ANCAP has this week awarded five stars to a trio of vehicles, but criticised their makers, as well as a host of other brands, for offering higher levels of safety equipment on flagship versions of various models than on the corresponding entry-level versions.
The trio of cars in question are Volkswagen’s upgraded Polo light-car launched this week, which has retained the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating that its pre-facelift model achieved against the easier 2010 testing criteria.
In addition, Australia’s crash-tester published an overdue rating for the 13-month old Lexus IS mid-sizer (interestingly, in the same week as Mercedes-Benz launches it rival C-Class). As you would expect at its $50k-plus price point, the IS also bagged five stars.
Finally, the Japanese premium brand’s recently updated CT200h small hybrid hatchback also attained the maximum five-star score, matching its pre-facelift mark.
However, ANCAP’s chairman Lauchlan McIntosh has at the same time criticised both Volkswagen and Lexus, and a host of other brands, for not offering the same levels of safety equipment on base variants as they do on higher-specified versions of the same car.
Frequently, and some would say understandably — depending on your viewpoint — car brands offer extra active or preventative safety features in extra-cost options packs or exclusively on upper-level equipment grades of each model.
Generally, base versions get the same number of airbags, the same bodyshell rigidity and all the requisite child-seat anchors.
But McIntosh said this week that features such as AEB ought to be standard across a vehicle’s whole line-up, rather than as an option or only on flagship versions.
“Each of these models offer a respectable range of safety assist technologies however, as with a number of other vehicles we've tested recently, we are continuing to see the majority of these important technologies either being withheld from base variants or not available at all.
“If we are to see a significant drop in the number of lives lost on our roads, these technologies need to be provided to all. Safety should not be seen as luxury or added extra.”
The upgraded Polo — stay posted for our first Australian drive this week — picks up safety extras such as an emergency stop signal and secondary brake assist as standard. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB), fatigue detection, radar-guided cruise control (ACC) and reversing collision avoidance are also available, though not on the entry model.
Meanwhile, the IS range (built from April 2013) all have an active bonnet an top whiplash and pedestrian protection scores. However, only more expensive versions get AEB, ACC and blind-spot monitoring.
Finally, the CT200h offers include reversing collision avoidance, an emergency stop signal and a smart key which can be programmed to restrict certain operation of the vehicle, such as maximum speed. However, neither adaptive cruise control or AEB are available on the base version.
Speaking in response to McIntosh's comments, Volkswagen Australia general manager of communications, Karl Gehling, told CarAdvice that it's a simple case of cost for cars like the Polo.
"From ANCAP's perspective, they would like all features available as standard. The market reality is that - particularly in a very price-sensitive segment - technology is not free. There is a price that must be paid. And we have to make a decision based around the customer expectations and what they're willing to pay."
Lexus Australia has also been contacted for comment.
McIntosh last month launched a stinging attack on Nissan for not offering AEB on the Qashqai crossover in Australia, as it does in Europe, calling it "astounding to see yet another mainstream manufacturer de-specify their models for our local market".