The new Suzuki Jimny has been hit with a “below average” three-star rating by Australia’s peak automotive safety body - matching the poor score issued by European authorities.
Testing found “structural weaknesses” in the body, the crash-test dummy head “bottomed out” through the airbag and struck the steering wheel, and there were shortcomings with the safety assistance technology.
The first new Suzuki Jimny in 20 years has the necessary safety aids to earn top marks but testing showed they have not been calibrated as effectively as similar systems on other cars.
“The Jimny misses the mark with structural and design weaknesses, poor protection of pedestrians and cyclists, and lack of effective safety aids,” said ANCAP chief executive, James Goodwin.
“Engineers observed a number of issues in the frontal offset test including excessive deformation of the passenger compartment, with penalties applied for loss of structural integrity, steering wheel and pedal intrusion and knee injury risk,” he said.
ANCAP said “insufficient inflation of the driver’s airbag was also observed with the dummy contacting the steering wheel through the airbag, indicating reduced protection in more severe crashes”.
As CarAdvice reported exclusively earlier this year, the Suzuki Jimny’s automatic emergency braking system can be accidentally triggered by a roadside guardrail.
Testing in the US of two separate cars driven several days apart found the Jimny’s AEB tech repeatedly and abruptly applied the brakes mid-corner on bends lined with a metal guardrail. The system thought the Jimny was about to run into a parked vehicle and slammed the brakes even though the road was clear.
“The (crash test) results show that the fundamentals of vehicle safety are still critical, and simply fitting an AEB system is not enough to earn a good rating,” said Mr Goodwin. “While marketed for off-road driving, these vehicles also spend much of their time on regular roads and buyers shouldn’t have to forego safety.”
Suzuki Australia general manager Michael Pachota said: “I’m proud of the Jimny achieving a three-star rating given it is a purpose-built off-roader that can be driven on-road. Inclusions such as crash avoidance technology mean there is less chance of having a crash in the first place.”
The detailed ANCAP report, based on European assessment of a left-hand-drive example, said the autonomous emergency braking system (AEB) showed “good” performance in low speed test scenarios typical of city driving and “adequate” performance at highway speeds, with collisions avoided or mitigated in all scenarios tested.
However, the report added that the AEB technology offered “poor to adequate” performance when detecting pedestrians in daylight, with “overall performance rated weak”.
The crash test authority’s assessments of the Suzuki’s AEB system did not expose the electronic glitch experienced by CarAdvice and other journalists taking part in World Car of the Year testing in November 2018.
While car makers develop technology to operate effectively in a test environment, real-world driving has shown further calibration work may be required on the Jimny’s AEB software. Suzuki says it is still evaluating whether it will make adjustments to its AEB system.
ANCAP said there are more than 100 test scenarios for AEB testing per vehicle.
“It’s a rigorous process but, as with all our criteria, we are always looking at ways to improve and broaden the tests,” said Mr Goodwin.
The Suzuki Jimny, which goes on sale this weekend, meets or exceeds Australian government safety standards.
However the independent Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has become the default vehicle safety standard because government requirements are comparatively low and outdated. For example, government regulations for occupant protection in an offset crash test were last updated 14 years ago, in 2005.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling