The Road Ahead : October November 2008
Design & function When it comes to safety, active and passive, there is little to separate this foursome. All present an inventory that includes front, side (front) and curtain airbags, stability control (which incorporates ABS brakes, traction control and electronic brakeforce distribution), brake assist, adjustable head rests and front seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters. The Liberty and Mondeo have earned a fi ve-star crash rating, while the previous Euro and Mazda6 models gained four stars. We would expect the new models to rate as good or better. All come with a three and a half star environmental (Green Vehicle Guide) rating – about average. Testers agreed the Honda has the edge in the driver and front passenger comfort stakes, its seats impressively supportive in all the right places to form-fi t our varying shapes and weights. The Euro’s rear seats are not so inviting. They were too soft and the side bolsters were awkwardly shaped. By a slight margin, the Mazda is the widest across the rear seats, just ahead of the Euro, Liberty and Mondeo in that order. But the Ford generally feels more inviting, offering generous head, knee and leg room in the rear. Boot size proved a revelation of contrasting shapes and sizes. The Accord with standard spare wheel doesn’t have a fl at boot fl oor, but a trade-off to the optional space-saver can address this. The Mazda offers arguably the best compromise on length, width, height and boot opening, impaired only by the highest internal load lip. Count the cup holders, coat hooks and other now taken-for- WHAT THE STARS SAY (out of fi ve) Honda Mazda Safetyy Space/practicality Build Subaru granted interior odds and ends and there is little between our challengers when it comes to practicality. It’s more a case of what these cars don’t have. For example, the Mondeo loses points by carrying only a space-saver spare, while the Accord scores in being the only one with ventilation for rear passengers. The 6 and Liberty lack rear door pockets, and the latter has a ski hatch but the rear seats don’t split/fold. The Euro’s dash, with its central pod for heating and the audio controls, is intuitive and smartly arranged. It invites comparison with a modern aircraft cockpit. However, rear visibility is not so good, and rear-parking sensors would be a useful option. It is clear that Mazda has worked on improving the 6’s ergonomics. The main audio head unit has been raised in the dash centre, so it is easier to see and reach; ditto the airconditioning controls, which remain a simple, three-dial layout. The Liberty’s interior has a purposeful, if simple, understated look and a functional, compact dash. Active head restraints are standard on the front seats. However, there are no audio controls on the steering wheel, generally now a regular feature, and tallish drivers may lament the lack of adjustment when trying to get comfy behind the wheel. Honda has built a reputation for fi t and fi nish quality and the FROM TOP: Honda has a comfort edge. Ford’s crash safety rating is tops. Mazda’s interior is inviting and well-designed. Subaru gains fi ve crash stars too. 60 OCT/NOV 08 Ford ???? ???? ????? ????? ???? ???? ???? ???? ????? ???? ???? ???
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