From a modern perspective, crash protection was in many cases appallingly bad at the turn of the century. More recent models have occasionally performed poorly, but the ones that do still offer better protection than those of previous generations.
The European New Car Assessment Programme, better known as Euro NCAP, has been crash testing cars for 20 years. Some manufacturers were unhappy about the results in the early days, but it’s a tribute to their efforts that, as the test procedure has become more stringent, cars have become far more likely to achieve high scores.
What follows is a list of the cars with the worst ever Euro NCAP scores. It makes disturbing reading, but there’s some consolation in the fact that you are less likely to be killed or injured in a modern car than in one built only a few years ago.
The cabin of the 1997 3-Series came close to collapsing during a frontal impact test, leading to a possibly life-threatening injury to the driver. The car did not score well in any other area and was given two out of a possible four stars for adult occupant protection, one of them being crossed out to indicate especially severe risk.
More recent 3-Series BMWs have fared much better. The 2005 version was given a full five stars for adult occupant protection (Euro NCAP had changed its making system by then), while the 2012 model was awarded five overall after scoring very well in all categories.
The Ypsilon was sold in most markets as a Lancia but in the UK as a Chrysler, because when it was introduced here the Chrysler name was still being used on the British market but the Lancia one wasn’t.
In 2015, the Ypsilon was awarded two stars, partly because of a terrible performance in the full-width frontal impact test. It scored just 44% for adult occupant protection, the second lowest figure since percentage ratings were introduced six years earlier. Chrysler withdrew from the UK market shortly afterwards due to poor sales of all its models.