The independent safety testing organisation Euro NCAP has awarded a maximum five-star rating to Renault’s latest Espace IV multi-purpose vehicle or MPV (minivan), which now has the same rating as the company’s Laguna II (2001), Mégane II (2002) and Vel Satis (2002). The Espace IV obtained the highest score ever in Euro NCAP testing, with 35.11 points out of a maximum 37 and Renault claims it is the safest MPV on the market.

The Espace demonstrated particularly good resistance, scoring 15.11/16 on frontal impact, 18/18 on side impact and gained an extra 2 points thanks to the seatbelt reminder alarm.

Renault attributes the result to the Espace ultra-high strength steel structure and third-generation System for Restraint and Protection (SRP), fitted as standard on all new Renault models since the Laguna II in January 2001. Comprising airbags with inflation levels that adapt to impact severity, double pretensioners in the front seats to prevent occupants “submarining” under the safety belts and improved lower limb protection, the current Renault occupant protection system has already been proven efficient through research into accidents. Studies of real-world accidents involving new Renault models show a total absence of “submarining”, a phenomenon responsible for serious abdominal injuries.

Ranked just behind the Espace, the Laguna II earned the second best score. After testing the efficiency of the seat belt reminder alarm that has been fitted on the car since July 2001, Euro NCAP awarded an extra point, giving it a total score of 34.11/37 points, and restoring the title of “safest car in the D market segment”, which it had lost to the Toyota Avensis in May 2003. The seatbelt reminder alarm is now fitted on all new Renault models.

This, Renault claims, is a key system for enabling drivers to take responsibility – in France, almost 1,200 lives a year could be saved if all car passengers wore safety belts.