It is 20 years this month since safety body Euro NCAP launched its programme of crash testing.
Since then it has smashed, crashed and battered countless new vehicles into a variety of objects to assess how well they protect their occupants and its results have helped shape and drive the development of safety systems across the industry.
One of the first cars it tested was the Ford Fiesta and in a happy coincidence it has just released the results for the latest model alongside some shocking video showing how far the supermini has come.
At the time, the 1997 Fiesta scored a creditable three stars in the test – rated as “good” – but the video shows the sort of damage to bodywork and danger to occupants that is simply unthinkable by today’s standards.
The footage shows the driver dummy being thrown around violently, crashing into parts of the bodywork as the car deforms around it. Test result brand the deformation as “moderate” but highlight poor protection for lower limbs and the fact the steering wheel intruded into the driver’s space on impact.
In comparison, the five-star 2017 model’s passenger compartment holds its shape and front, side and curtain airbags deploy to protect all occupants in place of the 1997’s models single front airbag. The new model scored 87 per cent for adult passenger protection and 84 per cent for child occupants.
Thatcham Research carries out Euro NCAP testing in the UK, its director of research Matthew Avery commented: “When you compare the impact testing for the 1997 Ford Fiesta with the 2017 version, you don’t have to be an expert to recognise a distinct progression in car safety over the past 20 years.
“The dummy in the 1997 model endures a heavy head-strike against the B-pillar and there is serious intrusion in the side impact test too. The structure was just not stable.
“Today however, the 2017 Ford Fiesta offers far, far greater levels of protection to its occupants. What better way to demonstrate the positive impact of the Euro NCAP testing programme as it celebrates its 20th anniversary?”
“Euro NCAP exists to help consumers make informed choices around car safety. This is especially important for top sellers like the Ford Fiesta – a car which Euro NCAP has tested on six different occasions over the past 20 years.”