What does it take to earn a top rating from the industry’s safety testers? We take a look at results from Alfa Romeo and Audi.
Thanks to advances in safety equipment, a 5-star rating in the Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) crash test is a lot less unusual than it used to be. There’s also little doubt that manufacturers quickly cottoned on to the methods needed to score highly in the Euro NCAP’s testing regimen. Even so, the Giulietta’s 87/100 score ranks it the safest compact ever, says Alfa Romeo.
The fact is, the testing authority has raised the bar. Originally it broadly looked at injury to occupants in certain defi ned areas. Over time, the focus narrowed to Adult Occupant, Child Occupant and Pedestrian Protection. Since last year, the assessment areas have included Safety Assist. The widely spread net now even covers active safety functions ranging from seat belt reminders to stability control and speed limiters.
And that focus is going to get tighter year by year. Still, according to Alfa Romeo, its Giulietta rating (97 per cent Adult Occupant, 85 per cent Child Occupant, 63 per cent Pedestrian Protection and 86 per cent Safety Assist) will be good enough to ensure it of a 5-star rating even in 2012, when the current system’s testing scheme reaches peak rigorousness.
What makes the Giulietta score so highly? Its active systems include Vehicle Dynamic Control system, which manages key functions, such as Hill Holder, traction control and assisted panic braking; MSR, which prevents wheel locking when the throttle is released; DST (Dynamic Steering Torque); Electronic Q2, which electronically “simulates” a locking differential; and Prefi ll system, which primes the braking system once the accelerator pedal has been released.
Even further down the road towards prevention, the car has daytime running lights activated at engine switch-on – complying with a European regulation slated for 2012. At the rear, the LED taillights are brighter than the usual type, and should last much longer.
Added to that were thousands of hours of virtual simulations and hundreds of actual prototype tests on the vehicle’s structure. The resulting controlled, uniform deformation – irrespective of what kind of obstacle the car hits – improve the way the passive safety and retaining devices work. Speaking of which, passive protection includes six airbags (two multistage), three-point seatbelts with double pretensioners and load limit limiters and second-generation active whiplash-limiting head restraints.
Audi A4 and Q5
Among other things, it takes the ability to withstand a rollover force equal to at least four times the vehicle’s weight to earn the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick rating.
The IIHS, which conducts crash tests on behalf of the US insurance industry to help set safety standards, added this requirement as part of a stringent new rollover roof strength test for 2010. And, having earned the Institute’s Top Safety Pick rating for its A4 and Q5, Audi says it now has the most ratings of this type among German luxury manufacturers in the USA.
Like its Euro NCAP equivalent, the Top Safety Pick acknowledges the infl uence of stability control systems in addition to its assessment of front, side and rear crash protection. Only vehicles that earn the highest rating of “good” in all of these areas get Top Pick status.
From 2010, the roof strength test involves pushing a metal plate against one corner of a vehicle’s roof at a constant speed. Measurements are taken of the maximum force applied to crush the roof by 12,5 cm, and that force is compared with the vehicle’s weight. The resulting fi gure gives the strength-toweight ratio, which gives an indication of structural protection in a rollover. To be rated good, that ratio has to be at least 4:1.