Crash Test for Dummies: Old Cars VS New Cars, which's safer?

Discussion in 'News and Features' started by Amirul, Nov 3, 2016.

  1. Amirul

    Amirul Resident Journalist

    Jun 7, 2016
    Likes Received:
    A crash test is a test usually conducted by an independent body to evaluate and determine how a car behaves in a controlled collision. The crash test can be done in various ways to simulate safety threats like head/forward collision, side impact or rollover test.


    New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) is the first car safety ‘government’ body, created in 1979 by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that rates each car based on how they perform in the crash test.


    The safety rating is awarded in the form of stars (5 stars maximum) with more stars indicating better safety performance. Currently, each region has its own NCAP safety rating, for example Euro NCAP, Asean NCAP and Australasian NCAP.

    As the name suggests, NCAP usually execute safety evaluation for new cars for a particular year. But what happens when a modern car (post 2000 model year) goes on a head collision with a car produced before the establishment of NCAP?

    In a collision conducted by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu was pitted against a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air to demonstrate how far the technology of automobile safety has progressed.

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    Things to observe at during the collision:

    • Front crumple zone deformation (engine compartment)
    • Steering movement
    • Dashboard deformation
    • Windshield and A-pillar deformation
    • Movements (or possible injuries) on the crash dummy
    Older cars are often said to posses strong / solid body construction therefore leading to a better crash protection. However, watching the crash footage might change your view on how cars from era of the past behave in an event of a collision, as it can be seen, the Malibu provided better protection for the ‘driver’ compared to the Bel Air.

    Some might fail to see the know-how behind a car’s body construction where modern cars are purposely designed with ‘softer’ or easier-to-crush front and rear body panels to absorb impact during collisions. Ultimately, the cabin or passenger cell acts as a capsule that protect the occupants – The Bel Air's dashboard and steering column are pushed towards the ‘driver’, leading to a possibility of a catastrophic injury to the said driver’s head, abdomen and legs.

    Meanwhile, the driver’s airbag in the Malibu inflates to protect the head of the ‘driver’ from hitting its steering, in addition to the car’s dashboard that barely moves. This is because the Malibu’s front crumple zone and its passenger cell work the way they are designed for, enabling the dashboard to stay intact and the doors to be opened for rescue purposes.

    Recently, there was a similar kind of crash test conducted, this time on a 2015 Nissan Tsuru against a 2016 Nissan Versa. The former is more familiar to our market as the 3<sup>rd</sup> generation Sentra, while the Nissan Versa is a US-market version of our Almera.

    The Nissan Tsuru is still available as new in some markets in South America for 25 years now, and to be discontinued next year due to pressure from a campaign, insisting the car – which scored zero stars in Latin NCAP crash testing – to be taken off from the market.

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    Day and night – that is the most suitable phrase to explain the difference between the Tsuru and Versa’s performance in the crash test, especially from the cabin’s point of view. Not to mention, with equipment like 6 airbags, the Versa is not even the safest car available in the US, yet it managed to show a clear indication of how far technology has contributed to these two cars from differing era.

    On another note, I bet the collectors in South America will begin to buy the last batches of the Nissan Tsuru before it goes out of production soon, as the Tsuru is not only cheap, but has proven to be a great car for tuning.

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