The Mitsubishi Express has become the first vehicle to receive a zero star crash safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program.
After leaving the Australian market in 2013, the Express returned last year as a rebadged Renault Trafic.
At the Express’ Australian launch, Mitsubishi said it had accepted all of the safety equipment made available by Renault, including cruise control with speed limiter, auto stop and go, hill start assist, rear park assist, a driver blindspot mirror in passenger sun visor, rear view camera and five airbags.
The ageing Trafic doesn’t have an ANCAP crash score but received a three-star Euro NCAP rating in 2015.
It’s due to be replaced with a generation in the next year or two.
In the past, ANCAP has allowed certain models to receive the same score as the vehicle they are based on — most recently allowing the Kia Stonic to share the Rio’s five-star rating from 2017.
However, ANCAP chose to fund the Express’ crash test itself (usually manufacturers foot the bill) to avoid confusion for consumers over the “new” van’s safety credentials.
Under the latest testing protocols, ANCAP said the Express was unable to qualify for a crash rating higher than zero due to the absence of active safety systems, including autonomous emergency braking and lane support systems.
This saw the Express awarded just 7 per cent in the Safety Assist category — but there were issues elsewhere.
The Express’ physical crash performance was also marginal in areas, with ANCAP claiming a “notable risk of serious injury to the chest of the driver in three of the four destructive crash tests”.
Potential hard knee contact points for the driver in frontal crashes also drew a penalty, as did the Express’ risk of injury to occupants of other vehicles in head-on collisions.
Both the side impact and pole tests created openings in the side cargo door “through which partial ejection may be possible”.
A high risk of neck injury was recorded for the driver in the whiplash test, with passenger whiplash injury risk also found likely to be higher due to the design of the bench seat and head restraints.
The absence of a chest-protecting side passenger airbag, centre airbag fitted and frontal airbag for the centre passenger seating position was also noted.
Overall, the Express scored 55 per cent for adult occupant protection and 40 per cent for vulnerable road user protection.
In December, ANCAP evaluated the collision avoidance capability of 15 commercial vans on the Australian market.
The Express and Trafic both received a ‘not recommended’ rating, along with the Hyundai iLoad, Renault Master and Iveco Daily.
Since returning to the local market, 662 Express vans had been sold to the end of January this year.
ANCAP chief executive Carla Hoorweg said the Express doesn’t align with modern safety expectations.
“The Express’ poor result sends a clear signal to manufacturers and their global parent companies that safety must be prioritised in all segments offered to the Australasian market,” she said.
“Safety rating criteria and consumer expectations have evolved, as have manufacturers’ desire and ability to introduce improved levels of safety.
“We know Mitsubishi can deliver vehicles with high levels of overall safety and a wide range of modern safety technologies and we encourage them to accelerate the introduction of these features into their van product.”
A Mitsubishi spokesperson said being based on the ageing Trafic meant the Express was designed to meet 2015 NCAP protocols.
“There has been significant movement in the application of driver assistance technologies since that time, which has been reflected in the new NCAP protocols against which this van has been tested,” they said.