Much of the coverage surrounding the arrival of the latest Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has focused on the fact that it is the first light commercial to meet the soon to be obligatory Euro6 exhaust emission regulations to roll off the production line. Rather less attention has been devoted to the high degree of safety the new vehicle offers – high enough to warrant our presenting it with our Safety Award for 2014.

Ever been caught in a sudden side wind on an exposed section of motorway or while crossing a major bridge? Well aware of how alarming – and how potentially dangerous – such an experience can be, the latest Sprinter is equipped with Crosswind Assist as part of its adaptive Electronic Stability Programme (ESP).

If you are travelling at more than 50mph and are hit by an unexpected gust, the ESP will ensure you remain on course by acting on the brakes of the wheels on the side of the vehicle facing the gale. At a test event under controlled conditions in Germany earlier this year, it proved to be an impressive system that works well.

Optional safety devices include Blind Spot Assist, which should cut the risk of drivers hitting cyclists and other road users because they were in the van’s blind spot and their presence had not been noted. The warning takes the form of a red triangle in either the offside or nearside exterior mirror depending on the whereabouts of the vulnerable individual. Fail to spot it, and indicate that you are pulling out, and the triangle will flash and you will hear a loud buzzer.

Also available as options are Lane Keeping Assist and Highbeam Assist. The former alerts you if you begin to drift into an adjacent lane, while the latter stops your main beam headlights dazzling other drivers.

Yet another optional safety package, and maybe the most useful and impressive, is Collision Prevention Assist. If a Sprinter is heading towards the rear of slow-moving traffic and for some reason the driver hasn’t reacted, then the radar-based Collision Prevention Assist will use a light and a buzzer to warn of the danger ahead. When the driver eventually hit the brakes, Adaptive Brake Assist will ensure that maximum braking pressure is applied. As a consequence, the van should screech to a halt just in the nick of time.



Highly Commended

The Ford Transit Custom takes the Highly Commended prize as a consequence of becoming the first and only light commercial in its sector of the market to be accorded a maximum five-star safety rating by leading vehicle safety organisation Euro NCAP, though it was admittedly for the Tourneo passenger version. Two of the features that can be found on it – Lane Keeping Alert and Ford Sync with Emergency Assist – received Euro NCAP Advanced awards: two more firsts for a light commercial, says Ford.

If you are in a smash serious enough to trigger an airbag or cut off the fuel pump, then if your mobile phone is connected, the technology can help make a direct call to the emergency services and give them your GPS coordinates.