WASHINGTON - The Chevrolet S10 pickup is doing better in government crash tests, but its scores still lag those of the competition.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in its latest round of crash testing, said the 2000 S10 earned three stars for protection provided to the driver and passenger in a frontal impact. It received four stars for driver protection in a side-impact test.
The last time NHTSA rated an S10 without an extended cab was 1996, according to agency records. Then the pickup received three stars for the driver and one for the passenger in a frontal impact. There was no side-impact test.
The direct competitors rated so far for 2000 by NHTSA are the previously tested Ford Ranger and its sister, the Mazda B series. They earned four stars for driver and passenger in the frontal crash and five stars for the driver in the side impact.
Frontal results are valid only in comparing vehicles of similar size, NHTSA said.
The government gives one to five stars for protection provided to belted dummies in the crash tests, called New Car Assessment Program, or NCAP. Vehicles are crashed into a frontal barrier at 35 mph, and they are hit by an object from the side at 38.5 mph. There is no failing score, but five stars are best.
General Motors officials say that the tests do not provide a full and accurate gauge of how a vehicle performs in real-world conditions, but they also acknowledge that consumers value crash data for comparison shopping.
Ford Motor Co. was quick to trumpet the latest round of NHTSA testing because its 2000 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable retained five-star ratings for the driver and passenger in frontal crashes. A Taurus was tested but NHTSA gives the same scores to the Sable because the cars are nearly identical.
The 2000 Saturn SL also received five stars for the driver and passenger in a frontal test. The Ford F-150 extended cab pickup and the Dodge Caravan earned double five-star ratings for side impacts.
A 2000 Taurus equipped with side airbags is scheduled for a side-impact test in March. NHTSA currently gives Taurus and Sable three stars for front and rear side protection, carryover scores from last year.