ONE of the cheapest utes to go on sale in Australia is officially one of the safest.
The just-released LDV T60 has become the first Chinese ute to score five stars for safety, according to crash tests by independent authority ANCAP.
The result marks a vast improvement over previous Chinese utes.
Two Great Wall Motors utes that went on sale in 2009 scored a "poor” two stars out of five for safety, with or without airbags.
Another Chinese ute, the Foton Tunland, only scored three stars when tested in 2013.
But the LDV T60 has set a new benchmark for Chinese utes, scoring a high 35.46 out of 37 points in a series of crash tests on the way to its five-star rating.
Significantly, the LDV T60's score outranks other five-star utes such as the Nissan Navara (35.01), Holden Colorado (34.89) and Toyota HiLux (34.45).
Only the Mazda BT-50 (35.72), Mitsubishi Triton (36.22) and Ford Ranger (36.72) outscore the LDV T60 in the double-cab ute category.
The LDV T60 also recorded a higher score than the Volkswagen Amarok (32.99) and Isuzu D-Max (33.58).
The LDV T60 is one of the cheapest four-door utes on sale in Australia, starting at $28,990 drive-away for a workhorse model and topping out at $34,990 drive-away for a luxury version.
Chinese utes have so far struggled to gain a foothold in Australia thanks to poor crash safety ratings and a Great Wall Motors asbestos scare.
But the new LDV T60 with a five star safety rating may gain better customer acceptance.
"The LDV T60 dual cab enters the market this week with the five star rating it needs to gain sales traction in the highly competitive ute segment,” said ANCAP chief executive officer James Goodwin.
"This broadens the segment even further with added choice for safety-conscious consumers using their ute for work and weekends.”
Meanwhile, the Haval H2 compact SUV earned five-stars for safety in the latest round of crash tests after the larger Haval H9 SUV only scored four stars late last year.
ANCAP is an independent body funded by state and federal governments, motoring clubs and insurance companies in Australia and New Zealand.
It does not have the power to stop a vehicle from going on sale; rather it performs crash tests to provide consumers with comparable occupant protection data.
Almost 600 vehicles have been crash tested since ANCAP began in 1993.
In some cases ANCAP purchases cars anonymously through dealerships, while in other cases manufacturers pay for the test and/or supply the vehicles to be assessed.
However, even in the subsidised tests, ANCAP selects the vehicles randomly to prevent manufacturers from tampering with them or making modifications.
China's LDV brand specialises in utes and vans. It is owned by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC), China's largest car maker, with partnerships with General Motors and Volkswagen.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling
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