Volvo V40: Pedestrians stand better chance

By Liz Dobson


It's a brand famous for producing the safest cars in the world and introducing such features as the as the safety cage in 1944, the three-point seatbelt in 1959 and, in 1994, the side impact airbag.


As "Volvo" and "safety" are as synonymous as "Sweden" and "Abba" so there are 20 standard features for the V40, including the world-first pedestrian airbag, seven internal airbags and City Safety.


In China, a quarter of traffic fatalities are pedestrians. In Europe, the figure is 14 per cent and in the USA 12 per cent.


Far larger numbers of pedestrians are injured. The most serious head injuries involving pedestrians and cars are caused by the hard structure under the bonnet panel, the windscreen's lower edge and the A-pillars.


So Volvo devised the pedestrian airbag. Seven sensors are embedded in the front of the car to transmit signals to a control unit. When the car comes into contact with an object, the signals change. The control unit evaluates the signals and, if it registers what it interprets as a human leg, the pedestrian airbag is deployed.


The bonnet hinges are each equipped with pyrotechnical release mechanisms which, when the system is activated, pull out a pin and release the rear of the bonnet panel.


At the same time, the airbag is activated and the inflation sequence raises the bonnet 10cm.


The gap between the bonnet and the hard components in the engine creates a dampening effect if a pedestrian hits it while the airbags cushion the impact around the hard parts of the windscreen.


The airbag covers the entire windscreen wiper recess, about one-third of the windscreen and the lower part of the A-pillars and is activated at speeds between 20 and 50km/h.


City Safety works via a sensor that keeps a distance between you and the car in front and brakes for you if it detects a potential collision.


Volvo NZ's general manager, Steve Kenchington, tested it recently on his motorway drive from the North Shore to Volvo HQ in Mt Wellington and didn't brake once due to the system.


You can also add to the safety features with a variety of options - the Driver Support Pack ($4100) that has blind spot info and driver alert (warns you if you are dozing off).


But the V40 is missing one of my favourite Volvo features - built-in child booster seats - especially with the recently imposed regulations that kids up to age 7 must be restrained in cars. Kenchington says built-in boosters were excluded as the V40 is aimed at pre- and post-family buyers, and because of the shape of the cabin, there would be limited headspace.

- Hamilton News

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