The new Renault Espace has been crowned as the safest car in Europe following the latest series of crash tests carried out by the European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP).
It scored five stars overall, the highest rating that can be awarded and its points score of 34.11 out of a possible 37 is the highest on record.
Along with the Espace, the BMW X5, Peugeot 807, Saab 9-5, Toyota Avensis and Volvo XC90 were also awarded the maximum number of stars.
A key factor in gaining the maximum rating was including a new audible seatbelt reminder which adds extra points.
Most other cars included in the latest round of EuroNCAP tests received four stars, including the Honda Accord, Vauxhall Signum, Peugeot 307CC, Citroen C3 Pluriel, Nissan Micra, Kia Sorento, Ford Fusion, Volkswagen Touran and MGTF.
However, the Hyundai Trajet secured three stars and the Kia Sedona was given just two stars, the worst score recorded in two years.
Max Mosley, EuroNCAP chairman and president of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) said: 'In January 2000 we introduced a fifth star to the rating system. Some manufacturers felt achieving a five-star score would be impossible but today, 12 cars have gained five-star status.
'Particular praise must be given to Renault. Not only was the Laguna the first car to achieve a five-star score, four of its models have now achieved five-star status (Espace, Laguna, Mégane, Vel Satis) and the Espace has become the highest scoring car ever tested.
'More than ever before car manufacturers have realised that safety not only saves lives but also sells cars.'
Wilfried Klanner, testing and technical manager for the German motoring organisation ADAC, said: 'Again, Euro NCAP points out huge differences in car safety. Six models reach today's maximum of five- stars, among them the Toyota Avensis, the first car with knee airbags to prevent leg injuries. The Kia Sedona only scores two stars by significantly failing today's standard in frontal impact performance.'
Some of the results released have already been published earlier this year, but were either republished because of updates to safety equipment or because it was the first time the cars were displayed in public.
|Euro NCAP crash test results|
|Ocupant protestion||Pedestrian protection|
|Citroen C3 Pluriel||****||**|
|Saab 9-5||*****||Not tested|
More work to be done on pedestrian crash safety
VEHICLE manufacturers are making some progress with pedestrian safety, but more still needs to be done, officials have warned.
Volkswagen's Touran has joined the MGTF as the second European designed and manufactured car to achieve a three-star pedestrian rating.
The Honda Accord scored two stars, along with the Peugeot 307CC, Citroen C3 Pluriel, Nissan Micra, Volvo XC90, Renault Espace and Ford Fusion. The rest of the vehicles tested scored one star.
Transport Minister David Jamieson said: 'I am pleased more cars now achieve four or five stars for occupant protection. Progress on improving pedestrian protection scores has been slow, with very few vehicles achieving three stars to date. EuroNCAP pedestrian scores will have to improve before the proposed European Directive on pedestrian protection begins to take effect in 2005.'
John Dawson, director of the AA Motoring Trust, said: 'While there have been great strides in the protection for people inside the car, the safety of those outside is dire in some cases. Car makers need to urgently address the problem by designing car fronts with vulnerable road users in mind and building in structures to reduce the risk of serious injury.'