Low safety rating leaves many looking for replacement Steed

By David Thomson on Sat, 29 Apr 2017

For the second time in a few months, sub- standard safety rating for a new motor vehicle has grabbed the motoring-related headlines.

Coincidentally, each of these tests has involved vehicles with an equine theme to their name - the Ford Mustang and Great Wall Steed - being awarded just two out of a possible five stars under either the European or Australian New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) vehicle safety rating system.

A few months ago, Ford's Mustang coupe flunked its test so badly in part because of a new European NCAP requirement that penalisescars not fitted with the latest active safety features, but was also marked down for the level of adult and child occupant protection afforded in an actual crash.

This week, Great Wall's Steed ute was deemed so inadequate in safety terms after being subject to the frontal offset test that the independent ANCAP testers did not even continue their assessment and subject it to the demanding pole impact test.

Here in New Zealand, the Automobile Association then took the unprecedented step of advising potential buyers to avoid the Great Wall Steed. Well aware that its cheap price is a key part of the Steed's appeal, AA motoring services general manager Stella Stocks even said that if price was a key factor for those looking to buy a ute, they would be better off buying a second-hand one with a better safety rating.

A Great Wall Motors spokesman for Australia and New Zealand has declared that the company is disappointed by the result, and that it was ‘‘taking immediate steps'' to try and rectify the situation.

That's probably all that he could say, but given that the Steed is a rework of the previous Great Wall V240 ute, which also stumbled to a two-star crash test result a few years back, it is hard to see what immediate steps can be taken; the Steed's issues surely relate to the strength and design of its fundamental structure, rather than any more easily solvable issues with the detail of its safety equipment specification.

Reflecting on the wider context of the Steed's safety stumble, it is interesting to consider how much our expectations in respect of utes have risen in the past decade or so; whereas we might once have accepted a poor safety rating from such a vehicle, nowadays they are generally expected to achieve to the same safety standards as a conventional car.

By way of example, the Holden Colorado that features in this edition of Drivesouth holds the maximum five-star crash test rating, with a total score of 34.89 out of a possible 37 points. That's more than double the points awarded to Great Wall's ute in its crash test.

Indeed, a five-star test rating is the norm for light commercial utes these days: along with the Colorado, it's the standard also achieved recently by the Isuzu D-Max, and held by the current Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Landcruiser 70-series, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton, VW Amarok and Mazda BT- 50.

Changing tack rather, but sticking with the AA, I'd like to hand a bouquet to the organisation for coming to the rescue over Easter, when my everyday car - a 2007 Honda Accord Euro - was struck down by an electrical problem in Southland. An initial rescue was provided by AA's Bluff agents, Rakiura Motors, within 15 minutes of our calling the AA helpline. A replacement battery got us home to Dunedin but, as Rakiura Motors suspected, there was a more fundamental problem with the car's alternator that the required attention once home.

David Thomson