Speaking at the Australian launch of the new Carnival in February, Kia communications boss Kevin Hepworth said that missing out on a top 5-Star rating was understood to be the result of a misinterpreted requirement on the fitment of seatbelt alerts.
Mr Hepworth said that production changes were already underway, and that models delivered later this year will meet ANCAP criteria.
This week, however, newly released crash data shows that the Carnival’s shortfall was not on seatbelt alerts alone, but also - and more specifically - a poor result in the frontal crash offset test.
“The frontal offset test - which simulates a head-on crash - revealed there is heightened risk of serious injury to the legs and feet of the driver. There was excessive movement of the park and foot brake pedals and significant footwell deformation. Dash components were a potential source of injury to the knees,” the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) report reads.
The test saw the Carnival achieve a frontal offset crash score of just 10.48 out of a possible 16. This meant that, despite achieving top marks in the side impact and pole tests, a 5-Star rating could not be awarded.
The outcome has shocked Kia Motors Australia, which has only recently received the data.
“We are obviously extremely surprised by the outcome ANCAP announced today,” Kia Australia’s Chief Operating Officer, Damien Meredith, said.
“It was definitely unexpected as all indications from internal data and the car’s excellent performance in the North American Highway Safety Institute’s testing, led us to believe there would be a five-star outcome.”
With the crash danger being specific to the driver, it is possible that the issue is rooted in the Carnival’s factory conversion to right-hand-drive for the Australian market.
Mr Meredith said that the ANCAP crash test data will be sent to Kia’s Korean headquarters for analysis, allowing for a fix to be established.
The company will likely request that new crash testing be carried out on updated models.
ANCAP CEO Nicholas Clarke hinted today that Kia Australia had spoken too soon in suggesting that changes to the Carnival’s seatbelt alert would put the new people-mover in line for a 5-Star rating.
“It is always sensible to wait until testing is complete and an official ANCAP safety rating issued,” Mr Clarke said.
"The ANCAP test and assessment process involves many elements and requires significant specialist expertise to determine the final overall rating. Speculation as to a vehicle's rating ahead of publication simply leads to consumer confusion."
"Independent testing is the best way to determine the overall safety of a car. The inclusion or omission of one or more safety features does not necessarily translate into an automatic increase or decrease in star rating. There are a variety of factors which come into play," he said.
The new Carnival has so far not struggled to find its feet, with VFACTS new car sales data showing 306 registrations in February - compared to 137 for the same period in 2014.
Last month’s performance pushed the Carnival to 346 sales year-to-date (end February, March figures still to come); one behind the iMax. The Odyssey remained this year’s segment leader at the end of February with 416 sales.
New data for March will be published in the coming week.