Revealed: New Zealand's most dangerous used cars

This story was first published in September 2019.

Buying a secondhand car may be a sensible budget choice, but Kiwis should make sure they're not sacrificing safety for a cheap option.

Monash University Accident Research Centre has released its annual used car safety ratings of 389 popular models, from light cars to SUVs. The ratings are based on records from more than 8 million vehicles in road crashes and more than 2 million injured road users across New Zealand and Australia between 1987 and 2017.

The 2019-2020 ratings - promoted by the New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) - include 2017 crash data for the first time, meaning a number of previously rated vehicles have been deemed more dangerous as their rating was further from the new standard. 

The most dangerous classes of vehicle were light and small cars as well as small SUVs, due to their high proportion of one-star ratings which the AA categorises as 'very poor' in terms of safety.

The Honda City (2009-2013) was the only light car to be rated five stars, while the Audi A3 (2004-2013), Mazda 3 (2013-2017), Nissan Pulsar B17 Sedan (2012-2017) and Toyota Prius 3 (2009-2016) were all five-star small cars and awarded AA's 'Safer Pick' status, requiring vehicles to have electronic stability control and reversing sensors or camera.

Three medium cars were also deemed 'Safer Picks', including the Audi A4 (2008-2015), Mazda 6 (2012-2017) and Peugeot 407 (2004-2011). 

The Mercedes Benz E-Class W212 (2009-2016) was the sole 'Safer Pick' of the large car category.

Now for the bad news: A huge number of popular used car models received one-star ratings.

Of the light cars, the Ford Fiesta (2004-2008), Holden Barina (1995-2000 and 2005-2011), Hyundai Getz (2002-2011) and Mazda Demio (2002-2007) were among the poorest rated. Suzuki Swifts manufactured between 2005 and 2017 were also rated one star, as was the Kia Rio manufactured between 2000 and 2011.

One-star small cars included the Holden Astra (1996-1998, 1998-2006 and 2004-2009), Honda Civic (1996-2000), Mitsubishi Lancer (2003-2007) and Toyota Corolla (2002-2007).

The lowest-rated medium cars were the BMW 3 Series (1992-1998), Honda Accord (1994-1998), Subaru Outback (1994-1998), Toyota Celica (1994-1999) and Toyota Camry (1998-2002). 

Large cars with one star included the Ford Falcon AU (1998-2002), Holden Commodore VT/VX (1997-2002) and Nissan Maxima (1995-1999). 

Monash researchers also rated commercial vehicles and SUVs. Utes with one-star ratings were the Ford Falcon (1996-1999), Holden Commodore VR/VS (1994-2000) and Holden Rodeos manufactured between 1996 and 2002. 

The only one-star van was the Toyota Hiace/Lieace (1996-2004). 

One-star compact SUVs included the Daihatsu Terios (1997-2005), Holden Cruze (2002-2006) and the Suzuki Jimny (1998-2017).

In the medium SUV category, only the Toyota RAV4 (1994-2000) was rated one star. 

Of the nine people mover vehicles rated, just one - the Mitsubishi Delica (1995-2003) - received one star.

AA Motoring Services General Manager Stella Stocks says on average, a vehicle with a one-star rating is around twice as likely as a five-star vehicle to cause death or serious injury to a driver in a crash.

She says it's possible for motorists to buy cheap cars without compromising on safety.

"The average safety of the fleet improves year on year as newer vehicles are added so the ratings for older vehicles become worse over time in comparison," she says.

"This can help motorists decide when they can make significant gains in safety by updating to a newer, safer vehicle."