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How good is the whiplash injury protection in Europe’s top-selling cars?

How good is the whiplash injury protection in Europe’s top-selling cars?
Tristan Honeywill

You might expect all of Europe’s best-selling cars to be getting good scores for whiplash protection. According to insurance researchers, it’s really just a question of fitting a good seat. Would you believe that only half of Europe’s top ten best-selling cars offer good protection, however? Three provide only what Euro NCAP terms “marginal” protection and for two we just don’t know for sure: they’ve been on sale too long to have test scores.

Euro NCAP gives seats scores of 0-4 points for their whiplash protection – those getting more than 3.0 points are good.

Top-sellers that save your neck

The Opel-Vauxhall Astra may have launched back in 2009, but it is still best-in-class for whiplash protection. With 3.7 points its clever active head support is the highest scoring to date.

This is closely followed by the 2012 VW Golf, 2012 Ford Focus, and 2010 Passat. All achieved a Euro NCAP score of 3.3 points. For the Golf, this is the same score that its 2009 predecessor model achieved.

The 2012 Ford Fiesta is close behind with an anti-whiplash score of 3.1 points. Recognising that people in smaller, lighter cars like the Fiesta are more vulnerable to whiplash injuries, Ford made sure that it improved the seats after the 2008 predecessor model scored just 2.1 points, a marginal rating.

Other small cars are less well-equipped when it comes to whiplash. The 2009 VW Polo scored just 2.6 points; the 2012 Renault Clio just 2.5 points. Both still received five-star safety ratings. As did the 2008 Renault Megane, which scored 2.4 points.

VW Golf 7 generation
VW passat

Too old for testing

And for some of Europe’s best-selling models, we just don’t know. The Nissan Qashqai and the Vauxhall/Opel Corsa both launched before Euro NCAP started testing for whiplash in 2008. It shows how long these popular cars have been on the market and back then it’s unlikely that the design team paid much attention to whiplash protection.

Your car not here? Check Euro NCAP’s whiplash rating page




  1. Mats Svensson

    Hello Tristan,
    Thank you for an interesting look at rear-impact whiplash protection. One important thing to keep in mind in this discussion is the fact that the EuroNCAP score is a crude estimate of the whiplash protection in the real world. Difference between 3.1 and 3.6 may have no practical meaning in real world crashes. The seats and whiplash protection systems are tested with one single seat adjustment position and with one dummy size on one seated posture. In the real world people adjust their seats and headrests differently, they sit differently and vary posture according to the traffic situation. People are differently tall. Females have other properties and respond differently than men.
    The current test protocol does however not take any of these variations in consideration though it is well documented that each of these parameter variations have a very significant influence on the test dummy responses. I hope the future will bring additional test parameters to the protocol to test the robustness of the whiplash protection systems in the great variety of real world crash situations.

    • Hello Mats. Thank you for your comment. It’s good to get some perspective on these things. I guess it’s possible to read too much into the scores. I understand that Euro NCAP will announce its plans for further changes to the assessment at the end of the year. I don’t know if they plan to introduce additional test parameters, but I guess ideally they’d also use a female dummy? I’m not even sure such a thing exists for whiplash. The more I learn about car safety, the more I realise how far we still have to go!

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