SMASHING news – quite literally. The safety boffins have been chucking vans at concrete blocks, and it turns out that if you’re going to have a shunt while doing deliveries for an online conglomerate, then Fiat’s Ducato is the best of the bunch.
The Italians have impressed the experts at Euro NCAP enough for them to name it as the first ever load-lugger to pick up a Platinum safety rating, but after that the party poppers and bunting were promptly packed away as the gurus decided to give the rest of the class a bit of a telling-off instead. I’m not sure exactly how Euro NCAP issues its feedback to the manufacturers, but it might as well have had a stern “Must do better – see me after class” scrawled across it in red biro.
There’s a strong possibility that you’re not especially fussed about whether the Ducato’s a safer buy, than say, Renault’s Master, largely because you drive a small hatchback and your only interaction with vans is when one from Ocado rocks up outside your house to deliver the shopping. However, it’s worth remembering that Britain’s best-selling vehicle last year was a van rather than a car – take a bow, Ford Transit – and that a lot of Brits spend their nine-to-five behind the wheel of one. Brits who, the safety boffins reckon, could have a bit more done to keep them safe in an accident.
The one that the experts gave a particular kicking was Nissan’s Interstar, which of the 19 vans tested was the only one that it gave its dreaded ‘Not Recommended’ rating, largely because it skips safety equipment that you get as standard on a Juke. To be fair to anyone tooling around in a Transit, they shouldn’t worry too much because it’s merely the second-safest van on the market, with the Custom in fourth place. However, the overall assessment from Euro NCAP was that there’s been “slow but steady improvement” from a year ago, when it derided the amount of safety kit being fitted to vans as “poor”.
There are all sorts of things the carmakers can do to make their commercial offerings do better in a crash, but I reckon the safety ratings themselves are part of the problem. Even people who aren’t that bothered about cars know that a five-star rating is par for the course these days, which is a system that Euro NCAP’s been using for more than 25 years. The van ratings, on the other hand, trickle down from the Ducato’s Platinum ranking through Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Not only does that make them sound like school swimming certificates, but it means that it’s almost impossible to see how much safer you are if you step out of a Sprinter and into a C-Class. The Peugeot Expert has a silver rating, for instance, having scored 44 per cent. Nope, I’ve no idea whether that’s any good either.
Clearly, if we’re going to be demanding safer vans we need to know what one actually looks like – and the messaging’s a bit too murky at the moment.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly