4X4 Safety: Do you think twice?

NCAP Jeep Wrangler

There’s two sides to every coin, and it seems safety and off-road ability are on opposite ends of the spectrum for some automotive brands.

Everyone loves an old-school 40 Series ‘Cruiser, an early Land Rover or WWII Jeep; the first generation Zooks with their two-stroke engines get some enthusiasts hot under the collar. All are fantastically capable vehicles and oh-so-easy to modify. Yet not a single person would honestly claim those vehicles are safer than the current range of 4X4s available now.

That brings us up to today. We have 5-star ANCAP safety results for the VW Amarok, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery, Disco Sport and Rangie Velar, Ford Everest and Ranger, Isuzu MU-X, Toyota 200 Series ‘Cruiser, HiLux and Fortuner, Mitsi’s Triton, Pajero and Paj Sport … the list goes on and on. The sometimes maligned Haval H9 is rocking a 4-star ANCAP rating. ANCAP testing is a benchmark that every manufacturer tries to excel in.

NCAP Suzuki Jimny
Suzuki’s 2019 Jimny scored 73% in Euro NCAP’s Adult Occupant safety testing

ANCAP 5-stars for everyone?

Then there are a few new 4X4s bucking the trend. Suzuki’s due-in-January Jimny has scored itself a fairly abysmal 3-star Euro ANCAP result. Yeah, it looks like a fun little off-roader. Yeah, it keeps the Jimny heritage alive. Yes, we’d love one as a staff car. Heart says yes but brain cries ouch!

Saddest of all though, is Jeep’s new JL Wrangler. The outgoing JK holds a 4-star rating while the new JL was rewarded with an atrocious 1-star rating. How did it all go so wrong?

NCAP Jeep Wrangler
Jeep JL Unlimited Wrangler really took a hit with ANCAP safety testing

Reality is, achieving a 5-star ANCAP rating is not easy. A car simply can’t achieve it without some level of autonomous driving input. Think lane departure feedback, collision avoidance/automatic braking, pedestrian and cyclist impact safety. Airbags must be everywhere along with seat belt sensors, pre-tensioners and load limiters. Blind spot monitoring and reversing cameras even play a role.

Tradition versus progression

Tradition can be great. Progress can seem backward at times. Traditional off-road capability is constantly compromised by safety. Where do your priorities lie?

Seat belts? How restrictive! ABS? Why would I need that? Lane departure warnings? How offensive.
The next generation Land Rover Defender won’t be a traditional 4X4; mainly for safety’s sake and a bit of fuel economy to boot. The new Mercedes Benz G-Class has independent front suspension and a huge amount of electrickery in a departure from the traditional G-Wagen roots. Here at MR4X4 we love traditional 4X4s, there’s at least five pre-1990 4X4s owned by staff. We also appreciate the safety of modern 4X4s and all daily drive something newer.

When buying your 4X4, did safety factor into your decision? Have you ever upgraded for safety reasons? What safety devices do you wish your 4X4 had?



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  • When you let accountants design vehicles and marketing gurus slimy wordsmithing bang on about performance and reliability the safety of the customer is a figment of an idiots imagination

  • Don’t know if I should bother commenting after reading some of the statements below from the luddites but clearly some of these people are living in the dark ages.
    If they had any understanding of real vehicle safety they wouldn’t equate supposed strength of a vehicle with it being safe.
    I accept that some of the gizmos like lane departure, blindspot sensors, reverse cameras aren’t essential but to suggest that a robust early land cruiser is a better option than the current 200 series just shows a complete lack of understanding of what makes a vehicle safe.
    The real question for most intelligent people is if they can afford the newer vehicle, the cost is to me the greatest inhibitor for those wanting to upgrade. The real question is do you have a way of ensuring that some numbnut (might even be yourself) won’t make an error that places you in danger where modern vehicle safety will be required to save the life of you or your passengers.

  • The Wrangler failed on an offset front collision where the cockpit frame actually failed and tore apart. This to me is a major flaw in design and should not be released in Australia.

  • The most important safety factor for me is reliability and not breaking down in a remote area.
    Fact – I have been left stranded after a breakdown more times than I have been involved in any accident. I genuinely have more chance of dying whilst stranded than in an accident. My circumstances are unique but give me simplicity over safety any day.

    • The road toll in Australia wen’t quite a bit down over the last 30odd years. My guess is this is related to improved safety features in the cars and not doing more police controls.

      And as you only get one chance in life i prefer to increase my survival rate with a safe car and not getting killed or worse being a paraplegic after an accident.

