Fleet News

Euro NCAP tests: Carmakers try hard but pedestrians still suffer

MANUFACTURERS are increasingly aiming for high safety ratings when designing fleet cars of the future, a major safety body has noted.

Safety-conscious fleet executives will be heartened at the observation made by the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), an independent body that assesses the safety performance of new cars in simulated crash tests.

Occupant protection, child protection and pedestrian protection are tested and awarded maximum five stars each.

The organisation's chairman, Claes Tingvall, said he was 'particularly pleased' to note that car manufacturers were 'setting targets for new designs of car at four and five stars'.

But although five star ratings for occupant protection are becoming more frequent, Tingvall said manufacturers must do more to improve pedestrian protection.

'While Honda continues to lead in the development of pedestrian-friendly car fronts, I am disappointed to see that other manufacturers lag so far behind.

'Manufacturers have risen to the challenge for occupant and child protection, it is now time for them to redouble their efforts and move forward in this safety area,' he said.

The Volkswagen Golf and the Honda Jazz achieved the highest rating for pedestrian protection, each gaining three stars.

A total of 12 new cars were tested, including the all-important fleet car the Peugeot 407, which, along with seven other models, achieved the maximum five stars for occupant protection in the latest round of tests.

It scored four stars for child protection and two stars for pedestrian protection.

A spokesman for the manufacturer said: 'We are delighted with the five star rating for occupant protection and the four stars for child protection. With regards to pedestrian protection, it shows we are moving in the right direction.

The NCAP criteria gets stronger and stronger every year and we are heading in the right direction.'

The new Vauxhall Astra was also among the latest cars tested and that received five stars for occupant protection, four stars for child protection and one star for pedestrian protection.

The Toyota Prius was the first hybrid car to be tested by Euro NCAP. It gained five stars for occupant protection and scored the highest points total out of the group for child protection.

Renault, which was the first manufacturer to be awarded five stars with its Laguna in 2001, saw its Megane coupe cabriolet become the first car to achieve the maximum points score possible in the frontal impact test.

Seat belt reminders are key to helping manufacturers achieve a maximum five star rating and this latest round of tests saw, for the first time, the introduction of a reminder for the rear seats of a car.

It was featured on the Volvo S40, which scored five stars for occupant protection, four stars for child protection and two stars for pedestrian protection.

Ingrid Skogsmo, head of the Volvo Safety Centre in Sweden, said: 'As with every Volvo, we have developed the new Volvo S40 as a very safe car, and this is now being confirmed by these independent tests.

'This is very encouraging but we will, of course, remain committed to our guiding principle, to continue to enhance overall occupant protection in real life accidents.'

Although this is the second time the child protection rating has been used in the tests, Tingvall sounded a warning about fleets using this rating when considering new vehicle for their choice lists.

He said: 'It is important to note that the rating applies to the car in combination with the restraints used in our tests. It does not act as a general rating for the car or the model of child restraint.'

Giving his view on the latest results, Transport Minister David Jamieson said: 'I am pleased that manufacturers are continuing to improve car occupant safety with eight out of the 12 cars tested scoring five stars for occupant protection.

'There are also some signs of improvement on pedestrian protection with two cars scoring three stars but clearly more improvement is needed and we would expect to see that happening as the European standards begin to take effect from 2005.'

Other experts say the latest round of test results show that manufacturers are making significant improvements in car safety standards.

David Ward, director general of road and automotive safety group FIA Foundation said: 'Renault's Megane CC has set a new benchmark for frontal crash test protection and Toyota's Prius shows that innovative green hybrid technologies can also offer good levels of safety.

'Honda meanwhile continues to lead in the crucial area of pedestrian protection. Also significant is the growing use of seat belt reminders. This is very important as even the best performing car can offer five star safety if all the occupants use their seat belts.'

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