Check it out

The autonomous car has come to South Africa and Cape Town drivers may spot the S-Class Mercedes-Benz on roads in and around the city until the end of January.

Road traffic in South Africa presents some special challenges with different road surfaces, wildlife on rural roads and many pedestrians in the city as well as in the interurban traffic who often cross lanes completely unexpectedly.

Automated and autonomous vehicles have to be aware of these peculiarities and respond in a reliable manner. In the fourth leg of the Mercedes-Benz Intelligent World Drive, the test vehicle – based on the current S-Class series-production saloon – is facing up to South Africa’s idiosyncrasies with automated test drives on the roads of the Western Cape and in the city of Cape Town.

Mercedes-Benz started the Intelligent World Drive at the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in September to adapt more highly automated driving functions to national traffic and user practices. The aim is to gather global insights into real-life traffic conditions for the advancement of the technologies.

As part of this, up until January 2018 the test vehicle is collecting comprehensive information in a variety of complex traffic situations on five continents and in doing so is sounding out the limitations of the current systems.

The focus of the test drives on the Western Cape is on pedestrian detection in many unfamiliar situations in particular, both in dense city traffic as well as on rural roads. Furthermore, the test vehicle based on the S-Class is collecting information for detecting road signs specific to the country, validating the digital map material of HERE MAPS and testing out a prototype of the innovative light system DIGITAL LIGHT.

In the extremely dense urban traffic in Cape Town, driving is truly a precision task – particularly in narrow streets, where the pavements are mostly overflowing with parked cars on both sides. But even on national roads outside of towns, and on the motorway too, drivers always have to expect to encounter crossing pedestrians.

Cameras and radar systems have to detect passers-by and interpret their movement correctly so that the vehicle can react within milliseconds in the event of an emergency.

 Further special features include traffic signs, which are only found in the 15 Member States of the Southern African Development Community, such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana or the Seychelles.

For example, the no stopping sign shows a crossed-out letter ‘S’ in a red circle, while the sign for no entry is made up of two black horizontal bars in a red circle. In addition, the road traffic signs in South Africa are often incomplete.

Intersections where you have to stop are not always indicated by a stop sign – in some cases they only have wide, white lines across the road surface. Warning signs before the commonly-found speed bumps are also not always present, or are positioned close to the obstacle that there is insufficient time to react.

The lack of signs presents a major challenge for the performance of the camera and radar systems as well as the quality of the digital maps, which enable automated driving functions such as the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adjustment to function reliably.

Validating the latest digital map material from HERE, particularly with regard to intersections where the vehicle would need to stop and traffic obstructions such as speed bumps, is therefore a particular focus of the test drives on the Western Cape.

 In addition to the features specific to the country, Mercedes-Benz is testing a headlamp prototype featuring the innovative DIGITAL LIGHT technology. This is because light equally has a central role to play on the road to automated and autonomous mobility.

The non-dazzle continuous high beam in HD quality uses chips with over one million micro-mirrors, and therefore pixels, per headlamp. As such it achieves ideal light distribution in any driving situation – without dazzling other road users.

Furthermore, this  lighting system makes functions possible that were unveiled as a vision of the future in the F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle in early 2015. Among other things it is able to project light corridors onto the road in order to communicate with its surroundings.

In the past seven years, Mercedes-Benz has conducted 5 100 test drives around the world with 175 test vehicles for validations of driver assistance systems in the field alone. The majority of these have taken place as part of near-launch road trials.

The performance of the driver assistance systems has been assessed some 9,5-million kilometres in Europe, the USA, China, Australia and South Africa, and more than 1,2-million measurements have been made in real-life traffic situations in particular for their continuous enhancement.

 

 

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Road Impressions – Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 3.0D VX-L

Change, they say, is as good as a holiday. While it is often unwise to question the wisdom of those wiser than ourselves, change often comes at a price.

Stepping back in time a little there once was the Toyota Land Cruiser presented in a range spanning several models, specifications and engines with the behemoth VX at the top of the pile. Although technically a Land Cruiser, the original Prado stood to one side, different enough for most people not to even realise it was family and to identify it simply as the Prado.

Now, there is the Land Cruiser 200, two models from many and the Prado with five variations. Land Cruiser is the most widely available model in the global Toyota product range – being sold in more than 190 countries worldwide.

That is not the major change. This comes in the fact the Prado is now bulked up and loses its niche slot along with the cuteness of the previously much smaller – and often – more practical offering especially for those only intending the thrill of parking lot kerb crawling.

Indeed, I parked my test Prado at the airport, deliberately choosing a spot between two other large size SUVs and really battled to open the door to get out! (Admittedly, the designers of most parking lots appear to have to share a single brain cell between them).

Parking lots aside, the new Prado is truly a formidable beast and would probably climb a vertical wall if pressed to do so.

I just think Toyota could have kept the status quo with Prado a smaller, high-end version of the Land Cruiser family.

The overall length is now 5 010 mm, width 1 885 mm, wheelbase 2 790 and height 1 880 mm and it has a GVM of 2,9 ton – so, certainly no midget.

The Prado range traditionally consisted of two grades, the mid-level TX and high-grade VX. For the first time, a new third grade, called VX-L has been added to the model line-up that combines all the features of the VX whilst adding a power-operated tilt-and-slide moon roof and comprehensive active safety assistance package to the mix.

The exterior design of the new Prado is unmistakeably Land Cruiser and maintains the core strengths of that brand in providing practicality, with headlamps and cooling openings positioned to maximise protection and wading depth, durability, with the powertrain and all functional parts well protected and capability, with a tight turning circle and generous ground clearance, essential for the most demanding off-road driving conditions.

The bonnet has been shaped to improve downward visibility at the centre and it is sandwiched by the sides of the bumper to help protect the engine bay. The corners of the lower part of the bumper have integral fog lamps and kick upwards, while the centre section is shaped like a skid plate for easier manoeuvring off-road.

The top section of the wings has been raised so that it is easier for the driver to pinpoint the vehicle’s extremities.

The front grille apertures have been made as large as possible for optimum engine cooling, while the headlamp main beams are positioned inboard to avoid damage when driving off-road.

In keeping with Land Cruiser Prado heritage, the grille itself features broad vertical bars with slit-shaped cooling openings, finished in chrome. The headlamp clusters comprise high and low beams, front turn indicators and daytime running lights, contained in a distinctive housing. VX-L models feature high brightness LED units. All models have LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and fog lamps, in addition to automatic light control system, as standard.

Ground clearance is 215 mm, with 31-degree approach, 25-degree departure and 22-degree ramp break-over angles.

VX and VX-L derivatives ride on 18-inch wheels and tyres and it comes with an 87-litre fuel tank.

New elements at the rear include a redesigned lamp cluster (featuring two stacked C-shapes) with an LED stop light, a smaller rear garnish plate and a restyled bumper.

I was unable to join colleagues on the official launch activation where the new Prado took on Sani Pass, the mightiest of all South African mountain roads but based on Instagram and Twitter activity coming from the event, it appeared Prado turned this into a ‘doddle’.

My own off-road test route is far less scenic, but has a few good really technical sections and the advantage of repeatability in terms of comparing like vehicles against each other.

At a few Rand short of R1-million for the VX-L, this route is significantly more strenuous than the average owner is likely to choose for such a luxury vehicle – a sad reality for most SUV sales with massive ability unrealised by equally massive under use.

How good is the new Prado? Well, if the ‘Crawl’ function is activated, the clever systems in the car will analyse and assess the obstacle, deciding how much power is needed at each wheel and move the car along with a perfect combination of throttle and brake.

All that is left for the driver is to steer – and, possibly, to die of boredom.

I cannot fault the technology but it does take all the fun out of off-road driving.

Inside, he top of the centre console tower has been set lower (by 25 mm) for a sleeker appearance and better front-on visibility when driving off-road. It is fitted with a new 8-inch, full-colour multimedia screen, a flush-fitting air-conditioning control panel and the drivetrain-related instrument cluster.

The controls for driving and comfort functions are located in separate panels for ease of use, positioned behind a new, leather-trimmed gear lever. They include switches to operate new integrated heating and ventilation for the front seats.

The redesigned instrument binnacle has a four-gauge layout with precision Optitron (high-definition backlit) meters with a metallic base panel and polished dials with raised scale markings. The meters flank a 4,2-inch TFT colour multi-information display (VX and VX-L) which presents comprehensive vehicle and infotainment data, controlled using switches on the steering wheel.

The top-tier VX and VX-L models are outfitted with Satellite Navigation and an enhanced surround-view Multi Terrain Monitor camera system, which also includes Panoramic and overhead view modes.

