Warnings over three cars – the Seat Arona, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo – have been issued after it was found that the rear left-hand seatbelt could come unbuckled.
UPDATE 14 May 2018: We have now heard from Volkswagen and it is issuing a recall for the latest Polo. Around 12,000 new Polos will be subject to the recall. Seat has also said it will start a recall campaign. Read on for more details.
Independent tests by Finnish magazine Tekniikan Maailma found that when all three rear seatbelts are in use and the car is driven at speed, the far-left one could come undone, leaving passengers in that position unsecured.
The Volkswagen Group, which owns both brands, has confirmed the issue in its own tests.
This doesn’t just affect adult passengers. The left-hand seat is a popular position for child car seats, some of which may be installed with a seatbelt. We’re therefore urging parents with affected models to check their vehicle.
The middle seat is considered the safest position for a child car seat, followed by the two outer positions – the back left and behind the driver.
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Is my Seat or Volkswagen Polo car affected?
Tekniikan Maailma said the problem affects cars built on the MQB A0 base model, which is used in VW Group’s new small cars, the Seat Arona, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo.
Volkswagen has now confirmed that it is issuing a recall of its new 2018 Polo cars, on sale since January 2018. It is urging people who own one of these models not to use the middle seat.
It will be sending letters to owners over the next few weeks to arrange for a new middle belt lock to be fitted to rectify the problem. This will be free of charge.
We are waiting to hear from Seat to confirm the exact models affected and to tell us what owners of these cars need to do next. We’ll update this story as soon as we know more.
We have also spoken to the government body responsible for vehicle safety, the Driver & Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA). It says it’s in contact with Seat and Volkswagen.
Which? cars and motoring editor Lisa Barber said: ‘While we wait for confirmation, be aware that the problem discovered by the Finnish magazine Tekniikan Maailma was caused by all three back seatbelts being used at the same time. So if you own any of these three cars, avoid using it in this way until we find out more.
‘We particularly want to make sure that parents who use a child car seat that’s secured with a seat belt are aware of the pontential risk.’
What does VW have to say?
A spokesperson from the Volkswagen Group said: ‘Based on the analysis made at our factory, we have identified the seat belt issue that Tekniikan Maailma has found in its tests.
‘At Volkswagen, safety remains a main priority and we immediately reacted to solve the issue. As a consequence, a feasible technical solution has been identified.
‘Volkswagen is now waiting for the concerned authorities’ final validation in order to implement it, both on the customers’ cars and on the future series production.’
Seat and VW seatbelt safety issue
The tests by the Finnish magazine discovered that when carrying five passengers, changing lanes to the left caused the seatbelt buckle to push against the buckle on the left, therefore releasing it.
The seatbelts buckles are sat at different heights to make them easier to use. The central buckle is higher than the left-hand one, so the bottom edge of the central buckle is in a similar position to the release button on the middle one – see the illustration below from Tekniikan Maailma.
The problem was originally found on the Seat Arona, and Tekniikan Maailma said it occurred on a number of occasions. It has since tested all three models.