Thursday, May 31, 2007

Costly convertibles aren‘t always safest

Staff and agencies
31 May, 2007

By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writer Thu May 31, 12:35 AM ET

WASHINGTON - When it comes to buying a new convertible, a hefty price tag doesn‘t always buy safety. Test scores being released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found several affordable convertibles that offer better crash protection than their more expensive competitors.

"The performances of the 9-3 and C70 are impressive," said Adrian Lund, the Institute‘s president. "These cars combine what convertible buyers should look for if they‘re shopping with safety in mind."

While many owners can afford to use their roadster on weekends during the summer, the tests suggest that safety doesn‘t have to be a simple function of cost. Three convertibles — the 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, 2007 Volkswagen Eos and 2008 Chrysler Sebring — received the highest marks in front and side-impact crash testing. All start under $30,000.

During its side test of the 3 Series, for example, the Institute recorded injury measures on the driver dummy that could indicate rib fractures and injuries to internal organs in a similar crash.

"We‘re confident that in real world situations that BMW vehicles are among the safest in side-impact," he said.

The 2007 Pontiac G6, which starts at $29,400, received scores of marginal in side-impact crash tests and the second-highest score of acceptable in frontal tests.

General Motors Corp. spokesman Alan Adler said that while there was some movement of the front seat, "the seat remained in place and provided good protection to the crash test dummy in the driver‘s seat." On the side-impact test, he said the automaker is moving to equip all passenger cars with head protection by 2009.

Lund said consumers should look for roll bars, which help reduce the risk if the convertible rolls over. Pop-up roll bars, which deploy automatically if the sensors detect a potential rollover, are standard equipment on the 9-3, C70, Eos, 3 Series and A4, but unavailable on the other vehicles tested.

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