The standard convenience specification list includes automatic dual-zone climate control, audio system, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, illuminated entry, cruise control, park distance control, keyless entry, three power outlets, Bluetooth connectivity, USB, 3rd row seating and reverse camera.

High-grade models add memory function for the driver’s seat, a 14-speaker Premium audio system with woofer, multi-information display, power tilt-and-telescopic steering adjustment, rain-sensing wipers and power-fold-down 3rd row seats.

 The VX-L retains the 3.0 D-4D engine, offering 120 kW and 400 Nm available between 1 600 r/min and 2 800 r/min. This is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission with gear ratios optimised for low-speed tractability and off-road use.

All Prado models feature Toyota’s Active Traction Control system (A-TRAC), which actively regulates wheel-slip, by directing torque to the wheel with the most traction. The system is capable of applying braking pressure to wheels individually to maximise traction. A low-range transmission with user-selectable rear and centre diff-locks and Hill Assist Control (HAC), naturally forms part of the standard ensemble.

The Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) system (VX and VX-L only), operated by a centrally mounted rotary knob, allows the driver to select the correct mode depending on the ‘road’ ahead. The system has five pre-configured modes (mud & sand, loose rock, mogul, rock & dirt and rock), to tailor the vehicle’s traction control, transmission characteristics, power delivery and suspension settings to the terrain at hand. Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is included on VX and VX-L models.

VX-L grade versions of the new 2017 Prado are equipped with Toyota Safety Sense active technologies to help prevent accidents from happening, or mitigating the consequences if an impact does occur.

The package includes a Pre-Collision System (PCS) with pedestrian detection function, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and Automatic High Beam (AHB).

Further driver support is provided in the form of a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (both VX and VX-L) and an upgraded tyre pressure warning system – with digital read out in the multi-information display.

These active safety systems complement the standard seven air bags and comprehensive brake and stability control systems  and all Land Cruiser Prado models include a 5-year/90 000 kilometre service plan and 3-year/100 000 kilometre warranty.

Not particularly significant in terms of its market positioning but the VX-L will amble off from rest to reach 100 km/h in 12,1 seconds and reach a terminal velocity of 171 km/h. CO2 emissions are 224 g/km and Toyota claims an overall fuel consumption of 8,5 l/100 km.

My own experience – highway, rural and urban – came closer to 9,2 l/100 km, still an acceptable figure considering the overall mass of the vehicle.

On the road, it is hugely comfortable and, despite the size, easy to drive with the changes to the front improving vital visibility – augmented by the wide choice of exterior camera options. It is not a great fan of sudden directional changes at speed but has no really bad habits and, as mentioned, will probably scale a vertical wall if correctly cajoled.

Firing on all cylinders

A business icon in the Eastern Cape community of Port Elizabeth, the Ford engine plant at Struandale has produced 3,3-million engines since 1964 – and is gearing up for increased volumes.

This month, the Struandale Engine Plant assembled its 500 000th Duratorq TDCi turbo-diesel engine since the program was launched in 2011 for the new Ford Ranger, which is built at Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria and exported to 148 markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Ford has a long history in Port Elizabeth, having started its operations in the city in 1923. The Struandale Engine Plant has been a cornerstone of Ford’s South African legacy, evolving continuously over the past 53 years to become a regional centre of excellence for the Ranger engine export program.

“Reaching 500 000 Duratorq TDCi engines, and a cumulative 3,3-million engines since 1964, is a fantastic achievement for the Struandale Engine Plant which competes with some of the best Ford plants in the world,” says Ockert Berry, vice president of Operations, Ford Middle East and Africa. “It is one of the Eastern Cape’s top exporters, contributing to the success of the automotive industry and its supplier network in the region.”

Fully assembled 2,2-litre four-cylinder and 3,2-litre five-cylinder Duratorq TDCi engines are supplied to the Silverton Assembly Plant for installation in the locally-built Ford Ranger pick-up and the seven-seater Ford Everest SUV.

Engines are also exported to India and China to support their production of the Ford Everest, along with five-cylinder units being shipped to North America for the Ford Transit. A total of 34 engine derivatives are produced for the various vehicle applications.

Along with its assembly operations, the Struandale Engine Plant also machines components for the Duratorq TDCi engines, comprising the cylinder head, block and crankshaft, which are used for local engine assembly, as well as export to Ford engine plants in Argentina and Thailand. More than 1,3-million component sets have been produced since 2011.

