Car Safety

Carmakers challenged to follow Volvo’s lead as it earns another safety accolade

The Volvo XC60 is one of the safest cars ever made, according to a panel of expert judges who have declared it winner of the What Car? Safety Award. The five-door SUV impressed with the unrivalled protection it offers to occupants in the event of an accident. Crucially however, the Volvo XC60 is also fitted with a host of pioneering Advanced Driver Assistance Systems designed to avoid crashes occurring at all.

Bursting at the seams with safety technology

Key Volvo XC60 safety technologies include: AEB systems which operate at a variety of speeds and driving environments, and can detect pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals; a suite of Lane Support Systems to alert the driver when the car is drifting and actively steer to avoid head-on collisions; Blind Spot Indication Systems; Rear Cross Traffic Alerts; and a Run-Off Road system.

As a result, Euro NCAP awarded the Volvo XC60 a score of 95% for its safety assistance features.

Safety Award judge and director of research at Thatcham Research Matthew Avery comments, “The Volvo XC60 achieved a very high adult occupant protection score of 98%, in Euro NCAP’s toughest crash tests ever. But it is also bursting at the seams with safety technology to avoid the crash happening at all. It is so far ahead of the game that its innovative Cross Traffic Alert and Turn Across Path systems are not yet a part of the Euro NCAP programme.

This car has always broken new ground. In 2008 the original Volvo XC60 was the first to be launched with standard-fit AEB. Back then, it was a relatively basic system which functioned at low speeds, car-to-car. The AEB systems on the new XC60 can handle a full range of different driving speeds and environments and will also detect Vulnerable Road Users and even large animals.”

The Volvo XC60 was not the only vehicle to receive praise for the levels of safety offered to drivers. Two other new vehicles were highly commended by the panel of expert judges – the Volkswagen T-Roc and the Subaru XV.

T-Roc solid

Avery comments, “The Volkswagen T-Roc is a safety standard-bearer in the ever-growing small SUV segment. It’s AEB systems come as standard and performed exceedingly well in Euro NCAP testing. It also comes with Adaptive Cruise Control – a great comfort feature which helps drivers to keep a safe distance from the car in front – and a Lane Keep Assist system to gently steer a drifting car back into lane, both standard-fit. Volkswagen should be commended for the commitment to safety it has shown in 2017 – the Volkswagen Arteon was also in the running for safest car of the year, the Polo is a Euro NCAP best-in-class winner and it became the first van manufacturer to commit to fitting AEB on all new vehicles.”

Super Subaru

“The Subaru XV was the other stand-out performer in 2017,” continues Avery. “It’s got a stereo camera-based AEB system, which is especially good at identifying pedestrians and cyclists, an effective Blind Spot Indication System and a Lane Keep Assist system – again, all fitted as standard to maximise their potential to reduce accident rates. Subaru is a smaller carmaker which has always found a way to prioritise safety, so it’s great to see those efforts commended.”

Will carmakers follow Volvo, VW and Subaru’s lead?

Today, standard-fitment of AEB on new cars has reached 61%. But, only three of the SMMT’s 10 best-selling cars in 2017 had AEB as standard across all trims, while number one seller the Ford Fiesta only offers this potentially life-saving technology as an option.

“Achieving a five-star Euro NCAP rating without standard-fit AEB will be close to impossible for vehicle manufacturers from 2018 onwards,” comments Avery. “Many market AEB as an optional extra but with its potential to save so many lives it is far too important not to be fitted as standard. While Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) accidents affecting occupants are coming down, KSIs involving Vulnerable Road Users such as pedestrians and cyclists are on the increase. Protecting people outside of the car, as well as those inside, is clearly important to our Safety Award finalists.”

In 2018 2.6 million cars have standard-fit AEB, approximately 6.9% of the 38 million cars on the road today.

“Standard-fitment of AEB is still not at the levels it should be. Jaguar Land Rover is the only carmaker amongst the top 10 best-selling brands to fit AEB on all new models. While standard-fit AEB penetration for Ford, the top selling brand in the UK, stands at just 7% today,” says Avery.

How to make safety a deal breaker

Thatcham Research is also calling upon car buyers to make safety a deal breaker and either only buy cars which have AEB as standard or ask that it be added to the overall purchase price. Avery comments, “Drivers can’t rely on manufacturers to deliver AEB on every new car just yet. Until that day comes car buyers should do their research and follow our top tips for making safety a deal breaker.”

Make sure it’s a five-star car: Head to Euro NCAP’s website and check the safety score of any car you’re considering. If it hasn’t earned a five-star rating, don’t buy it.

Demand AEB: Understand whether the car has AEB as standard or as an option. If it’s not available, score that car off your list. If it’s only optional ask the dealer to fit it as part of the sale. If they won’t, take your business to one who will.

Don’t be fobbed off: Dealers might downplay the importance of safety systems to sell you an in-stock car that doesn’t have them. Don’t be tempted by the instant option, insist on a car that has the kit you want.

AEB standard fitment across UK’s top 10 best-selling cars 2017 (Thatcham Research data / SMMT sales volume data Nov 2017)

1. Ford Fiesta Optional
2. Volkswagen Golf Standard
3. Ford Focus Optional on most models
4. Nissan Qashqai Standard on most models
5. Vauxhall Corsa Optional
6. Volkswagen Polo Optional on most models
7. Vauxhall Astra Optional on most models
8. Mercedes C-Class Standard
9. MINI hatchback Optional
10. Mercedes A-Class Standard


AEB standard fitment across the UK’s top 10 best-selling car brands (Thatcham Research data / SMMT sales volume data Dec 2017)

Rank Brand % of standard-fit AEB in brand
1. Ford 7%
2. Vauxhall 14%
3. Volkswagen 46%
4. Mercedes-Benz 88%
5. Nissan 30%
6. BMW 23%
7. Audi 16%
8. Toyota 53%
9. Jaguar Land Rover 100%
10. Kia 14%