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Hybrid poor on safety

Being top of the class is just as important for carmakers as it is for school students.

Which is why the failure of the Honda Civic hybrid and Skoda Fabia to score the maximum five-star rating in the latest European New Car Assessment Program results may not please their parents.

Both small cars achieved a four-star rating out of a possible five, which is above average but not excellent.

By comparison, there are plenty of other five-star small cars available, including the latest Peugeot 207, Toyota Corolla, Holden Astra, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Citroen C4 and Fiat Punto.

For the Civic and Fabia, the devil is in the detail.

The Fabia lost a point for containing dangerous structures in the dashboard, which presented an injury risk to adult occupants.

It also lost two points for child protection and scored two stars in the ever under-performing pedestrian protection category.

The Civic hybrid lost a point for adult protection because the driver's airbag did not prevent the dummy's head from connecting with the steering wheel.

However, it performed far better for child protection and pedestrian protection.

The Civic hybrid is the second environmentally concerned car tested by Euro NCAP.

The first was the Toyota Prius in 2004, which managed a five-star score for adult occupant protection. The latest results have been eagerly anticipated because European fleet buyers and consumers are increasingly seeking vehicles with lower CO2 emissions and higher safety scores, to benefit from the growing use of tax incentives.

Euro NCAP's secretary-general, Adrian Hobbs, says consumers may ask themselves whether high safety scores and a hybrid powertrain can go hand in hand.

“Honda and Toyota have shown they are rising to the challenge in their efforts to meet concerns about safety and global warming,” he says. “It is now up to other manufacturers to follow in their footsteps.”

The front-impact test is conducted at 64km/h into an offset deformable barrier, the side-impact test at 50km/h, the pole test 29km/h and the pedestrian tests 40km/h.