THE latest FIAT Panda has been given a crash safety panning by safety testing experts after being given one of the lowest ratings ever handed out by crash test and safety organisation Euro NCAP.
On a scale of nought to five, the Panda has been rated as zero for crash safety, having failed to achieve more than 50 per cent in any of Euro NCAP's four key testing categories.
It's only the second car in the organisation's history to come out of the tests with a zero rating - significantly, joining its stablemate, the 2017 Fiat Punto for the dubious honour of scoring nul points.
The safety of children seated in the rear of the Panda was of specific concern to experts, with its Child Occupant Protection score of 16 per cent falling significantly short of the 79 per cent averaged in tests over the last nine years.
The Panda, last tested by Euro NCAP in 2011 when it achieved a four star rating, has now been comprehensively overtaken by rival superminis in the race for safety, says the organisation, with nothing more than a seatbelt reminder scoring points.
Euro NCAP's Michiel van Ratingen was scathing over the Panda's crash test performance: "It is truly disappointing to see a brand-new car being put on sale in 2018 with no autonomous braking system and no lane assistance. It is high time we saw a product from the Fiat-Chrysler group offering safety to rival its competitors."
And Matthew Avery, director of research at UK safety organisation Thatcham Research says: "Most troubling is that the Fiat Panda is seen as a good choice for young drivers and fledgling families.
"But the only safety technology fitted were seatbelt reminders and the rear system failed to meet requirements, so wasn't even rated. These shocking Euro NCAP test results demonstrate an inconsistent commitment to safety, as Fiat has produced four and five-star cars in the past."
But the Panda's poor safety performance wasn't the only bad news for the Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles conglomerate, for its' much-vaunted new Jeep Wrangler also performed badly in this month's round of Euro NCAP testing, achieving only a one-star rating and a 50 per cent Adult Occupant Protection score.
The 2018 Wrangler joins the Punto and Panda in Euro NCAP's hall of shame as the three lowest rated vehicles ever to go through the testing programme.
Avery comments, "Unlike the Fiat Panda, the Jeep Wrangler is an entirely new vehicle and doesn't come cheap. Buyers outlaying over Â£50,000 on a car should expect more than a one-star safety rating. No AEB (autonomous emergency braking) system is fitted, which is unheard of in this price bracket.
"There were a number of issues with the Wrangler in impact testing too, in terms of deformation of the footwell and damage to connecting structures, while the make-up of the dashboard was seen to present a risk to occupants."
While Fiat and Jeep were left embarrassed by the latest tests, it wasn't all bad news with five star safety ratings going to the Audi Q3, BMW X5, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jaguar I Pace, Peugeot 508 and Volvo V60 in the latest round of tests.