Zero safety rating for popular tradies’ van

Van testing safety by crashing into barrier.

Sue Hewitt

Posted March 02, 2021

Australia’s crash safety watchdog has awarded its first ever zero-star safety rating.

A newly released van popular with tradies and commercial fleet owners is the first vehicle to score a zero-star safety rating from Australia’s principal crash-testing body. 

The Mitsubishi Express received a zero rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) due to a lack of basic safety features and systems such as autonomous emergency braking and lane-support systems, now common in new vehicles.

ANCAP says this is the first time it has given a zero-star rating to a vehicle in its 28-year history of crash testing.

The result will rule out the van for fleet and commercial buyers who demand vehicles with five-star safety ratings, ANCAP says. 

ANCAP tests about 95 per cent of all new cars sold in Australia, awarding each a safety rating from zero to five, based on rigorous assessments across four key areas – adult-occupant protection, child-occupant protection, vulnerable road-user protection and safety assist. A change in testing protocols in 2020 means vehicles tested in the past 12 months have been assessed to a stricter standard.  

Mitsubishi withdrew the Express van from the Australian market in 2013 but released a new model in 2020 after joining Renault and Nissan in an alliance to rebadge cars. The Express is a reworking of the 2015 Renault Trafic van, and it was tested to ANCAP’s strict 2020 standards. 

ANCAP’s chief executive, Carla Hoorweg, says the specifications of the recently released Express do not align with today’s safety expectations.  

“Unfortunately, we saw below-par performance for protection of occupants and vulnerable road users from the Express, with results lowered even further due to a fundamental lack of active safety systems.” 

She says the vehicle’s poor result sends a clear message to vehicle manufacturers and their global parent companies that safety must be a priority. 

“Safety rating criteria and consumer expectations have evolved, as have manufacturers’ desire and ability to introduce improved levels of safety,” she says. 

“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 says the Express was designed in line with 2015 standards but acknowledged there has been “significant movement in the application of driver-assistance technologies since that time”. 

“The Express meets all Australian Design Rules (ADR) standards for vans, and the results of the crash testing by ANCAP indicates a good level of adult-occupant protection overall,” they said. 

Mitsubishi says that compared with competitor vehicles designed around the same time – 2014/15 – the Express “holds a competitive position in terms of [European New Car Assessment Program] NCAP rating. “It holds a three-star (2015) rating in Europe; ANCAP did not report NCAP’s earlier rating.”  

RACV’s senior engineer – vehicles, Nicholas Platt, says RACV is disappointed to learn ANCAP has released its first zero-star rating for the Mitsubishi Express van.   

“RACV agrees with ANCAP that Mitsubishi must do better to meet consumer expectations and calls on the company to urgently incorporate better safety features into the van,” he says. 

In its report on the Express, ANCAP says the van failed to score a single safety-rating star because of the lack of active safety systems. 

“Autonomous emergency braking and lane-support systems – safety features which are routinely fitted to almost all vehicles assessed in recent years – are not offered on the Mitsubishi Express, resulting in a Safety Assist score of just seven per cent,” it says. “Scores for adult-occupant protection and vulnerable road user protection were also low.” 

“There is no chest-protecting side airbag fitted on the passenger side, nor is [there] a centre airbag fitted for protection in side crashes,” it says. “A frontal airbag for the centre passenger seating position is also not offered.”