Are Conti cars (European) really safer than JDM/Japanese cars and Korean cars?
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In Singapore, most of us perceive Conti cars as higher-class and safer than the typical Japanese cars and Korean cars, but are they?

Category: Car Buying Advice

With their premium price tags, Conti (typically referring to European-brand) cars mean many things here. On social media platforms, most people who have made it in life are posing with their Conti cars. If your line of work requires you to face clients on a day to day basis, Conti cars would likely be your choice as well.

Conti cars are desirable, and seem to portray an elevated social standing, and it isn't difficult to see why. These cars tend to not only cost more, but also offer more in terms of comfort, luxury and performance - especially so for the higher-end models. And, many also believe that these European cars are safer than their Asian counterparts such as Korean and our favourite JDM cars, but is that really the case?
What makes a car safer than another?

Organisations evaluate the safety of cars through procedures such as crash tests
The safety of a car is the result of many components, this can include basic equipment such as the head light, airbags and other active safety features such as automatic emergency braking systems, and of course, how the car protect its occupants in a crash.

The safety of vehicles are assessed through various safety standards throughout the world. While these standards can differ slightly, the general process is quite similar. Cars are often evaluated by various crash tests to determine the safety of the occupants.

Organisations such as Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme), ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program), NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) conducts tests and studies and evaluates the safety of different vehicles. These tests and their results provide car buyers with a good point of reference in terms of the safety of the vehicle that they are interested in.

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Are Conti cars necessarily safer?

The Toyota Yaris Cross is among the cars that received a five-star Euro NCAP rating
As can be seen from the list of cars tested by the various organisations, you'll notice a good mix of cars from different manufacturers that fared really well.

Among the cars that received a five-star Euro NCAP rating are Japanese cars such as the Nissan Qashqai, Subaru Outback, Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Toyota Yaris Cross, along with European cars such as the BMW 3 series, Volvo S60, Polestar 2 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Take a glance at the 2022 Top Safety Pick cars by IIHS and you'll see a similar pattern - or really, a lack of - as you'll once again notice the cars are from all sort of manufacturers.

The Kia Seltos is among the 2022 Top Safety Pick by IIHS
Among them are Japanese cars such as the Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Toyota Camry, European cars such as the Audi A4, BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, Volvo S60, Volkswagen ID.4 and Korean cars such as the Hyundai Elantra (Avante), Kia Stinger, Kia Seltos and Hyundai Tucson.

Hence, it isn't necessarily true that Conti, or European cars are always safer than Japanese and Korean cars.
So what kind of cars are the safest?

Older cars tend to fare much worse in crash tests
According to NHTSA, it is however, a fact that newer cars are safer than older ones due to technology advancement and improved structural designs. Its data has shown that in 1997, the fatality rate per 100,000 registered vehicles was 17.81 for passenger car. Comparatively, in 2017 it was 10.05 - a substantially lower figure. The improvement of safety is a result of improved occupant protection, use of air bags and crash avoidance technology.

In some cases, lower priced cars can have a lower safety rating, as safety features such as airbags and crash avoidance technology does add to a car's price. Hence, it is not uncommon for commercial vehicles and other small, budget-oriented choices to fare poorer in safety ratings. An example of a budget-oriented car with poor safety rating is the 2009 Suzuki Alto, a small city car, which only had a Euro NCAP rating of three stars.

So, if safety is a top priority, opting for a new, modern car might be your best bet. Instead of fussing over the country of manufacture, maybe you should spend some extra effort researching on the safety features and safety rating of the car that you are interested in buying.

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