“Due to its unprecedented global success, demand continues to grow, both locally and internationally for the Ford Ranger,” Berry states. “Accordingly, we have invested R3-billion for both product and capacity related actions to accommodate the increasing market volumes for the Ranger in South Africa and our export markets.

“The Struandale Engine Plant already achieved its highest-ever volumes for component machining and engine assembly during 2017, and we expect to set new records again in 2018,” he adds. “The R3-billion investment reaffirms Ford’s ongoing commitment to South Africa as a local manufacturer, exporter and key employer in the automotive sector, supporting a large number of direct jobs as well as indirect employment through our extensive supplier base.”

Additionally, Ford is preparing for the launch of the first-ever Ranger Raptor.

“The Ford Ranger is already one of South Africa’s best-selling vehicles, and we’re exceptionally proud to confirm that this highly anticipated performance model will be assembled in South Africa from 2019,” says Dr Casper Kruger, managing director of Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region.

“This is yet another fantastic achievement for our local team, and signals our ability to produce world-class products of the highest calibre.”

As an exciting new addition to the Ford Performance family, the Ford Ranger Raptor is a purpose-built, desert-racing inspired model that builds on the unrivalled heritage of Ford Performance’s legendary F-150 Raptor, the world’s most extreme production pickup.

Designed and engineered to deliver an adrenaline-pumping driving experience, the Ford Ranger Raptor sports a head-turning exterior look that exudes toughness as well as a level of capability and off-road performance never before seen in this segment.

 

 

Keeping power

Tis the season! Time when many South Africans will maximise their fun in the sun by heading out into the bush or lesser populated spaces to camp.

Communing with nature is wonderful but there are some things even the most intrepid bush whacker does not want to do without. One of these is power.

The batteries don’t only have to power your vehicle – there are those accessories that are necessities such as a fridge and lights – which is where Charging Systems Africa (CSAF) comes in.

The Projecta IDC25 ‘Intelli-Charge’ 25A 9-32V, 3 Stage DC/Solar Battery Charger, designed and manufactured in Australia and distributed locally by CSAF, provides a host of intelligent features for safer and more reliable charging than its competitors.

A key feature is the unit’s ability to charge simultaneously from both solar and alternator (9-32V) inputs without the need to manually switch from one power source to the other.

The IDC25 can also function as an MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar controller up to 25A, maximising the power generated from solar panels.

And, when operating on vehicle power, the unit offers dual charging modes for compatibility with both ‘smart’ and conventional alternators, making it ideal for use in just about every vehicle.

For greater flexibility, the charger supports multi-chemistry batteries including GEL, AGM, WET and Calcium.  As an added bonus, the unit has periodic equalisation capability to remove acid stratification from calcium batteries.

Assisting the IDC25’s performance is an over temperature protection function, which sees the charger automatically adjust its output based on battery temperature. This allows the unit to operate (at a reduced charge rate) in extreme temperatures of up to 80° C without damaging the battery.

“Other safeguards include over and under voltage protection, which shuts down the charger if voltage problems are detected, and spark-free protection which prevents the charging process from beginning unless the load is securely connected,” says Guido Brouwers, Sales and Marketing Director.

“These features prevent accidental damage to batteries and when combined with the unit’s in-built reverse connection protection, provide an extremely safe and robust product well suited to the rigours of long distance touring and off road applications.”

It will also not impact on your vehicle’s performance – such as fuel economy. The IDC25 can be wired to the vehicle ignition, allowing it to operate only when the ignition is turned on.

This ignition connection also enables a ‘low input operation’ mode, for compatibility with modern smart (variable voltage) alternators.

Further aiding the IDC25’s performance and longevity is its sturdy construction which makes it shock, vibration and dust-proof. Sealed to IP67, the unit is also water resistant, making it ideal for both in-vehicle and under-bonnet installation.

If mounted under the bonnet, included in the package is additional wiring to set-up an in-cabin LED indicator to remotely display charging and fault status. Also assisting installation is labelled and pre-wired cabling.

The Projecta ICD25 Charger is backed by a 2-year warranty and can be purchased at leading automotive and four wheel drive outlets.  For a stockist closest to you contact Charging Systems Africa.

The RSP of the Projecta ICD25 Charger is R4 445 (incl VAT).

