The requirements for five-star safety are tougher than ever before, but the new Isuzu D-Max has made the grade.
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The all-new Isuzu D-Max ute is the first ute on sale in Australia to earn a five-star safety rating under new, more stringent criteria.

The 2021 Isuzu D-Max achieved the highest score of a five-star safety rating following the latest round of tests in by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

Although ANCAP does not have the power to ban cars from sale in Australia – and its star ratings are not a legal requirement – the not-for-profit organisation funded by state and federal governments and other agencies has become the default crash test authority for government and business fleets, as well as private buyers.

Prior to ANCAP, car buyers had no way of knowing how the crash safety of vehicles compared to others.

However, since pioneering crash safety scores in 1993, ANCAP has assessed and built-up a catalogue of safety ratings for more than 500 new and used cars.

You can find out the crash safety rating of your car here.

In the latest round of crash test results announced today, the all-new Isuzu D-Max is the first vehicle in its class with a centre airbag, designed to protect front seat occupants from bumping their heads in a severe side impact.

The Isuzu D-Max has one centre airbag, embedded in the inboard cushion of the driver’s seat, while the new Toyota Yaris (whose five-star result was also announced today, click here) has two centre airbags, with one embedded in each front seat cushion.

Centre airbag protection is one of the revised criteria for 2020 that makes it tougher for new models to earn a five-star safety rating.

In addition to offering sufficient protection to occupants during a crash, modern vehicles are also now tested for how well they avoid a collision in the first place.

This includes testing of autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, blind zone warning and rear cross-traffic alert systems in a controlled environment.

The Isuzu D-Max was the first vehicle of any type assessed in Australia against the new criteria, including a side impact test in Sydney's Crashlab to evaluate the level of occupant protection offered by front, side and centre airbags.

The Isuzu D-Max was also one of the first vehicles to undergo dynamic testing of its advanced safety systems, such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, blind zone warning and rear cross-traffic, at a government facility in the central west of NSW.

A former regional airport and runway west of Orange has been overhauled and refurbished so Australian crash test authorities can assess advanced safety systems in a controlled environment – and to world-class standards.

The twin under the skin to the 2021 Isuzu D-Max, the 2021 Mazda BT-50, is yet to be awarded an ANCAP safety rating because the authority is yet to conduct pedestrian impact tests on that vehicle.

However, given the Isuzu and Mazda utes are technically identical except for bodywork, it is expected a five-star rating will be a formality for the new-generation BT-50.

The test data showed the 2021 Isuzu D-Max scored 83 per cent for adult occupant protection (eclipsing the five-star threshold of 80 per cent), 89 per cent for child occupant protection (eclipsing the five-star threshold of 80 per cent), 69 per cent for pedestrian and cyclist protection (eclipsing the five-star threshold of 60 per cent), and 81 per cent for safety assistance technology (eclipsing the five-star threshold of 70 per cent).

However, following a new test which assesses how a car’s size, weight and shape might injure people travelling in a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction, ANCAP noted “the front structure of the Isuzu D-Max presented a higher risk to the occupants of an oncoming vehicle in this test, and the maximum four-point penalty was applied”.

In the same test – driving into a vehicle travelling the opposite direction – the data showed for occupants of the Isuzu D-Max “protection of the driver chest and upper legs was MARGINAL. Protection was ADEQUATE for the passenger chest, and both driver and passenger lower legs. GOOD protection was offered to all other critical body regions”.

Nevertheless, the results make the Isuzu D-Max the safest ute in its class today – and ANCAP says it “resets the benchmark” for commercial vehicle safety in Australia – because the tests are tougher than ever before and the dummies have more detailed data collection.

A statement from ANCAP director of communications and advocacy, Rhianne Robson, said: “The D-Max rating has been highly anticipated by fleet and private buyers, and re-establishes the safety benchmark for the competitive ute segment which has traditionally tended to lag that of passenger cars and SUVs.

“It is reassuring to see manufacturers take responsibility and prioritise safety to provide their customers with the safest vehicles they can,” said Ms Robson.

All 20 models in the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max range – from the cheapest starting at $29,990 drive-away, to the dearest at $58,990 drive-away – come with every available piece of advanced safety technology, including eight airbags, a dual camera autonomous emergency braking system, lane-keeping assistance, blind zone warning and rear cross-traffic alert.