The fearsome polygon: ŠKODA's safety testing

April 14, 2022

As thousands of British motorists hit the road to far flung destinations over the Easter break, ŠKODA owners will be able to tackle the toughest of terrains safe in the knowledge that their car has already endured one of the toughest tests in the business.

Quality and reliability are cornerstones of ŠKODA’s design and engineering philosophy, and the brand goes to extreme lengths to ensure that every car that leaves the factory gates is fit to wear the ŠKODA badge. To achieve this, ŠKODA puts every model through what’s known as ‘the polygon’, a specially designed quality test track.

The polygon is a short test track consisting of various types of surfaces and hazards that thoroughly test the quality of the car’s construction. In addition, test drivers also perform other checks to make sure the car’s systems are functional. On the polygon, the cars complete two circuits, each approximately 450 metres long and each with slightly different hazards.

The track features 14 different obstacles, 12 of which are used as standard, and two of which are just for more thorough checking in case of irregularities. The test starts on a ramp where the handbrake is tested. This is followed by a passage with special ridges made of cast iron, where the body’s rigidity is tested at speeds of 6-10mph and the driver listens out for unwanted noises. This section of about 14 metres in length is followed by another slightly longer section with similar cast-iron ridges causing a slightly different torsional stress.

Next the car heads into a section featuring the kind of obstacles cars can encounter in real traffic. “We have a section with drains at varying heights, both sunken and raised, followed by an imitation railway crossing,” explains Petr Konečný, driving test coordinator from the Quality Management Department. The car starts this section moving at the speed it travelled in the previous one, but by the time the car reaches the simulated level crossing it is travelling at speeds of up to 25mph. Then comes a section with the cast-iron bumps that are taken at 25mph again, followed by granite paving. These hazards cause the car to shake and vibrate in different ways. “The drivers try to hear if there are any unwanted sounds coming from the car.” says Petr Konečný.

Despite its arduous nature, the entire process takes about 12 minutes to complete, including the time it takes to drive the car there from the production line. To keep up with the pace at which the cars roll off the production line, up to fifteen test drivers work each shift. Although some brands only test cars at intervals, ŠKODA puts every single car through the polygon - no model is exempt. In the very rare event of a technical issue, the car is sent to what is known as the reconditioning centre. Once the issue has been rectified, it is sent back for another test drive. Only when a car passes is it allowed to proceed to the collection area for its onward journey to its new owner.

The polygon by Hall M1 was the first of its kind in Mladá Boleslav, and ŠKODA cars have been tested on it since 1994. To meet increasingly high expectations for cabin noise, vibrations and harshness, the polygons are continually being improved to make the tests tougher. Individual sections also require occasional maintenance, for example to restore the surface to the desired condition.

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