The five-door Mercedes-Benz B-Class hatchback has received the highest crash test score ever recorded by the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (Ancap).
The B-Class, on sale in New Zealand for six weeks, has topped the recent list of maximum five-star achievers, including the Toyota Aurion sedan, Toyota Prius, Lexus CT200, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta.
The B-Class scored 36.78 points out of a possible 37, bettering the 36.59 points awarded to the Australian-built Aurion.
The five-star test score applies to all B-Class variants in a result the safety body called "ahead of its time". The test was carried over from earlier Euro Ncap tests on a left-hand-drive diesel model and weighed against Ancap criteria.
Mercedes-Benz NZ general manager Ben Giffen says the crash result shows the company's commitment to safety.
"As the inventors of lifesaving features such as the airbag and ESP [stability control], safety has always been a priority for us," he says.
Ancap has crash-tested more than 300 vehicles since 1993. Its chairman Lauchlan McIntosh says the range of standard "safety assist technologies" (SATs) fitted to the B-Class, including a radar-based collision warning system, contributed to the result.
"The Ancap Rating Road Map progressively introduces minimum mandatory and additional SAT requirements over the coming years," he says. "Ahead of its time, however, the B-Class has scored beyond the current requirements to achieve this five-star result."
The crash-testing organisation says it will increasingly shift focus on to active safety technologies as they become more widely available in the next few years, in its Road Map to 2016.
The full Ancap report shows the B-Class achieved a perfect 16 out of 16 points in side-impact crash tests and 15.78 out of 16 for the frontal offset tests, with only the "lower leg" region failing to achieve top marks.
A further five bonus points were handed out for its performance in the pole test and for seatbelt reminders. The B-Class attained only an "acceptable" pedestrian impact rating of 20.12 out of 36.
McIntosh said the latest results reinforce Mercedes-Benz's position as one of the industry leaders in developing strong safety technology.
"As early as the 1950s, Mercedes was forging ahead in vehicle safety with the development of the passenger safety cell and, with the addition of modern-day SATs, this is a winning combination for consumers," he says.
The second-generation B-Class is the first car to be built off the carmaker's new global MFA modular platform, and is sold in New Zealand in three variants - the petrol B180 ($49,990) and B200 ($56,900), and the diesel B200 CDi ($56,900).
Ancap says that over the next five years it will place more importance on pedestrian safety, with vehicles having to achieve a minimum set pedestrian impact score to achieve a five-star result.
Ancap is supported by all Australian and New Zealand motoring clubs, the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government, all Australian state governments, the Victorian Transport Accident Commission, NRMA Insurance and the FIA Foundation.
Mercedes-Benz expects its second-generation B-Class to help spearhead growth in the New Zealand market - as much as 50 per cent over the next five years.
The carmaker's Asia-Pacific managing director, Horst Von Sanden, expects much of the growth to come from the compact segment as the luxury badge spins off five new platforms from the B-Class architecture.
The new small car range has been designed for front- and all-wheel-drive models and to be as future-proof as possible, paving the way for hybrid, electric and fuel-cell derivatives.