Biggest proves the safest in new road test

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Transport Correspondent

Citroen 2CVs and Dyanes, older Toyota Carinas and Vauxhall Carltons should be avoided by safety conscious drivers who want to survive crashes, according to an analysis of accident statistics.

The Department of Transport yesterday published research on which cars fare best in crashes and they show sharp divergences even between similarly- sized cars.

The statistics are divided into four groups depending on the size of the car and not surprisingly bigger cars tend to be considerably safer than smaller ones.

From analysing forms filled in by police following over 170,000 collisions between cars, models have been classified according to the rate of personal injury. Adjustments have been made to take account of the type of accident, such as whether it was side-on, and the type of driver, such as their age and sex.

As with last year's analysis, when the statistics were compiled for the first time, the little rattly Citroens which look as if they would crumple on impact live up to their image. They are by far the most dangerous cars to drive, with a protection value rating of around 35 per cent below the average for all cars. By contrast, the slick, well-advertised Renault Clio heads the small-car table, with a safety performance just below the average for all cars.

The "lower medium" cars are dominated by VWs with the Golf/Vento, the Golf/Jetta and the Golf Mk1/Cabrio taking three of the top four places, with the Volvo 300 topping the group. The Nissan Cherry has the worst record with protection value 15 per cent of the average for all cars.

For upper-medium cars, the Toyota Carina models built between early 1985 and early 1988 figure particularly badly with a protection value 10 per cent below the average for all cars but more recent Carinas are in the average for the group. Among the safer cars, the VW Passat, the Mercedes 190 and the Mazda 626 head the group.

While larger cars all have protection values above the average for all cars, Vauxhalls perform particularly badly with both Senators and Carlton in the bottom five. Volvos, predictably perhaps, are the top three.

The statistics do not include 1995 models because there have not been sufficient accidents to produce accurate data.

The booklet only deals with the prospects of avoiding injury or death once a crash has occurred, rather than the chances of being involved in one.

The DoT therefore admits that the booklet gives only a partial picture of car safety by not including these accident rates but says that the booklet is still useful in allowing people to make comparisons between models. And, of course, while larger cars are safer for occupants, they are more dangerous for pedestrians, whose safety is not taken into account by the statistics. However, the booklet does advise owners not to fit bull bars, which have been shown to increase risk to pedestrians struck by cars.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders was dismissive of the analysis: "We feel people should not take this information too seriously when assessing their next car purchase."

8 Choosing Safety is published by HMSO; pounds 2.99.

How safe is your car?

Vehicles not listed below have an average safety record. Cars are listed in alphabetical order in each group.

Small Cars

Above average

Renault Clio Mar '91-Dec '94

Peugeot 205 Jan '85-Dec '94

Below average

Rover Mini Jan '85-Dec '94

Nissan Micra Jan '85-Dec '92

Fiat Panda Jan '85-Dec '94

Citroen AX Jun '87-Dec '94

Citroen 2CV/Dyane Jan 85-Aug '90

Lower Medium Cars

Above average

Volvo 300 Jan '85-Dec '91

VW Golf/Vento Feb '92-Dec '94

VW Golf/Jetta Jan '85-Jan '92

VW Mk1/Cabrio Jan '85-Dec '93

Vauxhall Astra Oct '91-Dec '94

Rover 200/400 Oct '89-Dec '94

Peugeot 306 Apr '93-Dec '94

Ford Escort/Orion Sep '90-Dec '94

Fiat Tipo/Tempra Jul '88-Dec '94

Citroen ZX Jun '91-Dec '94

Below average

Skoda Estelle Jan '85-Jul '90

Rover 200 Jan '85-Jul '89

Peugeot 309 Feb '86-Mar '93

Nissan Sunny Jan '85-Aug '86

Nissan Cherry Jan '85-Aug '86

Ford Escort/Orion Jan '85-Aug '90

Upper Medium Cars

Above average

VW Passat Jun '88-Dec '94

Mercedes 190 Jan '85-Sep '93

Mazda 626 Jan '85-Sep '87

Honda Accord Oct '91-Jul '94

Ford Mondeo Mar '91-Dec '94

Citroen BX Jan '85-Dec '93

BMW 3 Series Apr '91-Dec '94

BMW 3 Series Jan '85-Dec '91

Audi 80/90 Nov '86-Mar '94

Below average

Vauxhall Cavalier Jan '85-Sep '88

Toyota Carina Jan '91-Feb '88

Rover Montego Jan '85-Dec '94

Ford Sierra/Sapphire Jan '85-Feb '93

Executive/Luxury Cars

Above average

Volvo 900 Oct '90-Dec '94

Volvo 700 Jan '85-Jul '91

Volvo 200 Jan '85-Dec '94

SAAB 9000 Oct '85-Dec '94

Mercedes 200/300 Oct '85-Dec '94

Mercedes S-Class Jan '85-Sep '91 Jaguar XJ Oct '86-Dec '94

BMW 5 Series Jun '88-Dec '94

Below average

Vauxhall Senator Sept '87-Mar '94

Vauxhall Carlton Nov '86-Mar '94

Vauxhall Carlton Jan '85-Oct '96

Renault 25 Jan '85-Jan '93

Ford Granada May '85-Dec '94