Upgrades focus on safetyWritten by Associated Press | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2006 model year is a good one for consumers who value car safety: nearly all new models are adding safety features, either as standard or optional equipment.
It’s easy to see why. Carbuyers increasingly expect it.
“Safety outpaces convenience by a large margin on consumers’ wish lists,” said automotive researcher J.D. Power and Associates of its annual Feature Contenting Report.
New models are getting safety upgrades, from the re-engineered, 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster, the first Miata with standard side airbags, to the 2006 Dodge Durango sport utility vehicle, the first Durango offering curtain airbags as an option.
Luxury vehicles continue to add perhaps the most cutting-edge safety features.
The Acura RL, for example, the luxury brand’s top sedan, offers Acura’s first Collision Mitigation system in the 2006 model year. When sensors on the RL detect the sedan is closing quickly on a vehicle ahead and there’s a chance of a crash, the system can help prepare the car and its passengers for impact. It may automatically warn the driver, cinch seat belts and apply some brake power on its own, among other actions.
Acura, which offers the system as an option on the RL, is one of a handful of brands offering a sophisticated pre-crash system. Others include Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, and each of the systems is a bit different.
Mercedes’ Pre-Crash not only cinches seat belts, it closes windows and the sunroof in the event of an impending crash. The Lexus Pre-Collision system cinches seat belts and preps the brakes for maximum power.
Among lower-priced vehicles, there is a push, particularly by South Korea-based automakers, to provide more safety items as standard equipment.
The two newest re-engineered models from Hyundai — the 2006 Tucson SUV and the 2006 Sonata mid-size sedan — come standard with a full complement of six airbags plus anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control with traction control. This is true of even the base versions of Tucson and Sonata.
Meantime, consumers shopping among the new 2006s can, for the first time, find a model with six standard airbags that’s priced at $11,110. It’s the re-engineered, 2006 Kia Rio small car, the lowest-priced vehicle with that number of airbags. They include the two, federally mandated frontal airbags for driver and front passenger, two side-mounted airbags at the edges of the front seats, and curtain airbags that deploy from the ceiling on each side.
There is pressure for carmakers to compete on safety, despite highway fatalities that dropped to a record low of 1.48 deaths per 100 million miles traveled last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.