How Safe Is Your Old Car?

Posted on 17th Aug 2023 by CarTakeBack Posted in: In The Know

Old vs new car safety

Technological advancements mean most of us would assume a brand new car would knock the safety socks off a model that was at the end of its life. We decided to see how big the gap is and compare the safety features of an old car verses a new car.

Let’s start with the cars we’ll be comparing…

The old car – 2006 Ford Focus

Currently the average age of a scrap car is 16 years old. In 2006, the most popular car on the UK market – outstripping sales of the next most popular car by nearly 40,000, was the Ford Focus! It’s therefore unsurprising that the most frequently scrapped car in 2022 was the very same… fantastic Ford Focus.

Photo 2006 Ford Focus

Image Credit: J.A Motors Ltd

The new car – 2023 Nissan Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai is the highest selling car in the UK – selling over 42,000 models in 2022, according to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Photo 2023 Nissan Qashqui

Image Credit:

Old car safety features

Many of you may recognise this historic spec list and you can probably already tell how basic the tech will seem when compared to today’s most popular car. However, there is one stand-out feature in the Ford Focus safety spec list, even back in 2006. While the majority of cars made at this time would have one or two front airbags, most Ford Focus models came with six airbags as standard. The Ford Focus scored a maximum five stars in the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) crash tests at the time, for front and side impact.

• 3×3 point rear seat belts
• Driver`s airbag
• Folding rear seats
• Front electric windows
• Height adjustable drivers seat
• PAS – Power Assisted Steering
• Passenger`s airbag
• Side airbags
• Steering wheel rake adjustment
• Steering wheel reach adjustment
Optional £250 traction and stability control system

New car safety features

The Nissan Qashqai was awarded the top five-star safety rating by the independent European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), under the new, more stringent 2020-2022 protocol. This model also won the ‘Safety Award’ at the 2022 WhatCar? Car of the Year Awards. Not a bad start for a review of its safety features!

Not only can the Qashqai boast one of the highest overall Euro NCAP ratings of cars tested in 2022, but rather than being a high-end vehicle with optional extras and a price-tag to match, it’s a standard model of a relatively affordable family SUV with technology new to the market.

• Intelligent Driver Alertness
• Intelligent Rear Automatic Braking
• Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention
• Blind Spot Warning
• Rear Cross Traffic Alert
• High Beam Assist
• Traffic Sign Recognition with Legal speed adjustment
• Intelligent front emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist recognition and junction assist
• Intelligent Forward Collision Warning
• Intelligent Lane Intervention
• Intelligent Cruise Control
• Emergency and Breakdown Call
• ABS with EBD and Brake Assist
• Active Brake Limited Slip
• Vehicle Dynamic Control
• Hill Start Assist
• Driver and passenger airbags
• Curtain and front side, far-side airbags
• Rear Parking Sensors
• Electric Parking Brake
• Auto Hold function
• Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
• Height adjustable front headrests
• Front seat belts with load limiter and pretensioner
• Front seat belt height adjustment
• 3 rear headrests
• 3×3-point rear seat belts with load limiter and pretensioner
• Front and Rear seat belts reminder
• Two rear ISOFIX child seat anchorage points with “Top tether”
• Remote central door locking with deadlocking
• Rear door child locks
• Puncture repair kit
• Engine immobiliser
• Thatcham alarm system

Car safety developments

Simply comparing the size of the spec lists of the 2006 Focus and the 2022 Qashqai, gives you a good idea of the safety features that have come to the market over the last 16 years. The main safety developments being additional airbags, braking and control technology and various intelligent collision warning systems.


For airbag comparison, as we’ve explained, the old Ford actually fairs very well, but it’s worth bearing in mind most 16 year old cars would be a stark contrast to a modern vehicle. If we’d compared any other average car from 2006 we’d be looking at a lone driver’s airbag or maybe two at the most compared to anywhere between four and ten airbags today as standard. Our specific comparison model from Nissan boasts numerous airbags, which should protect the driver and passengers from front and side impacts as well as between the passengers themselves.