Prototype power

Imagine 530 horsepower generated from a mighty Chev LF3 6,2-litre V8 engine propelling a car weighing just 900 kilograms – that is the treat in store for race fans at Kyalami on Saturday when Johannesburg racer Simon Murray debuts his new Ginetta G57 Prototype.

The car will run in the one-hour Endurance Race and will then compete in all events on the SA Endurance Racing calendar for 2018.

Murray won the local championship in 2016 driving a 2,0-litre Ligier but says his lifelong love of sports car racing meant owning a sports porotype was a ‘bucket list’ item. He ran a couple of races locally in 2017 in a Lamborghini Gallardo and then did three events in Europe in the Ginetta he has now brought to South Africa.

“I needed to find a car that was fully compliant with the latest FIA safety specifications and was powerful enough and fast enough to be a front runner at every one of the tracks we race locally,” he says. “Finally, it had to be reliable and easy to maintain, and the Ginetta satisfied all of those requirements.”

Ginetta is an independently owned UK based road and race car manufacturer offering a wide range of cars for different categories of racing and specialises in designing the technology around privateer racing.

An investment banker by profession and former co-head of Rand Merchant Bank, Murray has secured the services of Stuart Thompson to oversee the preparation of the car, adding: “Ginetta are sending a couple of the factory engineers to Kyalami to help with the setup and to bring Stuart up to speed.

“This is really exciting, and to put it into perspective, the car is faster than the current LMP3 cars in the World Endurance Championship and about the same as last year’s LMP2 cars. It is spectacular.”

Road Impressions – Nissan X-Trail 2.5 Acenta CVT 4WD

Initial impressions of a motor vehicle can be quite a powerful emotion and long lasting, almost like a young duckling imprinting on its mother for the first time.

And so it was with the first iteration of the Nissan X-Trail. What I liked most of all was the fact the actual front corners of the vehicle were visible, whatever the seating position, a like emphasised as we put it through its paces on the launch activation by driving off-road in situations most owner would never contemplate.

The latest version, launched in South Africa in October this year, stays true to that, even though the overall shape has modernised and rounded out somewhat from the original ‘brick’ design to become what designers would probably refer to as svelte.

X-Trail is a medium size SUV competing in a rather busy and cutthroat market segment. X-Trail garnered significant support and many thought Nissan had shot itself in its own foot when it introduced the more luxurious Murano and followed this by the smaller Qashqai, both of which seemed pretty direct competition for the X-Trail.

At that time, the X-Trail itself had ‘softened’ slightly in terms of looks to be rather a morphed cousin to the other two. Locally, Murano did not last all that long, giving back to the X-Trail in terms of size, while Qashqai continues happily in its smaller sibling role.

The latest iteration of X-Trail brings in a raft of new technology under the Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) banner as well as offering the option of a seven-seat configuration.

Including the USA, where the car is badged Rogue, some 3,7-million have been sold since the first Nissan X-Trail was launched in 2000. It is also a record-breaker. Including Rogue sales, in FY16 the X-Trail was the world’s most popular SUV, with 766 000 vehicles sold – more than any other rival model.

The Nissan X-Trail has always been known for its sculpted and muscular styling, with chiselled lines, high wheel arches and elegant curves on the bonnet. All of those characteristics remain, and are now showcased through a distinctive and robust redesign of the front end, adding a new dynamism and more premium styling cues.

At its heart is Nissan’s latest ‘V-motion’ grille, wider than before and echoed in the design of the bumper beneath. The redesign makes much greater use of the X-Trail’s body colour, with the visible black plastic benefiting from a smart new gloss black finish.

On either side of the grille are new headlamp clusters, with much clearer design differentiation between the halogen units on Visia and Acenta and feature the latest version of the X-Trail’s ‘boomerang’ Daytime Running Light signature.

At the rear of the new X-Trail, the bumper has been redesigned and the rear lamp signature has been upgraded to become full LED, while the parking sensors are improved, as at the front of the car.

The upgrades have resulted in a slight change to the overall length of the car – an increase of 50 mm means it is now 4 690 mm from bumper to bumper. There is no change to the new X-Trail’s width (1 830 mm), height (1 710 mm) or wheelbase (2 705mm).

Inside, the new steering wheel is the first thing drivers will notice. It echoes the design of Nissan’s newest models globally and is standard across the X-Trail range. Now D-shaped, the horizontal base means easier entry and exit for the driver, as well as providing a sportier look and feel.

