Euro NCAP crash tested no fewer than 23 cars in 2018
It scores them in four categories and delivers an overall rating out of five stars
These are the three models with the highest scores across all areas and three with the lowest
Published: 19:01 EDT, 23 December 2018 | Updated: 05:03 EDT, 24 December 2018
No fewer than 23 cars have been smashed into poles and walls by the crash-test experts at Euro NCAP during 2018.
The industry-standard assessment is designed to tell motorists which cars have the best safety credentials and which ones lag behind.
You might think all new vehicles to today's standards are safe - but the differences between the best-scoring and worst-scoring three models shows there's a gulf in protection being offered.
The safest cars
3. Audi Q3
Price: from £30,770
The Audi Q3 was marked down for vulnerable road user protection due to the stiff windscreen pillars that would cause harm to pedestrians
Adult Occupant: 95%
Child Occupant: 86%
Vulnerable Road Users: 76%
Safety Assist: 85%
The Q3 is Audi's jacked-up answer to a medium-size hatchback. That means it will be popular with families looking for a classy SUV to use as their main motor. Safety wise, it's more than up to the job.
Euro NCAP said the passenger compartment stays stable in frontal accidents, with readings from the dummies suggesting good protection of the knees and femur or those sat in the front.
Child safety was described as 'good or adequate for all critical body areas' when using 6 and 10 year old dummies and it comes with plenty of standard safety assistance features to make it the highest scoring vehicle in this area during 2018.
Only pedestrian safety is where it fell down, with the stiff windscreen pillars likely to cause quite a bit of damage in a collision with an individual.
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How Euro NCAP ratings work
Once crash test have been conducted, Euro NCAP provides percentage rating to represent the protection performance in each of four categories. These percentage ratings can then be used to compare results across different makes and models that have been assessed around the same time.
The four categories are:
Adult Occupant Protection: This rating is based on crash tests that simulate frontal impact, side-on collisions with another moving object and hitting a fixed object like a lamp post or telegraph pole. The rating also takes into account whiplash measurements and the effectiveness of Autonomous Braking Systems (AEB).
Child Occupant Protection: This rating is broken down into three sections: the protection provided by child restraint systems in front and side impacts; the ability to accommodate restraints of different sizes and design; and provisions that facilitate the safe installation of child seats.
Vulnerable Road Users Protection: As well as taking into account the level of protection for occupants, the Euro NCAP test also measures the impact on pedestrians and cyclists. It assesses the risk of injuries to head, pelvis and legs caused by the front sections of the vehicle, including the bonnet and windscreen. Additional percentage points are awarded if AEB systems mitigate the injury.
Safety Assist: This is a rating takes into consideration the number of active safety features the vehicle has. This ranges from seatbelt reminders to more advanced systems like Electronic Stability Control, Speed limiters and warnings, Lane Keep Assistance and AEB.
2. Lexus ES
Price: from £35.150
The Lexus ES scores well across all areas, particular the autonomous braking system
Adult Occupant: 91%
Child Occupant: 87%
Vulnerable Road Users: 90%
Safety Assist: 77%
The ES is one of Lexus' lesser known models, but this executive saloon offers classy transportation and fairly strong green credentials from its hybrid powertrain. However, it's definitely safer than it is eco-friendly.
The flash Japanese model stands up well the all impact tests by shielding all major body zones for the front passenger and driver.
However, the rating was lowered for adult occupancy as rear seatbelts didn't provide enough support and an incorrect airbag deployed in one of the collisions.
The standard-fit autonomous emergency braking system scored near-maximum points in tests of its functionality at the low speeds.
The pedestrian safety rating was the second highest of all cars tested in 2018, thanks to its active, deployable bonnet.
Sensors in the bumper detect when a pedestrian has been struck and actuators lift the bonnet to provide greater clearance to hard structures in the engine compartment.
1. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Price: from £25,800
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has an active, deployable bonnet that rises in a collision to protect pedestrians and cyclists from the harshest areas of the vehicle
Adult Occupant: 96%
Child Occupant: 91%
Vulnerable Road Users: 92%
Safety Assist: 75%
According to Euro NCAP's rating, the safest car of the year is the Mercedes A-Class. It had the highest ratings of the year for child protection and safeguarding for vulnerable road users.
It scored maximum points in the side barrier impact, with good protection of all body areas and even in the more severe side pole test, protection of the chest was adequate and that of other critical body regions was described good.
Like the Lexus in second place, the A-Class scored well for pedestrian protection thanks to its own deployable bonnet. Mercedes-Benz showed that the system worked robustly for different pedestrian statures and across a wide range of speeds.
Not bad for a family car you can buy for less than £26,000.
The least safe cars
3. Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Rifter/ Vauxhall Combo
Price: from £18,755
The Peugeot Rifter is the third least protective vehicle tested this year. It's mechanically the same as the Citroen Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo, so they get the same 4 star rating
Adult Occupant: 91%
Child Occupant: 81%
Vulnerable Road Users: 58%
Safety Assist: 68%
The Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo are - mechanically - all the same and therefore are qualified to have the same ratings.
While adult occupant protection is good and child occupant safety is also commendable, the remaining two categories are less impressive.
Where it lost marks was the AEB system, which performed well in some tests but failed to respond to faster-moving road-users like cyclists.
2. Jeep Wrangler
Price: from £43,995
The Jeep Wrangler's 1 star rating looks even more shocking when you consider that prices for one start from £44k
Adult Occupant: 50%
Child Occupant: 51%
Vulnerable Road Users: 49%
Safety Assist: 32%
No AEB means the Wrangler 4x4 is going to get a low rating from Euro NCAP.
But it's the lack of protection for those onboard that is most concerning.
In the frontal crash test, the A-pillar structure showed signs it would be unable to withstand heavier collisions.
Similarly, deformation of the footwell showed that the structure had reached the limit of its integrity.
The crashes also found the dashboard could present a risk to occupants of different sizes and to those sitting in different positions, and protection of this body area was rated as marginal.
Overall, it was rated as weak.
1. Fiat Panda
Price: from £7,499 (special offer until December 31)
As This is Money told you earlier this month, the Fiat Panda is now officially the least safe new car on sale
Adult Occupant: 45%
Child Occupant: 16%
Vulnerable Road Users: 47%
Safety Assist: 7%
This terrible Euro NCAP rating of zero stars makes the Fiat Panda the least safe new car you can buy today.
Incredibly, it scored just seven per cent for safety assist, lacking any active features other than seatbelt reminders front and back. And the system for the back seats didn't work during the tests, the safety group said.
There was more worrying news when it comes to child protection. In collisions, dummy readings showed poor protection of vital body parts.
The 45 per cent score for adult occupant safety meant a full house - the lowest scores in all four categories.
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