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Crash prevention technology put to test as car safety gets smarter

Tristan Honeywill

If a car company gives Euro NCAP a car, it’s normally a safe bet that the vehicle will end up in pieces. Up until now, the only way to test car safety has been to strap in a family of crash test dummies and crash them into a barrier. But with some new cars fitting driver assist systems that enable them to detect hazards and brake by themselves, how do you tell which is safest? Euro NCAP’s answer is to start checking how well they can avoid the most common crashes.

Because the systems in question usually sell as options with prices that can vary enormously, it’s often hard for buyers to know which are worth the money. It should get easier for consumers to make the right choice in future, however. From next year Euro NCAP is making crash prevention tests a standard part of their checks. They’ll be assessing autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems, lane departure warnings and lane keeping assistants.

 

Which car has the best crash avoidance technology tested so far?

With less than a dozen systems tested so far, the “Pre-Safe Brake” system fitted as an option to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class appears to be the best. [NB this is not the “Pre-Safe” system that is fitted as standard on the car]. Euro NCAP gave the Mercedes top marks for its performance at city driving speeds – less than 30mph or 50kmh. The system scored 2.7 out of a possible 3 points for its performance at highway speeds – up to 50mph or 80kmh. Both good basically, but if you want to understand the details, you can consult Euro NCAP’s data sheets.

EuroNCAP_AEB_test_resultHow did the others do? Next best was the Volvo V40 with City Safety (fitted as standard) and Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake (fitted as part of the optional Safety Pack). The V40 system scored 2.9 out of 3 at city speeds and 2.6 points at higher speeds.

Euro NCAP’s Secretary General Michiel van Ratingen said: “With the limited number of systems available and tested, we can already see real differences in their performance and their expected real world benefit. But whether the system scored good, adequate or marginal, we compliment all the manufacturers for already offering this technology on their cars.”

It’s worth pointing out that not all these systems cost the same – the Fiat 500L’s “adequate” city speed system costs just £250, while fitting the Mercedes technology adds around £4,000 to a base model. It’s also clear that some of the newer systems benefit from recent massive advances in the technology.

But with results being published from next year, the situation is likely to improve quickly for consumers. Manufacturers are going to start to become more and more competitive in the driver assist systems they offer.

 

How much do these cars and systems cost?
  • The Mercedes-Benz E-Class starts at £32,695, but you need an automatic gearbox to fit the Pre-Safe Brake technology. These start at £34,270 and the Driving Assistance Package is then a £2345 option.
  • The Volvo V40 starts at £18,995. To get all the technologies tested by Euro NCAP, you need to fit the £1850 Driver Support Pack. Read our review of the car here.
  • The Mitsubishi Outlander starts at £23,699, but you need to buy the fully-loaded GX5 version to have. Mitsubishi Forward Collision Mitigation on board. That starts at £33,999. Read our review of the car here.
  • The VW Golf starts at £16,495, but to get the Front Assist technology, you need to buy an SE grade or higher. These start at £19,200. Read our review of the Golf here.
  • The Honda Civic starts at £16,955, but Forward Collision Mitigation is only available on the top-of-the-range EX-GT version. This costs £26,135. Read our review of the car here.
  • Volvo XC60 starts at £31,110. The Driver Support Pack, which gives you City Safety & Collision Warning with Full Auto-Brake – and a load of other safety technologies costs £1900.
  • The Ford Focus starts at £13,995 but you need either the Titanium, Titanium ECOnetic or Titanium X models, which start at £18,695, to fit Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Alert as a £750 option. Read our review here.
  • The Fiat 500L starts at £14,995 and City Brake Control is available as a £250 option on all versions. In the UK, the Fiat 500L Trekking (from £17,095) has the technology as standard. Read our review of the car here….

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