But safety experts in the UK are questioning why several safety features are not offered as standard, and why manufacturers cannot offer the same levels of safety across all their global markets.
In the latest tests conducted by the European safety body Euro NCAP, an E 220 d Avantgarde version of Mercedes’ large four-door premium saloon scored 95 per cent for adult occupant protection, 90 per cent for child protection, 77 per cent for pedestrian protection and 62 per cent for its safety assist features.
The testers noted that the car is fitted as standard with the Mercedes ‘Pre-Safe’ system that senses when an accident is about to occur and primes restraint and protection systems ready for the collision.
Also highlighted was the side-barrier impact that forms one of the several tests carried out by Euro NCAP, and in which the Mercedes scored maximum points with good protection of all critical body areas.
The car’s autonomous emergency braking system also earned it maximum points for avoiding impacts with a stationary car at all speeds tested, which testers said would give additional protection against whiplash injuries.
The 1.6 HDi Active version of the Peugeot 3008 scored 86 per cent for adult protection, 85 per cent for child protection, 67 per cent for its pedestrian protection and 58 per cent for safety features.
Testers highlighted the ‘predominantly good or adequate protection’ provided by the bonnet to the head of a struck pedestrian, though added that the base of the windscreen and the stiff windscreen pillars scored poorly.
Maximum points were scored for protection to the pelvis and to pedestrians’ legs, but while the pedestrian-detecting autonomous emergency braking system performed well in the tests, it was discounted from the results as the technology is not standard on every version of the 3008.
Meanwhile the UK’s automotive safety testers at Thatcham Research have welcomed the addition of two more Euro NCAP five-star rated cars, but added that with much of the latest advanced technology costing extra, safety still comes at a price.
While Autonomous Emergency Braking is included as standard on the Mercedes, many of its other safety features are only available as optional extras.
“The E-Class is head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to advanced safety features. However, we know that the take up of optional safety features is typically less than 10 per cent, so more needs to be done in terms of standard fitment to make these superb technologies more widely accessible,” says Thatcham Director of Research Matthew Avery.
Thatcham is also pointing out how the latest results highlight the current gulf in safety standards in different parts of the world, as recent safety test results from Global NCAP in India and Latin America have brought the issue into sharp focus.
India’s ‘car of the year’, the Renault Kwid, continues to be offered without any airbags on the standard version, scoring zero stars for adult occupant protection as a result. The same was true of the Honda Mobilio, which also scored no stars, as did the Chevrolet Spark GT in tests carried out in Latin America.
When Euro NCAP began safety testing in 1997, most cars had a driver airbag and by the early 2000s many, including Renault’s Megane, had up to six fitted as standard.
Thatcham believes that safety should not come with a price tag. “Airbags save lives by making vehicles safer and it simply is not acceptable that cars sold at very similar price points in different countries bring varying levels of safety – or more worryingly, no safety at all,” says chief executive Peter Shaw.
Commenting on the results in India the Secretary-General of Global NCAP, David Ward, says, “Renault and Honda make safe cars in other markets; they have the know-how to make all their Indian cars much safer. We expect them to start doing so now.”