How to understand vehicle-safety ratings

Stars and cars
by Ferman Lao | Jan 30, 2011

Hi, Ferman!

My wife and I are torn between buying a sedan (a Toyota Altis G) and a pickup truck (Mitsubishi Strada GL). As the vehicle would become our family car, safety is one of our main considerations. We'd appreciate if you can provide your inputs regarding:

1. the impact of a vehicle's height on safety;
2. the impact of a vehicle's platform on safety (do pickups have a more robust platform?); and
3. the impact of a vehicle's height and type of platform rank among the other safety items (EBD, airbag, etc.)?

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Myron

Hi, Myron!

There is no right answer your question since you are comparing two different vehicle types that aren't rated equally in terms of safety. The New Car Assessment Program ratings that are employed and often quoted in advertisement materials rate a particular vehicle's safety only in relation to or compared with similar vehicles in terms of size and vehicle weight.

A 5-star Euro NCAP rating for an Altis for example isn't going to be directly comparable to the rating for the Strada. It would only be comparable to those in the same vehicle class as the Altis in the same manner as the NCAP rating for the Strada will only be comparable to other pickups.

I believe the Altis received a 5-star rating while the Strada was given a 4-star--both being relative to other vehicles in their respective classes.

As far as robustness is concerned, a pickup will be more robust given that it's designed to take more punishment in terms of heavy load carrying capabilities. It's this same characteristic that will allow it to be a bit more durable for a given patch of rough road than the Altis would be. Be aware that this comes at the expense of occupant comfort. The Altis naturally will be more comfortable at the cost of being a little less durable on the same rough roads.

Continue reading below ↓

If it's going to be your family car, you may want to be more concerned about long-term passenger comfort and long-term driver comfort, which affects one's ability to control the vehicle. Consequently, having a well-controlled vehicle increases one's level of safety.

Here's my advice: test drive both vehicles on roads you will normally be taking on a regular basis. Decide how much you're willing to give up in creature comforts to gain a little more vehicle "robustness." Decide how much cargo space you really need. Decide the level of compromise your willing to accept from either vehicle. Answer both objectively and you'll know which vehicle to buy. For all you know your answer may actually lead you to a different vehicle altogether.

Best regards,

Ferman Lao
Technical editor

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