A safety evolution: from no headrestraints to six airbags, we compare SEAT models made 60 years apart
A lot has happened in the evolution of the automobile since the first SEATs were made over 60 years ago. And in recent years, safety has become one of the areas that has seen major advancement. To illustrate this point, we compare a 1963 600 D to its modern-day equivalent, the Ibiza FR.
Airbags and head restraints
A significant feature that reduces the risk of whiplash when a car is involved in a low-speed collision from the rear, the head restraint has been standard fitment in cars for many years now. However, the 600 wasn’t equipped with them. Not only that, but the Ibiza now comes with up to six airbags, to further cushion the blow whether the collision is at the front, rear or side of the car.
Seatbelts have been around for almost as long as the motorcar itself, but when the 600 D was new, it was merely something that strapped solidly around the body. The difference today is that a seatbelt adapts itself to the body and the body’s movements, fitting snugly and securing the body instantly if it detects sudden movements. It’s also far more convenient now, allowing passengers to get more comfortable or reach controls further than an arm’s length away.
The brake system on the SEAT 600 consisted of drum brakes, with much lower braking power and far less resistance to fade than modern disc brake systems. The brake system on the Ibiza FR consists of large diameter disc brakes, powerful calipers and an ABS system, which prevents cars from skidding out of control when braking. Tyres are also much wider now, resulting in a larger contact surface with the road for better traction when slowing quickly.
A car’s chassis is a fundamental component of its safety features, and its evolution over the past several decades has been huge. Bodies are now incredibly strong, and feature dedicated areas that will deform in an accident to reduce the forces transferred to passengers. One major difference is also the greater width of the structures, such as the doors, which now have added safety features that give better protection than before. As clearly illustrated here, today’s cars have come on in leaps and bounds when it comes to passenger safety. They are incredibly strong and boast numerous features that are designed to minimise injury in the event of an impact. However, the next step is to minimise the chance of an impact altogether, with cars featuring an ability to anticipate future events and conditions, and react accordingly. It would have been the stuff of science fiction back when the 600 D was new, but now it’s just an inevitable next step.