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by Tim Beissmann

The Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jaguar XF and Renault Fluence Z.E. electric car have all missed out on the maximum safety rating in the latest round of Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) crash testing.

Five-star NCAP results have become commonplace in recent years for all types of vehicles, though the Grand Cherokee, XF and Fluence Z.E. were awarded only four stars.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee lost marks because of structural issues with the driver’s seat and substandard child occupant protection. During Euro NCAP’s frontal impact test, the driver’s inboard seat rail almost broke in half and was mainly held together by the steel rod that controls fore-aft seat adjustments. The break resulted in additional forward movement of the dummy, causing the airbag to ‘bottom out’ (when the driver’s head makes contact with the steering wheel through the airbag fabric).

Jeep has informed Euro NCAP it is investigating the cause of the seat rail failure and intends to improve the seat track design, but currently has no plans to re-work existing vehicles.

The Grand Cherokee also lost all points for protection of the three-year-old dummy, as its head contacted the trim of the rear door pillar during the frontal impact test.

The Renault Fluence Z.E. underachieved in driver, passenger and pedestrian protection. Like the Jeep, the driver’s airbag bottomed out – in the case of the Renault because there was insufficient pressure in the bag. Renault has informed Euro NCAP it is investigating the issue and intends to make improvements.

The Euro NCAP testing revealed structures of electric Fluence’s dashboard presented a hazard to the knees and femurs of the driver and passenger, while the bonnet provided poor protection for the heads of adult and child pedestrians. The Renault Fluence Z.E. will be available to fleet customers in Canberra in the second quarter of 2012 before going on sale to the public at selected dealers in the final quarter of the year.

The Jaguar XF was already awarded a four-star rating in 2010 but was retested by Euro NCAP to assess the Model Year 2012 upgrade. As the model refresh did not include any structural or internal changes, the results for the frontal, side and pole tests were carried over. Jaguar has improved the active bonnet sensing system and made slight modifications to the bodywork at the front of the car. Euro NCAP said the pedestrian safety results were “noticeably better”, especially for child head protection.

The improved pedestrian results were not enough to improve the XF’s four-star rating however. Structures in the dashboard still pose a risk of injury to front-seat occupants, only “weak” protection is offered for the ribs of passengers in the side pole test, and there is only marginal protection from whiplash in rear-end collisions.

Three other vehicles, including the Geely Emgrand EC7 and the MG6 from China, and the Fiat Panda, also achieved four stars. Euro NCAP secretary general Michael van Ratingen said the four-star results marked a milestone for the Chinese manufacturers.

Eight vehicles achieved the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP’s final test group of the year: Chevrolet Malibu and Volt, Kia Rio, Mercedes-Benz B-Class and C-Class Coupe, Range Rover Evoque, Seat Mii, Skoda Citigo, Subaru XV, and Volkswagen Beetle and Up!.

Euro NCAP made special mention of the Subaru XV and the Volkswagen Beetle, which both scored 90 per cent in the child occupant protection criteria, the maximum score awarded so far for this assessment.




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