCAP, the FG Falcon Ute without side airbag protection or ESC scores 29.51 points out of 37.

To add further to the confusion, ANCAP testers ruled that current Falcon Ute models equipped with a column transmission selector still only rated four stars due to the risk of “knee hazards”.

And while the side airbag and ESC are optional on some utes, all Falcon sedans have these features as standard, along with an optional curtain airbag.

Ford Australia defends the policy of optional safety equipment for ute buyers, saying its customers tell it that they prefer to have the choice.

It also says Falcon Ute, with or without side airbags, provided excellent crash safety protection.

27 center imageFrom top: Ford Falcon Ute ANCAP pole test. Bottom: Holden Ute ANCAP test.

Ford Australia spokesman Justin Lacy told GoAuto that airbags were not the only measure of car safety.

“The strength and structural integrity of the passenger safety cell is the most important part of that safety equation,” he said.

While neither Ford’s Falcon sedan or Ute have standard curtain airbags like those fitted to all Commodores, Falcons equipped with a combination side/head airbag provide superior side chest protection, according to the ANCAP results.

The Holden Ute scores 2.84 points out of a possible 4.0 on the side impact chest result, while the Falcon variant with its combo airbag scores a near-perfect 3.96 points.

The Falcon is also clearly superior in upper leg protection in the frontal offset barrier test, scoring a perfect 4.0 points – double the score of the Commodore.

Ford says its side airbag protection is enhanced by its Intelligent Safety System that includes ‘door pressure sensors’ that detect pressure waves from an impending crash, even before panels are deformed.

It says this system provides instantaneous crash protection by literally hearing the event through the pressure waves.

“Importantly, they also provide enhanced discrimination between different types of events to determine the level of response required,” he said.

“Appropriate safety responses for each individual situation are then activated according to incident severity, positioning of occupants and seat belt usage.

“With most crash events occurring in less than 100 milliseconds, the ability to rapidly differentiate between types of events is extremely important.

“In order to ensure appropriate response levels, 'abuse' testing has been conducted on the vehicle to calibrate the sensors not to activate the airbags and other safety measures in the case of non-crash related incidents such as shopping trolleys running into the doors.”

Ford Australia president and CEO Marin Burela said Falcon Ute five-star result further reinforced Ford's long-standing reputation for safety leadership in Australia.

"We design our cars to deliver real-world safety benefits for our customers, but this result serves as a resounding third-party endorsement of the world-class body structure and comprehensive suite of active and passive safety features we have developed for Falcon,” he said.

"The FG Falcon is the safest vehicle ever developed by Ford in Australia and this safety leadership has been recognised by ANCAP."Holden declined to comment directly on the Falcon Ute ANCAP performance, pointing only to its press release announcing the Holden Ute’s five-star rating.

The Commodore-based ute became the first utility to score a five-star rating with the introduction of the 2010 model-year in October last year.

It and the newly enhanced Falcon Ute remain the only five-star utilities rated by ANCAP, with top-selling imports such as Toyota’s HiLux, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton all on four stars, while the Isuzu-based Holden Colorado and its sibling, the Isuzu D-Max, have three stars.

However, Ford and Holden’s locally-made utes might not be alone at the top of the safety pile for long, as Volkswagen is set to introduce the new Amarok utility later this year.

The worst performed ute tested by ANCAP is the Chinese-made Great Wall Motors V240, which rates just two stars.

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