Ford’s new medium-sized van, the Transit Custom, was the only vehicle to score the maximum five stars. The passenger carrying version of the model, the Tourneo Custom, also achieved top marks.

The Hyundai H-1, which is sold as the iLoad in the UK, scored three stars as did the Fiat Scudo, which is also sold by Peugeot as the Expert and Citroen as the Dispatch.

The Renault Trafic fared less well – scoring just two out of five. This van is also available as the Vauxhall Vivara and Nissan Primastar.

Euro NCAP focused on vans that can be converted into minibuses with eight or nine seats.

Dr Michael van Ratingen, secretary general of the safety organisation, said: “These vehicles are often used for business or considered by families as alternatives to large MPVs. Being derived from commercial van platforms, these people-carriers are updated less regularly and are generally less equipped for safety than normal passenger cars. If you have a family with a lot of kids and are tempted to buy such a vehicle, please be aware that they often do not offer the latest state of the art in vehicle safety.”

But he added some manufacturers have responded to Euro NCAP’s calls for more safety equipment on vans and noted that the Transit Custom offers features such as curtain airbags and Lane Keep Assist.

He said Fiat, Peugeot and Citroen have also responded by making front passenger airbags and speed limiters standard in more European markets.

Nevertheless, van Ratingen said the commercial vehicle sector had been neglected from a safety perspective and had not been bound by legislation to adopt safety technologies. He pointed out not all vans feature electronic stability control as standard and most provide poor protection for pedestrians.

The Transit  Custom scored 84% for adult protection, 90% for child protection, 48% for pedestrian protection and 71% for safety assist.