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How Safe is Your Mustang? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Colin Brassington (aka Brash)   
Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:17

Unless you've been living under a rock, or otherwise not paying attention to mainstream media, you'd have seen the uproar last week about how the new car crash testing programme ANCAP have labelled the new Ford Mustang one of the least safe cars available in Australia. Actually that's not quite what they said, it was closer to danger danger Mustang unsafe!

IIHS Mustang Test

Amusingly Ford are a little miffed, as the Mustang scored quite well in US crash testing - better than the competitors from Chevy and Dodge to be specific. So what went wrong?

To work out how to interpret this, we need to read the numbers that ANCAP published:

Airbags: Dual Frontal, Side, Head, Knee

Adult Occupant Protection: 72 %

Adult Occupant Protection: 27.7 out of 38

Full Width: 4.67 out of 8

Frontal Offset: 6.91 out of 8

Side Impact: 8.00 out of 8

Pole: 6.88 out of 8

Whiplash Protection: 1.21 out of 3

AEB (City): 0.00 out of 3

Child Occupant Protection: 32 %

Child Occupant Protection: 15.8 out of 49

Safety Assist: 16 %

Safety Assist: 2.0 out of 12

Speed Assistance System: 0.0 out of 3

Seat Belt Reminders: 2.0 out of 3

Lane Support System: 0.0 out of 3

AEB (Interurban): 0.0 out of 3

Pedestrian Protection: 64 %

Pedestrian Protection: 27.0 out of 42

ANCAP Safety Rating: 2 Star

Rating Year: 2017

You'll note that many of the low scores are for items that aren't present, such as Autonomous Electric Brake assist, which is an electronic aid that stops you from crashing into the car in front.

For comparison's sake, let's have a look at a car that ANCAP rated 5 star safety, a favourite here at TBA - the twin Toyobarus! They tested the BRZ, but logic prevailed and the ratings apply for the Toyota 86 as well:

Airbags: Dual Frontal, Side, Head, Knee

Frontal Offset: 14.97 out of 16

Side Impact: 15.43 out of 16

Pole: 2 out of 2

Whiplash Protection: Good

Pedestrian Protection: Acceptable

ESC: Standard

Seat Belt Reminders: 2.0 out of 3

Overall Score: 34.40 out of 37

ANCAP Safety Rating: 5 Star

Rating Year: 2012

Firstly, note that no points are awarded for whiplash protection or pedestrian protection. These are merely noted as being good, whereas Mustang scores poorly in both. Given that most crashes that we see involve the Mustang hitting pedestrians this is cause for concern.

But looking closely at the data, you can see how the testing regime has changed in the years since the BRZ/86 were tested. The actual crash test ratings are now given less weight in the overall score. In 2012 front offset, side impact and pole impact tests counted for 34 or the 37 available points. In the 2016 test, these three count for 21 points out of a possible 42. In fact, if you just look at these numbers the Mustang scores 90.7% of the available points. For comparison's sake the 86 scores 96.7% of these available points. Doesn't sound so unsafe now does it?

With local manufacturing finishing up here before the end of 2017, some have argued that ANCAP will no longer have any relevance. After all, there will no longer be any local cars to test, and in all seriousness, local conditions don't really differ from those everywhere else in the world anymore. It's not like when the original Commodore prototypes broke in half because the only road between Alice Springs and Darwin was a very poor quality dirt road and the senior overseas engineers working on the project didn’t believe the suspension loads given to them by the local engineers. And as such, some have dismissed Mustang's review as ANCAP merely trying to show the world how relevant they are.

"How can Ford knowingly sell such an unsafe car to the general public?" the bleeding hearts have carried on. Well the answer is that the Mustang isn't considered an unsafe car in the US, and it's only marginally different in right hand drive configuration.

In 2016 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the new Mustang - along with its Camaro and Challenger counterparts - and rated it 'good' in all categories except the small overlap test. In that test they rated it acceptable, but with the caveat that most cars only achieve acceptable ratings in this test because it is such a large force concentrated over a small portion of the front of the car. Check it out  below:


The IIHS have four test ratings (best to worst): Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor. The tests they perform are categorised as small overlap, moderate overlap, side impact, roof strength, and head restraint. Note that I don't see ANCAP reporting on their performing of roof strength tests.

To be rated as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS a car needs to be rated as Good in all five tests, and offer a forward collision warning system. Such systems are not required by Australian Design Rules, and in testing by Wheels Magazine for their annual Car Of The Year shootout they note that on most cars that aren't a Mercedes Benz such systems (including AEB) don't function particularly well. You can read that musing (and Jaguar's subsequent rebuttals) here https://www.wheelsmag.com.au/features/1701/autonomous-emergency-braking-misses-the-mark

I'll admit that in the as-tested form, Mustang hasn't scored particularly well in the child safety or pedestrian safety areas. Both of these are potential areas of concern to a potential buyer - I know of a few people who are genuinely considering buying a new Mustang, and all would put children in the back of it. However, to call it unsafe on the basis of ANCAP testing is misleading at best, and slanderous at worst.

12 of a possible 42 points (28.5%) are allocated to technologies that are not required to be fitted under Australian law. There are three points available for seatbelt reminder systems, and the car features both visual and audible warnings - what more can a car do to remind the driver to put on their seatbelt?! What's more is that while 2016 testing of the Mazda MX5 did attain a 3/3 score for this category, there's no indication on how what it did differently. Incidentally the MX5 scored 35.2/37 for its 5 star rating. It wasn't persecuted for a lack of electronic assists that aren't required by law.

As long as the various governments of this fine land continue to believe that speed cameras are the be all and end all of road safety improvements, the only method of road toll reduction is for people to crash ever safer cars. And remember that if you are killed in a car crash, your dog will never understand why you didn't come home. So safe vehicles absolutely matter. How much does safety matter to you? That’s a question only you can answer.

All I ask is that you do your own research before allowing sensationalist headlines to make up your mind for you.



0 #1 Dean Gibson 2017-02-18 11:43
Always a good read Brash. Think you missed you calling mate, should have been in automotive journalism!

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