Please mind your head!
ADAC’s rollover crash test of four convertibles
We keep reading about how safe convertibles have become in the past decades. In the world of automatically extending rollover bars and A-pillars as thick as an arm nobody would think they are in danger driving a convertible. According to the newest test results of the ADAC, they should.
In collaboration with the Dresden University of Technology, the researchers of ADAC have conducted a series of rollover crash tests to find out how the most popular convertibles behave when rolling over. This is no common incident, mind you, as these cars are pretty heavy with a low centre of gravity, so they are even less likely to turn over than an average car. But when they do, the damage done is much bigger, as proven by the tests. Even the driver of the safest car would suffer a head injury of some kind.
ADAC tested four of the most popular convertibles in Germany: the Opel Cascada, the Peugeot 308 CC, the Renault Mégane CC and the VW Golf Cabrio. All of them were put on a special, tilted platform which, suddenly halted after reaching the desired speed can make any car roll over, never mind how low its mass centre is. Every car turned over its longitudinal axis a few times. The aim of the test was to size up the injuries the passengers would suffer and how big a chance of survival they would have suffering an accident of this kind.
The Cascada scored the best with a result of 1.6, which is hardly surprising, as it is the newest construction of them all. But don’t you think you’re completely safe in there. Due to weak belt tensioners, the heads of the front passenger dummies made contact with the ground and the hard head impact led to loads having a high injury risk. The rear passenger dummies didn’t get injured during the rollover.
The Mégane came second with a score of 2.1 (in ADAC's system, the smaller the number, the better the ranking), similar to that of the Opel. Again, due to weak belt tensioners the two front passenger dummies hit their heads on the asphalt badly. The head airbags weren’t of much use, either, deploying at the wrong time and deflating too soon, not giving the passengers much protection.
The Peugeot 308 CC came third with a score of 2.8. The French convertible offers good safety features but, again, the belt tensioners proved to be too weak to prevent head contact with the ground leading to injury. And once again, the front passengers proved to be at higher risk.
The Golf came last with 3.6, by far the worst score. It was the only car in the test in which one of the rear passenger dummies’ heads also made contact with the ground.
Although constructed much safer than their predecessors, mass produced convertibles are still not completely safe while rolling over. In order to protect passengers makers will need to reinforce windscreen frames, improve seat belts and increase the reliability of airbags.