The new Renault Laguna II has become the first car to achieve a 5-star rating in Europe’s leading independent crash tests – Euro-NCAP. A fifth star was added to the Euro-NCAP star rating system early in 2000 to set an additional safety challenge for Europe’s car makers. To achieve the fifth star a car has to perform exceptionally well in both the front and side impact tests as well as in Euro-NCAP’s new head protection or ‘pole’ test.
Euro-NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) is an independent consortium which brings together a number of European administrations and consumer associations. The majority of European countries are associated by way of the International Testing association, which is a grouping of 25 consumer associations. Government organisations from Great Britain (Department of Transport), Sweden (National Roads Administration) and France (Ministry of Transport and Equipment) are also associated with Euro-NCAP. To these are added the European Commission, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), and motoring associations such as the ADAC in Germany and the RAC of Great Britain.
The objective of Euro-NCAP is regularly to test the performance of vehicles in crash tests in order to establish a segment-by-segment classification. The scores, expressed as a number of stars, have until now ranged from 1 to 4 stars. The Renault Laguna II is the first car to have broken this pattern, taking the upper limit from 4 to 5 stars. This score has been established by virtue of the passenger injury levels measured during a severe frontal impact at 64km/h with 40% offset, a 90-degree side impact with a deformable barrier at 50km/h, and a side impact against a post at 29km/h.
With its 5-star rating, the Laguna II thus becomes the benchmark in terms of passive safety. At a time when some pessimists believe that passive safety in automobiles is reaching its limits, Renault proves otherwise. With its exceptional score, the Laguna II becomes the best performing model in the European market, in whatever segment, in terms of occupant protection.
The Laguna II structure perfectly resisted a frontal impact carried out in the most severe conditions (64 km/h) imposed during the crash tests conducted at ADAC’s Technical Centre in Landsberg, Germany. Its margin for deformation after the impact remained significant. The reduction of cabin deformation remains one of the major objectives in Renault’s strategy: the new Laguna II structure includes, for example, almost 70 kgs of ultra-high elastic limit (THLE) steel which offers up to 2.5 times the stiffness of conventional steels. Parts such as the engine, the battery, the brake servo, the air filter housing and various accessories fold away so as not to interfere with the programmed deformation of the structure.
To resist side impact, the centre pillar has been strengthened with the addition of three layers of steel to make a total thickness of 4.3 mm. This stiffness, enhanced by the presence of cross-members in the roof and floor, allows impact energy to be distributed in the best way. The door panels are also provided with an energy-absorbing structure which allows better thorax protection.
The test dummy indications emerging from the Euro-NCAP impact showed that the driver and passenger were very well protected in a frontal impact. This proves the effectiveness of the Renault Programmed Restraint System (PRS), a system developed by the company which presently has no equivalent in the market. Comprising an adaptive airbag and seatbelts, this third generation of the Renault Protection System combines variable-volume frontal airbags (two inflation levels) with seatbelts equipped with load limiters (400 kgs for the front seats) and pretensioners. The two inflation levels are selected according to the intensity and violence of the impact.
The challenge: to guarantee even better protection in the case of very severe impacts, without at the same time creating secondary problems during less violent impacts. As part of this new system, Renault differs from other units offered in the market by providing the driver with two pretensioners instead of the normal one. In the event of an impact, this allows forward movement of the driver to be significantly reduced, with notably improved protection for the lower limbs (with a big reduction in the risk of knee injury). Also worth noting is the excellent protection for feet and ankles provided by an energy-absorbing structure at floor level.
The anti-submarining feature has been improved for all seats, and a system which allows the brake pedal to collapse to the floor (the brake pedal shaft breaks apart in the event of a very severe frontal impact) reduces the risk of injury to the lower limbs.
All three back seat passengers of the Laguna II benefit from 3-point seatbelts. The side ones are equipped with pretensioners and 600 kg load limiters. In addition, all versions of the model are equipped with three fold-away rear headrests. Nor has Renault forgotten the needs of
children, since both rear side seats are equipped with the standard Isofix child seat attachment system.
Finally, to protect its occupants during side impact, all versions of the Laguna II are equipped with standard side thorax airbags installed in the backs of the front seats, and with a curtain airbag for head protection, housed in the upper roof rail and protecting both front and back
seats. Thorax side airbags for the back seats are offered as an option for the whole range. In total, the Laguna II has no less than eight airbags.