The new X-Trail has a redesigned central armrest storage area and models with the XTronic automatic transmission, the gear selector has been restyled and features a new leather-style gaiter.

The boot on the new X-Trail is larger than before. Thanks to improved packaging, VDA capacity is up from 550 litres to 565 litres on the five-seat version with all seats in place. Total space with all seats folded flat increases to 1 996 litres.

Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) highlights include Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention that alerts the driver to the presence of vehicles in blind spots diagonally behind the car, Intelligent Lane Intervention and Intelligent Cross Traffic Alert that can detect and warn the driver of vehicles that are approaching behind the X-Trail.

Intelligent Emergency Braking uses radar technology to keep an eye on speed and proximity to the vehicle in front and will alert the driver before engaging the brakes. Intelligent Forward Collision Warning helps alert drivers of an impending collision with a slower moving or stationary car. Intelligent Auto Headlights and Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection – a support technology that assists drivers to park more easily by providing a better understanding of the vehicle’s surroundings.

I have never been a great fan of CVT gearboxes and, despite the fact the Xtronic unit fitted to the X-Trail ranks amongst the better ones, I still believe a ‘proper’ automatic gearbox would be a far better proposition, especially off-road if you intend to try and finesse the throttle without dropping into manual mode.

The 2 488 cm3 four-cylinder petrol engine producing 126 kW at 6 000 r/min and 233 Nm at 4 000 r/min produces 197 g/km of CO2 and has an average fuel consumption that can be contained to 8,6 l/100 km in normal conditions.

Power and torque are more than ample for what this X-Trail is designed for and, unlike some petrol models, there is not a black hole of zero torque below that peak efficiency of 4 000 r/min.

Driver options are standard two-wheel drive, Auto and four-wheel drive locked, with the former sending power to the front wheels. The Auto option is quick on the uptake and efficiently provides drive to the rear the instant any slippage is detected at the front.

Locked in all-wheel drive, the X-Trail outperforms its looks and, like that first generation I drove, can take on quite demanding rough roads and obstacles bigger than a shopping centre kerb.

The front suspension consists of an independent strut type with stabiliser bar backed up by a multi-link setup with stabiliser at the rear.

Ride quality is good both on and off road with the seats supportive and comfortable over long distance – naturally the full air-conditioning dealing with ambient temperature and the upgraded sound system laying down whatever beats move the occupants.

Fully kitted with anti-lock brakes, multiple air bags, stability and traction control along with the other previously mentioned systems, the X-Trail offers latest generation safety (active and passive) to mitigate injury in the event of a crash.

The X-Trail remains and icon in its segment – and rightly so.

Crash tests reveal flaws

The eye-opening results of the first crash test of popular South African compact and small cars may just tweak a nerve among car buyers and persuade them to put safety specification at the top of the must have list when considering a new car.

The crash tests of the VW Polo Vivo. The Datsun Go+, Toyota Etios, Renault Sandero and Chery QQ3 formed part of the launch of #SaferCarsforAfrica, a joint venture between the AA South African and Global NCAP, the internationally respected vehicle testing authority – that now gains its first ‘footprint’ in Africa.

The crashworthiness results of the five cars tested show a wide range of safety performance, from four to zero stars for adult protection, with the lowest ratings resulting in a high probability of life threatening injury in a road crash.

Combined sales of the five cars account for around 65% of all the new cars sold in South Africa last year.

Global NCAP chose the entry-level version of each model and as a result one of them was not fitted with air bags as standard. The results highlight differences in the structural integrity of the vehicles tested.

Lauchlan McIntosh, Chairman of Global NCAP, says: “In 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a road safety resolution, which recognised the important role NCAPs play as a catalyst for improving vehicle safety standards.

“The UN has sought to encourage the spread of NCAPs across the regions and automotive markets of the World and today, in Cape Town, I am delighted Global NCAP is helping to achieve that goal with the launch of the first ever crashworthiness programme for cars sold in Africa. Global NCAP has provided assistance to launch similar programmes in South America, India and the ASEAN region, programmes which have led to the delivery of safer cars into those markets over the last five years.”

The results for the Chery QQ and Datsun Go+ were less than exemplary, with the former scoring zero and the latter just scraping through.

It is almost unbelievable in this day and age, there are any vehicles still sold without a basic mimimum of dual front air bags and anti-lock braking – especially in a country that kills dozens of people every day in car crashes.

