The Espace performed exceptionally and joins Peugeot’s 807 in gaining a five-star safety rating. Its body proved extremely stable and protected its occupants, gaining a maximum score for its performance in the side impact. It also safeguards children, its restraints meeting most of the Euro NCAP performance limits. Only the neck loading for the younger child was a little high. But the protection it gives to pedestrians is average.
The frontal airbags inflate in two stages, which Renault says is to increase pressure during severe accidents. The pressure also adjusts according to occupants’ size. The stable vehicle body and the lack of movement from the steering column provide a safe environment for the driver and the Espace’s designer have worked to protect his knees and upper legs. The dual seat belt pre-tensioners prevent his knees from moving too far forward. The footwell suffered very little intrusion and is padded. The rear seats are removable so their three-point belts are integral.
As with most MPVs, the Espace’s height means that the impact goes substantially beneath the driver. Nevertheless, a good side impact protection system included a thorax and pelvis airbag and a head curtain to protect front and rear occupants. The head curtain is tuned to protect rear-seat occupants as young as three years old. The Espace earned full marks in the test.
Both children sat in identical forward facing vehicle-specific ISOFIX restraints with top tethers. These protected well, although the 18 month old suffered high loads to his neck in the frontal impact. The front passenger airbag could be turned off to allow a rear-facing child restraint to be used on the front passenger seat. The sun visors carried permanent labels warning against misuse of this system and these met Euro NCAP standards.
Protection given to this vulnerable group nowhere near matches the vehicle’s performance elsewhere. The Espace’s front proved to be very stiff and unforgiving. Only a few points on the bonnet provide a degree of protection should a collision take place.