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Most vans still lack vital safety kit

The Fiat Ducato has become the first van to get a Platinum safety rating in independent Euro NCAP tests, but experts warn that most vans are worse than cars for crash-avoidance technology...

Ford Transit crash tests

The majority of new vans sold in the UK are still lacking vital safety equipment, according to experts.

Thatcham Research, which conducts van safety tests in the UK on behalf of Euro NCAP, says that while most new cars are available with advanced driver assistance systems – including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning and seatbelt reminder systems – it is “still difficult” to buy a new van with such systems fitted.

The organisation’s latest Commercial Van Safety Rating results highlight this. The Fiat Ducato saw its rating improve by 60% – taking it from Bronze to become the first-ever Platinum-rated vehicle – because of the availability and performance of its safety kit. That equipment includes AEB, speed-assistance systems and lane-keeping assistance.

Unlike cars, which score from zero to five stars for safety, vans are rated from Not Recommended, through Bronze, Silver and Gold, to the top rating, Platinum.

Fiat Ducato crash tests

The Ducato’s underpinnings are shared with its sibling vans, the Vauxhall Movano, Peugeot Boxer and Citroën Relay, and it is likely that the Ducato’s safety kit will soon become available on those models too. For now, the Movano’s rating has increased from Not Recommended to Bronze.

Elsewhere, the rating for Britain’s best-selling new van, the Ford Transit, increased from Silver to Gold, while the new Renault Trafic moved from Not Recommended to Silver, thanks to the availability of AEB and systems designed to keep the van in its own lane.

The worst-performing van was the Nissan Interstar, formerly the Nissan NV400, which does not offer AEB, even as an option. It was the only van among the 19 models tested to be given a Not Recommended rating.

Nissan Interstar safety tests

Explaining the results, Thatcham Research director of research Matthew Avery said the Interstar’s result was “a great example where a manufacturer, in this case Nissan, has decided to dismiss the value of a critical safety feature and put marketing before engineering".

In a statement, Nissan said it supported Euro NCAP's efforts to improving safety. The brand said it was "committed to the highest safety standards, and is continuously developing and adding safety technologies across its full range of vehicles".

In 2023, the safety tests for vans will become even harder, because they will only factor in standard-fit safety equipment, excluding equipment that is only available as an option.

In a report from November 2020, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) noted that "per mile travelled, vans and light goods vehicles are involved in more deaths of other road users than any other vehicle type".

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