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The new cars stripped of five-star safety ratings from today

Five-star safety scores for some of Australia’s most popular new cars expire today, but the vehicles are not banned from sale.

Some of Australia’s top-selling new cars will be stripped of their five-star safety ratings from today – ruling them out for fleets which mandate top marks – however the vehicles will remain on sale.

Five-star ratings were created three decades ago to give consumers more detailed information about the varying levels of safety of new cars in showrooms.

Crash tests have consistently shown you cannot determine the true level of safety of a new car based on the number of airbags alone; rather it is how the airbags, the body structure, and other safety systems perform during a crash that can impact – or protect – occupants.

In addition to being a safety guide for consumers, five-star safety ratings have been mandated by fleet operators, mining companies – and businesses big and small – for the better part of a decade due to stricter occupational heath and safety guidelines.

The independent watchdog – the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) – has since introduced six-year expiry dates on safety scores so consumers have a better chance to compare like-for-like results.

Before the expiry dates were introduced, there was nothing to stop car companies advertising a five-star result that was 10 or more years old – alongside a new car that had earned a five-star rating against more recent and more stringent criteria.

The first deadline under the new guidelines – 31 December 2022 – has wiped the oldest safety ratings of more than a dozen new vehicles still on sale in Australia today.

Under the new system which comes into force from today – 1 January 2023 – a five-star safety score is valid for six calendar years (plus the year in which the vehicle was tested) rather than being endless.

Top-selling utes such as the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 are not affected by the change come 31 December 2022 – and the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series is also in the clear – because their five-star safety scores are more recent. There is no ANCAP score for the current-generation Nissan Patrol.

Fleet experts have told Drive five-star scores for work vehicles already in use prior to the expiry date of 31 December 2022 will remain valid – and those vehicles will next year be allowed on worksites with five-star mandates.

However, it remains to be seen whether an identical vehicle delivered from today onwards – 1 January 2023 – will be allowed on sites with five-star mandates.

Car company representatives have told Drive the standard safety equipment on vehicles such as the Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, and Toyota Prado – all of which are popular with fleet companies and mining operators who have five-star safety mandates – has not changed from last year to today.

However, these vehicles will not have a five-star safety score if delivered new from 2023 onwards.

Drive has been told by car company executives that new-model replacements for the Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Prado were due in showrooms by now – avoiding the expiry of the five-star safety scores on the outgoing models.

However, final engineering development on the new model replacements for these vehicles had been delayed over the past two years due to the pandemic.

“While many private and government fleet operators are across the upcoming changes, a lot of contractors to mining sites – or other worksites that have five-star safety mandates – have no idea this is coming,” a fleet industry expert told Drive last year.

“The key point is, even though a vehicle may be technically identical – and still have the same safety features and crash performance – taking delivery in December 2022 versus January 2023 could make all the difference between a vehicle being allowed on site and not.”

Drive is unaware of any major fleet or mining operators considering making an exception to their five-star safety mandate.

“This change has the potential to catch a lot of contractors out. That said, there are still plenty of other brands of vehicles in these categories that do have five-star ratings,” the fleet expert told Drive

A prolonged investigation by Drive since expiry dates were announced in February 2022 repeatedly canvassed affected manufacturers whether they plan to make costly safety upgrades to affected vehicles this late in their model cycle – or persevere with an unrated vehicle until a new model arrives.

To date, no vehicle manufacturer has resubmitted their vehicles to a new round of tests this late in their model lifecycles.

A statement from Nissan Australia said: “Navara vehicles with a build date of January 2023 onwards will no longer be covered by a current ANCAP rating, and the Nissan Navara rating will be expired and the vehicle will be listed as unrated by ANCAP.   

“With seven airbags, fatigue detection, forward collision warning, and emergency braking, the Navara is equipped with features and aids that prioritise the safety of all occupants.”

Dearer versions of the Nissan Navara are also equipped with blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and tyre pressure monitors.

Nissan says it has no plans to remove the advanced safety systems it added last year, even though the vehicle’s safety is now listed as “unrated”.

The boss of Mitsubishi Australia, Shaun Westcott, told Drive: “We continue to strive for the most appropriate level of safety for the market. The reality, though, is that we are in the process of reviewing our model line-up and a new Triton is in development.

“Unfortunately for us, (the five-star safety expiry) changes came in late in the lifecycle of the current Triton and … the next-generation Triton was delayed due to COVID.”

Mitsubishi Australia has three models impacted by the five-star safety score expiry – the Triton ute, its Pajero Sport four-wheel-drive wagon sibling, and the ASX city SUV.

“The bottom line is, our cars are as safe the day after the ANCAP score expires as the day before. We have not removed any technology from our vehicles,” said Mr Westcott.

Crash test ratings from 2015 and earlier, expired 31 December 2022:

  • Toyota Prado, tested 2011, five stars
  • Volkswagen Amarok, tested 2011, five stars
  • Mitsubishi Triton, tested 2015, five stars
  • Nissan Navara, tested 2015, five stars
  • Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, tested 2015, five stars
  • Mitsubishi ASX, tested 2014, five stars
  • Mazda 2, tested 2015, five stars
  • Mazda CX-3, tested 2015, five stars
  • Suzuki Vitara, tested 2015, five stars
  • LDV G10 van, tested 2015, three stars
  • LDV V80 van, tested 2013, three stars
  • Suzuki S-Cross, tested 2013, five stars (vehicle discontinued from showrooms; the score applied to the 2013 to 2022 model only, not the recent facelift)
  • VW Passat, tested 2015, five stars
  • Mini Cooper, tested 2014, four stars
  • BMW i3, tested 2014, five stars (vehicle discontinued from showrooms)
  • Alfa Romeo Giulietta, tested 2011, five stars (vehicle discontinued from showrooms)
  • Fiat 500, tested 2008, five stars

Crash test ratings from 2016, expiring at the end of 2023:

  • Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series cab-chassis, tested 2016, five stars
  • Mazda CX-9, tested 2016, five stars
  • Mazda MX-5, tested 2016, five stars
  • Jeep Cherokee, tested 2016, five stars (vehicle discontinued from showrooms)

Crash test ratings from 2017, expiring at the end of 2024:

  • LDV T60 Ute, tested 2017, five stars
  • LDV D90 SUV, tested 2017, five stars
  • Suzuki Swift, tested 2017, five stars
  • MG ZS, tested 2017, four stars
  • Hyundai i30, tested 2017, five stars
  • Jeep Compass, tested 2017, five stars
  • Kia Rio and Kia Stonic, tested 2017, five stars

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for more than 10 years.

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