Well well well.
American automaker Jeep is immensely proud of their new-generation Wrangler, undoubtedly one of the smartest and most advanced iterations of the model in history. While innovating where they could, the boffins in Jeep were careful as to retain the inherent sturdiness of the box-on-frame construction, and improve on aspects of the Wrangler driving experience that were unique (like the removable panels, fold-down windscreen and so on).
But in making one of the most capable off-roaders of all-time, it’s possible they might’ve cocked it up a bit, if the 1-star rating given to the new Wrangler by safety watchdogs EuroNCAP is any indication. But it’s not the only FCA model to fare badly: The Fiat Panda, retested for the 2019 model year, was demoted to zero-stars, only the second such occurrence in history.
The Wrangler was already knocked out of the running for a 5-star rating due to the lack of autonomous emergency braking as standard-fitment in Europe (though we understand that AEB will be standard here). But the shocking rating was due to further aspects like occupant protection, collision avoidance technology, and pedestrian impact performance.
For all its rugged-ness, the Wrangler scored just 50% for adult occupant safety, while pedestrian safety was rated at just 49%. Not having AEB available meant driver assistance systems ratings were also poorly, at a mere 32%. Delivered these results, Jeep’s communications team were very quick to respond:
“The new Jeep Wrangler, an award-winning vehicle with unmatched capability and worldwide appeal, meets or exceeds every federal safety requirement in every market in which it’s sold. Further, the Wrangler is engineered to deliver superior performance and unique driving experiences under the most demanding conditions. Testing protocols that apply exclusively to urban scenarios may not align with such a vehicle.” – Official Statement, Jeep
While AEB will be rolled out as standard-fitment on MY2019 vehicles (like the Wranglers we’re going to get), there was a bit more to it than that, as EuroNCAP explained:
“The connection between the A-pillar and the trans-fascia beam was damaged in such a way that indicated the structure would be unable to withstand higher loads. Similarly, deformation of the footwell showed that the structure had reached the limit of its integrity.” — Official Statement, European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP)
Jeep would like you to believe that EuroNCAP’s rating of the Wrangler was so low because it doesn’t take into consideration the specialist construction and engineering tolerances required to build such a capable off-roader, and they’re partially true. Off-road vehicles have historically fared worse than run-of-the-mill passenger vehicles, though it must be noted that the Suzuki Jimny, which was tested earlier this year, received a 3-star rating, despite logging the same sore points with occupant & pedestrian safety, but at least it comes with AEB as standard.
As for the Panda, let’s just be collectively grateful it isn’t available in our market.