Crash test dummy using driver airbag

Braking / Control tech

In addition to the 2006 Focus’ ABS offering, the new Qashqai lists numerous enhanced features including Brake Assist, Active Brake Limited Slip, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Hill Start Assist and EBD. EBD stands for Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, which limits and stabilises the amount of pressure put on each wheel. It’s key in preventing collisions, as the system can avoid intense pressure on one wheel, which could otherwise cause it to buckle – flipping the car or sending it off the road. All these developments go a long way to enhancing the effects of the original ABS systems and undoubtedly keep drivers significantly safer.

Modern car brakes

Intelligent tech

Something that doesn’t appear on any car spec list from 16 years ago is the word ‘intelligent’ and that is undoubtedly the focus of recent safety features. Intelligent technology may improve the driver experience, but it’s largely for collision prevention. Euro NCAP states that it is always preferable to prevent accidents in the first place, and in their rating system, award points for technology that helps drivers avoid collisions. In the Qashqai’s key safety features you can see that, other than the airbags, every other feature is sensor-led tech, designed to keep the vehicle in-lane and away from other vehicles and obstacles.

Intelligent car tech shown on dashboard

Collision Avoidance Systems

These various systems monitor what is happening around a vehicle using cameras, lasers, and short and long-range radar. They are all designed to alert drivers to potential threats and help them avoid accidents, so when a sensor is triggered by another vehicle, a pedestrian or an obstacle, the system will alert the driver through noises or flashing lights.

According to SMMT 67% of new cars are available with collision warning systems. 42% are offered with overtaking sensors (blind spot recognition) and 53% can be bought with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). Despite some criticism, these intelligent technology solutions have had a massive impact on car safety.

UK collision data

According to the government’s Department for Transport (DfT) data, in the last ten years alone, road collisions involving cars have dropped from 157,946 in 2012 to 88,065 in 2022. While of course there will be many other factors that have affected this figure, including general road safety projects, such a dramatic drop in collisions must be partly down the advancements in car safety and collision prevention technology.

The DfT stats for specific ‘contributing factors’ in collisions clearly indicate the positive effect the safety features we’ve highlighted have had over the last decade, with most factors decreasing by over half!

Contributing factors to collisions on UK roads over the last decade according to DfT:

Tip: you can move this table side to side on mobile devices if required.

Collision Factor20122022% Change
Sudden braking6,2892,196-65%
Loss of control 11,8625,081-57%
Junction overshoot2,3601,150-51%
Too close to a cyclist, horse rider or pedestrian1,678670-60%
Vehicle blind spots1,012639-37%
Stationary/parked vehicles3,3081,333-60%

Safety first

Overall, while we certainly felt safe in a Ford Focus ten years ago and applaud this manufacturer for their safety features of that time, it’s clear that the years since have seen huge advances in technology. A similar Ford manufactured today would feature a lot of the same impressive safety features that the Nissan Qashqai offers.

While the physical aspects of all car design includes key safety aspects that have changed very little over several decades – such as crumple zones and seatbelts – it’s the finer details of cars’ workings, from the braking systems, to the intelligent tech, that could now mean the difference between surviving a collision and being part of an incident in the first place.

Safe driver holding the wheel

The ultimate safety feature

Ultimately, the best possible safety feature is the person driving! No matter what safety specifications a car has, if someone is driving irresponsibly, an accident can happen and injuries or fatalities will follow. Most physical safety features, however advanced, cannot protect a driver or passengers from the results of a high-speed collision. So while we’re very happy to see technological advancements for even safer cars in the future, it’s up to all of us to drive responsibly, be aware of the road rules, and stay alert!

When your car has reached the end of the road, hopefully not because of a safety issue, we can take care of it – making sure to get you the best price and recycling it responsibly if it’s at the end of its life.

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