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Crash test thumbs-up for hydrogen Hyundai Nexo

Four cars gain top five-star rating in latest tests.

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The Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell car has secured the top-level safety rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.

The Hyundai, the Lexus ES, Mazda 6 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class all scored five stars in the latest set of tests by the safety body. The mechanically-identical Peugeot Rifter, Vauxhall Combo and Citroën Berlingo small SUVs scored four stars.

Hyundai’s electrically-driven SUV, which is powered by a fuel cell stack, clocked up impressive scores of 94% for adult occupant protection and 87% for child occupants.

In the car, hydrogen is stored in a pressurised tank and the gas itself has an extremely low ignition point, which has led to concerns about its safety for vehicle use.

However, the Nexo’s five-star rating should dispel these fears and reassure buyers that there is little likelihood of the explosions that doomed hydrogen-filled airships in the 1930s.

The Lexus, Mazda and Mercedes scored 91%, 95% and 96% respectively in the adult occupant category, with the Mazda and Mercedes scoring 91% for child occupants, too.

Lexus ES Crash Test The Car Expert
Lexus ES hybrid also performed well in tests.

Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, described the latest scores as a satisfying set of solid test results.

“We are pleased that cars continue to perform well in the AEB [autonomous emergency braking] tests, including for pedestrians and cyclists,” he said.

“The fuel-cell Nexo and hybrid ES point the way for future powertrains, and Euro NCAP will work to ensure that safety performance as well as energy efficiency remains at the top of the manufacturers’ agenda.”

Euro NCAP’s UK testing partner, Thatcham Research, also praised the results. “With the Nexo, Hyundai has successfully demonstrated that alternatively fuelled vehicles need not pose a risk to car safety,” said director of research, Matthew Avery.

The Peugeot Rifter, Citroen Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo posted scores of 91%, 81%, 58% and 68% across the four categories of adult occupant, child occupant, vulnerable road users and safety assist.

The three vehicles share platforms, safety equipment and engines, and are built in the same factory by the French PSA Group.

Peugeot Rifter Crash Test The Car Expert
Peugeot’s Rifter took the test for its sister Vauxhall Combo and Citroën Berlingo SUVs.

The latest from The Car Expert

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.