South Africa has one of the poorest road safety records in the world and Government is snail-like in its approach with pretty much everything it does heavily focused on how much money it will generate for state or municipal coffers.

Admittedly there is a disparity in society with thousands still living below the breadline and juggling the need to achieve upliftment to personal mobility and keeping people safe is not an easy task.

Car ownership is not a right. It is a privelige and an expensive one.

However, allowing 10 and 12 year old ‘clunkers’ and new cars that do not have proper safety basics on the road is simply unacceptable – the problem being all too often people have the attitude road safety is something for other people.

Wrong! It does not matter how well you think you can drive, your chances of meeting up with someone who cannot is very likely. Driving an unsafe car will kill you.

Collins Khumalo, CEO of the AA of South Africa says: “The crash tests represent an important step in road safety in South Africa. We believe consumers have a right to know what the safety ratings are on the cars they want to buy.

“These results are critical to educating the public about vehicle safety, but, more than that, they empower road users to make informed decisions. In the same way emissions and green ratings are displayed on vehicles, we think safety ratings should also be displayed on vehicles, and we do not believe this should be too much of a challenge to make happen.

“The involvement of Global NCAP, the FIA Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies in bringing these results to Africa, indicates how seriously our partners view road safety, and it is incumbent on us, as South Africans, to consider road, and vehicle safety, in the same way.”

David Ward, Secretary General of Global NCAP added: “It is good to see a four star result in these first ever African crash test ratings. However, it is extremely disappointing there is a zero star car. Such a poor result shows why it is so important for countries such as South Africa to fully apply the UN’s crash test standards.

“Consumers need clear, comparative crash test information to help inform their car purchase decisions. This is why Global NCAP supports the introduction of mandatory crash test labelling for all new cars sold in South Africa.”

The Results

Global NCAP has awarded a separate child safety rating to each car in order to highlight the different levels of protection vehicles provide to passengers on the rear seats. Because the only safe way for young children to travel is properly restrained in a child seat, the assessment checks how compatible the car is with the child seats recommended by the manufacturer, as well as the protection provided in the crash test.

In the assessments, some of the child seats recommended by manufacturers were found to be incompatible with their vehicle’s belt system. In the Polo Vivo, Chery QQ3 and Datsun GO+ there was no three-point seatbelt on the rear centre seats and no way to safely install a child seat or transport a small child safely in that seating position. Only the Toyota Etios and Renault Sandero offer Standard ISOFIX anchorages for the outboard rear positions and three-point seatbelt for all passengers facilitating minimum conditions to safely install a child seat.

Toyota Etios

The Etios achieved a four star rating for adult occupant protection in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h. The vehicle structure was rated as stable, offering good general adult occupant protection. The car included seatbelts with pretensioners for both front passengers. Using the child seats recommended by Toyota, the Etios achieved a three star rating for child occupant protection.

Renault Sandero

The Sandero achieved a three star rating for adult occupant protection in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h. The vehicle structure was rated as stable, offering acceptable general adult occupant protection. The car did not include seatbelt pretensioners. Using the child seats recommended by Renault, the Sandero achieved a four star rating for child occupant protection.

Volkswagen Polo Vivo

The Polo Vivo achieved a three star rating for adult occupant protection in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h. The vehicle structure was rated as stable, offering acceptable adult occupant protection. The car did not include seatbelt pretensioners. Using the child seats recommended by VW, the Polo Vivo achieved a three star rating for child protection.

Datsun GO+

The GO+ achieved a one star rating for its poor adult occupant protection mainly in the Driver chest in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h. The vehicle structure was rated as unstable, steering wheel movement, even though a steering wheel air bag was fitted, recorded high compression to the chest of the driver dummy. There was no air bag for the passenger. The Datsun GO+ achieved a two star rating for child occupant protection using the child seats.

 

The QQ3 achieved a zero star rating for its poor adult occupant protection mainly in driver’s head and chest. The vehicle structure was rated as unstable as showed collapsed in some relevant areas during the impact. Injury impacts recorded in the dummy head and chest in particular led to this result. There were no air bags for the adult passengers. The manufacturer did not recommend specific child seats which explains most of the points loss for child occupant protection. The QQ3 was given a zero star rating for child occupant protection, considering the poor vehicle readiness to safely accommodate the child seats