There is no doubt that cars are becoming safer, in recent years features like intelligent air bags, crumple zones, side impact beams and seat belt pre-tensioners that have led to dramatic improvements in the Euro NCAP crash test scores. The standards have risen so much that the Euro NCAP tests became more stringent with new categories of tests being introduced in 1 January 2002 where the old system that awarded a maximum of 4 stars was replaced by a new 5 star system.
But already more and more cars are achieving the maximum 5 stars in the front and side impact tests so the focus for differentiating what makes ‘a really safe car’ has moved towards the additional tests for child and pedestrian protection. Introduced in November 2003 the child protection rating is based on a combination of car and specific child seats that have been recommended by the car manufacturer. Earning up to five stars the system of scoring for child protection encourages car manufacturers to take responsibility for the carriage of children. However, it is important to remember that whatever the child protection rating, it is essential that children are always carried in child restraints.
The pedestrian impact a series of tests are carried out to replicate accidents involving child and adult pedestrians where impacts occur at 40kph (25mph). Impact sites are then assessed and rated fair, weak and poor. Whilst no car tested has yet achieved a 5 star rating in this category the Citroen C4 has just been awarded three stars, a big step forward over something like the recently launched BMW 1 Series that scored just one star in the pedestrian test.
The car manufacturers know that to do well in these tests can have a big impact on sales so it is no surprise that recent models like the Ford Focus and Toyota Yaris have scored particularly highly. But if you want to buy ‘the safest car in the world’ you need to look towards the French manufacturer Citroen with the new flagship C6 which outscores the competition for adult, child and pedestrian impact safety. It seems remarkable when you consider that just a decade ago French cars had a reputation for being rather flimsy!
But the bad news for safety conscious drivers, passengers and pedestrians is that in common with most other large French cars the C6 is unlikely to sell in big numbers. Weak residual values and a lack of genuine prestige image will probably conspire to make sales slow, so whilst the C6 will be popular amongst the top brass at Citroen its not going to crop up in any one else’s company car park.
To find out more about your cars safety visit the official Euro NCAP website at www.euroncap.com