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Barina gets another "poor" crash test rating

Fallen star: Current Barina hatch (above) and previous Barina (Opel Corsa, 2002 - below).

Holden’s Korean Barina scores another woeful two-star NCAP crash test rating

10 May 2006

DOUBTS over the safety of Holden’s Barina emerged again this week after Australian NCAP authorities handed down a two-star occupant protection rating for the small car.

The lowest crash-test rating recorded in Australia for a small passenger car since 2004, the Barina hatchback’s two-star result is considered "poor" and well below class standards.

It also adds to the two-star strike-through rating Euro NCAP gave the Chevrolet Aveo – which is sold as the Barina sedan in Australia – in February.

The strikethrough denotes a serious risk of "life threatening" injury to one body region (in this case, the driver’s chest).

The Korean-built Barina has established itself as one of the most popular small cars in Australia, capturing almost 15 per cent of the light-car segment this year, according to VFACTS statistics.

ANCAP spokesman and RACV chief engineer Michael Case told GoAuto this week that the result was disappointing considering safety was a high priority with buyers in the segment, particularly women.

He also said consumers should be concerned by the ANCAP result because it bears out the Euro NCAP result.

"Certainly a two-star result for any vehicle these days is poor," he said. "That’s in an environment where in most categories the standard is really four stars, with many vehicles achieving five stars.

"There’s a big gap between a poor result of two stars and a common and recommended level of four stars." Significantly, the previous Spanish-built Barina hatchback – sold as the Opel Corsa in Europe and Vauxhall Corsa in the UK – achieved a four-star crash rating when Euro NCAP tested it in 2002.

13 center imageMr Case said there was a growing body of evidence from ANCAP testing, and used-car safety ratings compiled by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), that official crash tests have a close correlation with real-world crashes.

"We’re confident what we’re doing does translate into real-world safety improvement, and I think there are increasing measures of that now," he said.

"Why compromise your safety by buying a vehicle with a star rating less than four?" Furthermore, Euro NCAP chairman and the former director of MUARC, Claes Tingvall, has demonstrated that there is an "enormous" difference in the risk of injury between a car that scores two stars under Euro NCAP and one that scores four.

In a study presented in September 2000 on how Euro NCAP results correlate to real-life injury risks in (severe) car-to-car crashes, Professor Tingvall and co-author Anders Lie found that "cars with three or four stars are approximately 30 per cent safer, compared to two-star cars or cars without an Euro NCAP score".

In his capacity as MUARC director in 2000, Prof Tingvall said: "If you have a choice between what is rated as a two-star NCAP vehicle and a four-star of the same size, the risk of injury is roughly 25 to 30 percent lower in the four-star vehicle compared to the two-star. That’s an enormous difference.

"NCAP is not perfect - it’s not even half perfect – it gives you, though, a sign of if a car manufacturer has used best practice, the best possible knowledge when they designed the vehicle. That’s it. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s the only way to go.

"Certainly try to avoid those cars that are low rated, and the first results that we have, worldwide, shows that there is a substantial and consistent difference between cars rated at different levels." GM Holden said this week it did not dispute the results of the Australian test, despite manufacturer GM Daewoo requesting in February that Euro NCAP retest the Aveo.

"We acknowledge that it is, in fact, the hatch and sedan variants of the same car family and it’s the same test in two different jurisdictions – so it’s effectively the same result from the same crash test," said GM Holden spokesman Jason Laird.

"We are not disputing the two-star result. We are disappointed by it, we would certainly like it to be higher, but with the spread of tests that have gone on with the car, the bottom line – given the variability in those tests – is that the car needs to, and does, meet Australian safety requirements.

"And in the specific case of this car, it’s actually sold in 95 countries around the world, so it needs to meet 95 sets of safety requirements including the US and Europe." Mr Laird pointed to the fact that ANCAP awarded three stars to the Daewoo Kalos, the car upon which the Barina is based, in December 2003.

Compared to the Barina, which scored just 14.9 points out of 37 (including 4.39 out of 16 in the offset crash test and 10.51 out of 16 in the side impact), the Kalos scored a marginally better 17.64 points (including 5.90 in the offset crash and 11.73 in the side impact).

ANCAP said this week that the difference between the Barina and Kalos was due to a slight change in protocol for side-impact testing, which altered the overall rating from a "very low three" to a "high two".

Holden also pointed to the fact that the Chevrolet Aveo was awarded five stars in a front-on crash test and four stars in a side-on test last year by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which uses a different NCAP testing regime considered among safety experts to be less severe than – and therefore not comparable with – ANCAP and Euro NCAP.

"Interestingly enough, we’ve got a five-star Astra coming out, so it really shows the variability in the marketplace," Mr Laird said.

"At the end of the day, people will make their choices based on what they have available to them and it’s certainly helpful that they have a wide variety of information to make that choice from." ANCAP testing mirrors Euro NCAP, the only difference being that the Australian authority does not issue a "strike-through" assessment on its star ratings.

Both conduct a frontal offset crash test at 64km/h and a side impact at 50km/h.

Most vehicles also undergo a pedestrian test in which a dummy is hit by a car travelling at 40km/h, although in the case of the Barina ANCAP has based its rating – a poor one star, meaning a high risk of severe injury to a pedestrian if hit at 40km/h – on the 2003 Kalos.

ANCAP purchases its vehicles through independent dealers at fleet purchase rates and no one is told of their expected fate.

Mr Case admitted that in the past there had been opportunities for ANCAP to accept a car that was offered by a manufacturer but it now "purchases them like a consumer".

"There’s always a lot of dispute about research and vehicle safety," he said. "But my answer to the critics is that if the car-makers think there is a better way of assessing new cars for relative optimum protection performance then we’d like to know about it." Like almost every other car-maker in the world, Holden refuses to publish its own crash-test results. The next round of ANCAP test results will be released in July.

Playing by the rules

BEFORE a car manufacturer can sell a new car it must meet a huge range of Australian Design Rules covering vehicle emissions and safety.

There are three mandatory crash tests which assess the level of protection a car provides: a full-frontal crash into a concrete barrier at 48km/h (ADR 69) a 40-degree frontal offset crash at 56km/h into a deformable aluminium barrier (ADR 73) and a side impact between the car and a mobile barrier at 50km/h (ADR 72).

ADR 29 also specifies strength and stiffness requirements for side doors to reduce intrusion into the passenger compartment as a result of a side impact.

The federal department responsible, Transport and Regional Services, does not conduct the crash tests in fact, it would not be allowed within miles of the crash labs where new-car development is underway.

It simply receives a few key results from the required tests and, within two years (though depending on the size of the current travel budget), conducts a quality assurance audit of the manufacturer and inspects the testing facility.

Audits are usually carried out on a single model, which is thought to represent the quality system applied to every vehicle in the range.

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