Volkswagen's new Touran small MPV (minivan) has scored the maximum five stars in the latest Euro NCAP safety ratings announced on Thursday. Ford's Focus C-Max, recently launched to rival the Touran and Renault's recently redesigned Megane-based Scenic, scored four stars overall but claimed superiority in the new child protection category.

The Euro NCAP organisation tests vehicles of all classes for safety and crash-worthiness. The Touran, which shares its platform with VW's new Golf V hatchback model line, achieved one of the top scores in its class, the company said in a statement.

The Touran model line includes as standard electronic stabilisation programme (ESP), ABS with brake assist system, six airbags with deactivation for front passenger airbag, active head restraints for driver and front passenger, three-point automatic seat belts for all seats plus driver and front passenger seat belt reminder.

Ford's Focus C-Max, based on a platform than also underpins the Mazda3, redesigned Volvo S40 and a line of new Focus models due for launch in 2004, scored a four-star overall safety rating for occupant protection and a claimed competitive two-star pedestrian protection rating.

Ford said Euro-NCAP rated child protection for the first time in this latest round of testing and said in a statement that its new C-Max was the only car to score four stars in this category.

The new rating category involves two separate tests - a front impact test and a side impact test - using two crash test dummies. The first dummy simulates a forward-facing 3-year-old child in a Britax Romer Duo Plus ISOfix child seat while the second dummy represents a 1½-year-old child in a rear-facing Britax Romer Baby Safe seat secured using the adult belt.

The rating is calculated from the injury values recorded in the tests plus additional points that are awarded for the ease of installation and the warnings provided to prevent serious injury.

Euro NCAP was founded in 1997. The organisation's partners include the European Commission, the German ADAC car club, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Construction and Housing, the British and Dutch ministries of transport and the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society.

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