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Hydrogen fuel-cell car put through crash safety tests for first time

Mercedes, Mazda and Lexus also ace Euro NCAP safety tests

The hydrogen Hyundai Nexo and the latest Mercedes A-Class are among the raft of cars to achieve a full five stars for safety.

Car safety organisation Euro NCAP has released its latest crash test results and found five cars to be safe, despite raising the standards of its tests this year to challenge a car’s active safety systems to recognise and react to pedestrians and cyclists.

The latest Mercedes A-Class, Mazda 6 and Lexus ES were all awarded the full five stars. The Hyundai Nexo, the first hydrogen fuel-cell car to be tested by Euro NCAP, was also awarded five stars.

The Secretary General of Euro NCAP, Michiel van Ratingen,  said ‘This is a satisfying set of solid test results and we are pleased that cars continue to perform well in the AEB tests, including for pedestrians and cyclists.

‘It is very welcome to see manufacturers rising to Euro NCAP’s challenge of effective vulnerable road user protection.’

The Peugeot Rifter earned four stars out of five. As did its mechanically identical siblings, the Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo.

Which? doesn’t believe safety to be optional. If a car is awarded three stars or less by Euro NCAP, it joins our collection of Don’t Buy cars.

Hyundai Nexo

The Hyundai Nexo is a hydrogen fuel-cell car, like the Toyota Mirai. That means you fill the car with hydrogen, the vehicle turns the hydrogen into electricity, and that electricity powers the car.

It will feel and drive like an electric car.

Hydrogen fuel-cell cars are classified as zero emission vehicles, as are electric cars. Unlike electric cars, however, they have an exhaust pipe – but the only thing that comes out of it is water.

(And, yes, you can apparently drink this water. But, no offence hydrogen car makers, we’ll stick to tap water.)

In the various crash scenarios, Euro NCAP notes that the Nexo did an impressive job of reducing the harm to passengers. Though the rear seats offer poor whiplash protection.

In the active safety tests, the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system performed adequately. This is the system that should detect if you’re about to crash and apply the brakes for you.

From 2018, Euro NCAP now assess how well an AEB system detects a cyclist that has meandered across the path of a car, in daylight and in low light. You can find out more about Euro NCAP’s new tests.

The Nexo performed ‘marginally’ in these scenarios, showing room for improvement.

We recently drove the Hyundai Nexo. It’s an upmarket SUV with lots of flashy features and tech.

It’s silent and smooth. Unlike electric cars, it takes only minutes to fill (like a typical petrol or diesel car).

Is it the future? We currently have a Nexo in the Which? labs and will have full test results available for you in November. You’ll find out just how good the Nexo is, how long it will go between hydrogen fuel pumps and how viable it is as a family car.

Mercedes A-Class

The fourth generation Mercedes A-Class launched earlier in 2018.

From a premium brand, those with high expectations of the car will not be disappointed – the latest A-Class breezes through the latest safety assessment.

It scores high across the board, with a near flawless score for adult passenger protection.

The car’s autonomous emergency braking systems were able to detect vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians reliably and well.

Read our first look Mercedes A-Class drive review.

Lexus ES

The order books are open, but it will still be a little while until the Lexus ES will appear on UK roads.

This car is in its seventh generation. Which may surprise some of you, as this is the first version to be made available to UK consumers.

Unlike the GS it replaces, the ES will exclusively be available as a front-wheel drive hybrid.

We don’t know yet how it will shape up on UK roads, or how fuel efficient it is. But we do know that it’s a very safe car.

Euro NCAP praised the AEB systems in the car which was good enough to react to cyclists and pedestrians.

But while the car generally did very well in impact tests, the car was marked down slightly for a side curtain airbag that did not deploy correctly in a simulated side impact crash.

Not yet on UK roads, we have not tested the ES. But you can see how reliable Lexus cars are and get a roundup of the brand by going to our should I buy a Lexus? advice page.

Mazda 6

The final car to get a full five-star award is the facelifted Mazda 6.

Previously awarded a five-star rating back in 2013, tests have gotten somewhat tougher since then. But Mazda’s saloon has clearly risen to the challenge.

The car did extremely well in impact tests and its AEB system was judged to  work very well indeed.

However, in the head-on full-width crash, the pelvis of the crash dummy slipped beneath the seatbelt. This was penalised by Euro NCAP.

You know how safe the Mazda 6 is, but find out what its like to live with, how efficient it is and reliable it is by heading to our Mazda 6 review.

Peugeot Rifter, Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo

These near identical cars were awarded four stars out of five.

Though still a decent score, it was the active safety system assessment looking at the AEB that kept the trio of MPVs from scoring five stars.

No test was rated as poor, but several ‘marginal’ marks were given, both for the cars’ ability to detect vulnerable road users, and when reacting to other traffic.

We’ve recently driven the Peugeot Rifter. Find out what we make of it in our first drive Peugeot Rifter review.

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