FIAT 500 crash test
Testers suggest FIAT 500 hasn't kept up with safety advances

Fiat and Ford have slipped behind rivals in the latest round of Euro NCAP safety tests.

The results of new crash tests conducted by the safety body show that the latest facelift of the 10-year-old Fiat 500 and the brand-new Ford Ka+ only achieved three of the maximum five stars.

For Ford it was the second successive issue involving the crash tests – in January the latest Mustang muscle car scored only two stars.

Six cars tested

The latest round of six crash tests enabled Euro NCAP to benchmark three of the latest new cars in the same segment; the Fiat 500, Ford Ka+ and Citroën C3. The Citroën managed a four-star rating, only failing to achieve the full score by just falling short of the threshold on the pedestrian protection test.

The Fiat 500, however, was considered to offer poor protection of both the driver and rear-seat passenger in a full-width frontal impact, which is a recent additional test introduced in 2015.

The testers rated the chest protection provided to occupants of the Ford Ka+ as poor, and noted that both cars lack autonomous braking technology that is now on offer on half of new models today – though it is less common among superminis.

Ford Ka+ crash test
Brand-new Ford Ka+ offered ‘poor chest protection’ according to testers.

However the testers also pointed out that the two cars also lacked more basic protection, such as rear seatbelt pretensioners and load-limiters, by now standard on most cars on the market.

“Superminis are extremely popular in the European new car market and the segment is very price-sensitive. To deliver attractive yet affordable cars, manufacturers are tempted to cut down on safety equipment, emphasising great looks and style instead,” Euro NCAP commented.

The safety body’s secretary general, Michiel van Ratingen, even suggested that Fiat 500 buyers should consider waiting for the next-generation model and hope that the safety specification is improved.

“The 500 is an old car by now and the small improvements that Fiat have made on the facelift don’t hide that,” van Ratingen said, adding; “Consumers may be better off waiting for the all-new 500 and hope that FIAT will take the opportunity to offer a vehicle that competes on safety with its competitors, as the original did 10 years ago.

He was also strongly critical of the Ford Ka+ performance. “Unfortunately, high hopes for the segment are smashed by Ford by releasing a brand new Ka+ with mediocre safety performance,” he said.

“The car lacks the more sophisticated restraint systems offered by most of its rivals, let alone more sophisticated technology like autonomous braking. The new Citroën C3 shows that a respectful rating is achievable also for superminis.”

UK backing

The findings were backed by Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, Euro NCAP’s UK representative, who said that the results of all three superminis were disappointing.

“Of particular note was the Fiat 500’s child occupant protection score, which is one of the lowest we have seen in the category – as a premium city car popular with young families, it should be offering more protection to its passengers, especially since the Fiat 500 we tested in 2009 earned five stars for occupant protection,” he said.

Avery also noted that Autonomous Emergency Braking is not even available on the Ford Ka+ as part of an optional safety pack despite being available on other Ford cars such as the Fiesta and recently launched Edge SUV.

And while the Citroën C3 comes with a windscreen-mounted camera, marketed as a device for capturing stills and video from the driver’s perspective, Avery believes an opportunity has been missed; “This very same camera could be used to deliver a potentially life-saving Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system, like it does with other Peugeot and Citroën products.

“We know it’s within the means of manufacturers to create superminis with lifesaving tech as standard, as we saw with the five star Honda Jazz,” he added.

Land Rover issues

The other three cars tested, the Audi Q5, Land Rover Discovery and Toyota C-HR, all achieved five-star ratings, though the Discovery suffered issues during its test.

In the frontal offset test, the driver airbag bottomed out owing to insufficient pressure and, in the side barrier test, the driver’s door became unlatched.

Referring to Jaguar Land Rover’s ambitious programme of new model releases, van Ratingen sounded a warning; “We hope that this challenging schedule and tight development times do not compromise the safety of the vehicles offered, and we hope that (JLR) will take our findings onboard”.

Land Rover Discovery crash test
Five stars for Land Rover Discovery, but issues too.

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