Euro NCAP has released safety ratings for what it described as “a range of new, but familiar branded cars entering the European market”.

The Dacia Duster and Suzuki Swift scored only three stars but the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the VW Passat and its twin the Skoda Superb, and the Skoda Kodiaq, all achieved the top 5-star award. BMW’s X2 and Renault‘s Espace and Rafale were rated as 5-star twins to cars tested in 2022.

“Dacia’s ‘no-frills’ sales strategy is well-known, the brand having previously shunned active safety technology in favour of affordability. Suzuki has long been a manufacturer of small, simple, and affordable cars. It then becomes no surprise that the Duster and the Swift emerge from Euro NCAP’s tests with no more than three stars,” Euro NCAP said in a statement.

“However, legislation now insists that all cars must be equipped with autonomous emergency braking, emergency lane-keeping systems, intelligent speed limiters, and driver fatigue detection. The Duster and the Swift fulfil this obligation but do little more, despite having the technologies fitted.”

For active safety, the standards for 5-star ratings are considerably higher than those of legislation. These cars’ occupant protection also shows limited ambitions, with similar, modest levels of adult occupant protection. For child occupant protection, Dacia’s Romanian manufactured small SUV outperforms the tiny Swift, the latter providing protection that ranges from marginal to poor in some aspects of its performance.

The German and Czech offerings, by contrast, generally perform well across the board, the E-Class, Kodiaq, and Škoda -developed Passat/Superb twins collecting five stars apiece. All four provide exemplary levels of occupant protection, the Passat and Superb offering good protection to all critical body areas of both adult and child occupants across in all four full-scale crash tests. Nevertheless, the E-Class “sails close to the wind” in terms of pedestrian protection: with only a fraction of a point for pedestrian pelvis protection, it is uncomfortably close to losing a star against Euro NCAP’s latest protocols.

The BMW X2 is rated as five stars against 2022 protocols as a twin to the X1 and like the E-Class, offers only poor pedestrian pelvis protection. The Renault Espace and Rafale are also awarded 2022 ratings, as twins to the Austral in that year.

Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary general Euro NCAP, said: “This latest release reveals a growing split between the safety ambitions of different car brands. The difference in star ratings is partly due to the segments in which the cars compete, but Euro NCAP also believes it is a matter of a brand’s priorities. Some, like Mercedes-Benz, skoda, VW, BMW, and Renault, are convinced of their customers’ commitment to safety and its higher worth in the product offering. For Dacia and Suzuki, the emphasis is on affordability, but consumers should be in no doubt that there are competitor vehicles to the Duster and the Swift available on the market, which offer considerably higher levels of safety. This is something you cannot put a price on.”