      And I am actually not sure how many people in Australia died after a breakdown, maybe there are some statistics, but maybe so low it’s not worth counting.

  • Prefer the vehicle without all the “Hype” of Ancap Ratings. That why I drive mine without all the Computers and Bells and Whistles. Nothing is going to help if some mug runs into you other than the vehicle is strong enough to stand it. Would I upgrade to a newer vehicle – Not a Hope. At least when mine breaks down out in the “never never” I have a chance of getting it going and getting home.


  • No! Was the last thing on my mind at the time > I have wanted to “upgrade” to something used and better than my trusty 2002 sportage —- yes a powerless kia sportage 2002 — but to be honest there is sweet bugga all out there similar to the kia — Re: smallish — selectable 4×4 — great for poking around the bush by myself.
    I certainly don’t need a “safe truck” that is bigger than the real trucks I have driven .
    Generally for me; selecting 4×4 is to get me out trouble; NOT into trouble and I don’t really trust the the “modern safe” stuff designed mostly for the SRC [school run club] or the BiSC [blokes in suits club].

  • I recently upgraded from a Prado 120 vx to the latest 150 VX because of the new safety features. We are most likely to to have a bad crash on the road and modern safety features can save your life or active safety features can prevent the crash happening at all. We spend more time on the road than on a bush track.

  • its also not clear what standards are being tested to, amarok is 5 start when it was tested, now if tested under current standards its only a 4 (or less), imagine the jeep issue is the same. i drive an amarok, will buy another, and would prefer the older one than one made to pass the 5 starts i.e. lane avoidance and all that crap!

  • The only safety factor that was on my list for my last 4WD was three 3-point seat belts in the rear seat. Having three kids my wife wouldn’t settle for a lap belt in the centre. That limited the range a little plus the 7 seats was another requirement. Ended up with a NS Pajero which has been fantastic on the road and so long as you remember to switch off the ASC when off road (particularly getting into camping spots on Fraser), I am yet to get stuck or have to turn back when travelling with my Navara & Hilux mates. We’ve put 200,000kms on it without a hiccup. I even hit a kangaroo recently and only lost one spot light with the car braking heavily down hill so the ASC and ABS certainly helped.
    When looking at the next 4WD safety will be a small part but overall the measure will be whether it can handle the types of driving and family/loads I want to do.

  • I’ll rely on myself to stay safe, thanks. My 4×4 truck has no airbags, stability or traction control. No computers at all. Keep it simple.

  • NCAP” Wrangler provided only marginal protection for the chest, body area and neck of the driver and passenger.”

    I would not be buying a vehicle with a 1 star rating. That is simply abysmal – no matter how you spin it.

    Jeep Wrangler “meets or exceeds federal safety requirements in every market in which it is sold. Further, the Jeep Wrangler is engineered to deliver superior performance and unique driving experiences under the most demanding conditions. Testing protocols that apply exclusively to urban scenarios may not align with such a vehicle.”

    I call that bullshit.

  • Personally I rely on myself to keep me safe and not other drivers or the electronics that vehicles are now full of. I’d really love to some back to basics vehicles without all the expensive add ons!

  • I think the ANCAP ratings are pointless. I’m not interested if it has seatbelt reminders or lane departure control – I want to know how it fares in a crash. If some idiot veers on to your side of the road, all the gizmos in the world aren’t going to make a difference – at that point you want to be in vehicle that doesn’t collapse into a heap.

    The ANCAP rating obscures the most important fact – am I going to walk away from a serious crash, or will I carried away?

    • Except the NCAP does cover vehicle crash testing and occupant safety and survival. Reading the summary from the JL crash tests is some scary stuff.

  • How about people learn to drive properly. I have been on the roads and touring on 2 and 4 wheels for almost 40 years. I have never been involved in an accident. I love to drive, but most people are too selfish to concentrate on the road. Driver education these days is about teaching to pass the test not teaching people how to survive on the road. In my opinion it is too easy to get a licence. maybe we should start there….

  • (1) Safety features no1 is bigger is better like a Unimog or H2 Hummer.
    (2) Upgraded to a Kenworth cabover for a daily drive about town car
    Melbourne CBD….
    (3) safety features desireable are a road grader blade as a Texas drop front bumper and perhaps doing a halftrack for extra grip in the wet….

  • Seen quite a few new Hilux Vigo’s with roof sitting on the tops of the seats and the bottom half of the doors from roll overs. Not a good recommendation.

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