Seat does a u-turn

The Toyota Auris obtained five stars for adult occupant protecton and three stars for pedestrian protection in the latest Euro NCAP test.

The Toyota Auris obtained five stars for adult occupant protecton and three stars for pedestrian protection in the latest Euro NCAP test.

Spanish carmaker Seat has bowed to consumer pressure and reversed its decision to remove the seatbelt reminder system from the León. When Euro NCAP was told that the safety feature would be axed at the end of last August, as part of a cost-saving exercise, it asked Seat to reconsider the decision.

After receiving no response, Euro NCAP issued a press release on August 25 informing consumers of Seat's proposed action. Public reaction to that information appears to have convinced Seat's management to continue to fit the seatbelt reminder system as standard.

Seat issued a press release stating that no Leóns had been produced without the seatbelt reminder system. Following a request from Euro NCAP for clarification, Seat has now informed Euro NCAP that they have no plans to remove the seatbelt reminder from the León.

Euro NCAP chairman Claes Tingvall said: "This shows the influence that public opinion can have on car manufacturers when it comes to maintaining the highest levels of safety. We are pleased that Seat have responded as they have."

Last month, Euro NCAP issued its latest set of crash test results. Ratings for four new cars were released: the Toyota Auris, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Magentis and Skoda Roomster. Two of the cars, the Auris and the Roomster, received a five-star rating for adult occupant protection. The Magentis and the Sante Fe both received four stars.

Despite the Skoda's excellent five-star adult occupant rating, Euro NCAP's tests identified a weakness in the Roomster. Main battery power cables are vulnerable to damage as they are routed down the front of the battery. In the frontal crash test, these cables were damaged, resulting in a loss of electrical power. As a consequence, the seatbelt pretensioners failed to fire.

Skoda proposed the fitment of reinforced sleeves over the cables to protect them. They also proposed a modification that maintained sufficient electrical supply to fire the pretensioners, even if the cables were damaged. As a consequence, Euro NCAP allowed a retest. In the retest, the cable protection was found to be inadequate with some cables again being damaged. However, the other modifications did ensure that the seat belt pretensioners operated correctly.

Euro NCAP asked if Skoda planned to modify cars already sold but was disappointed to learn that there are no plans to do this. Skoda has applied the modifications to certain vehicles.

As well as a maximum five-star rating for adult occupant safety, the Toyota Auris also achieves a commendable three stars for pedestrian protection. However, the Hyundai Santa Fe is given a zero-star rating for its pedestrian protection after failing to score a single point. The Kia Magentis also does extremely badly, scoring only three points for a one-star rating.

"These are appalling results from these two Korean manufacturers," Mr Tingvall said. "It has taken the car industry a long time to address the issue of pedestrian safety but several manufacturers are now making improvements and the Toyota Auris joins a growing list of three-star cars.

"For the Santa Fe not to score a single point shows that Hyundai have made no effort whatever to protect pedestrians and reflects a worrying disregard for the safety of this important group of road users. Manufacturers like Hyundai and Kia are now a long way behind the front-runners and it is high time that they realise that such poor results are unacceptable."

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