The Defender is the first off-road SUV, and the first vehicle with no centre airbag to get top marks.
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The 2020 Land Rover Defender has been awarded a five-star safety rating under the latest evaluation conditions – the first vehicle to do so without a centre airbag.

The new-generation Defender is also the first adept off-road SUV to receive a five-star score since the new test conditions were introduced this year.

In the past, manufacturers such as Jeep and Suzuki have claimed vehicles with proper off-road ability are incapable of achieving top marks, with the Wrangler, Gladiator, and Jimny getting only three stars.

The top marks were awarded to the Land Rover Defender by the independent Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), based on crash test data obtained by the agency's European partner in August 2020.

While all previous recipients of the 2020 five-star safety rating were fitted with a centre airbag, the Defender scored well in side impact testing thanks to the cabin width – however, the result would be different if a passenger was seated in the optional centre 'jump seat' available for the front row.

The positive result also only applies to the passenger vehicle model, and won't be applied to the upcoming Defender Hard Top commercial variant, which is expected to undergo separate testing.

The Defender scored well across the board, receiving 85 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 71 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 76 per cent for safety assist.

"Adult Occupant Protection and Child Occupant Protection scored well, with maximum points recorded for adult occupants in the side impact and oblique pole tests, and for child occupants in the frontal offset and side impact tests," ANCAP Communications Director Rhianne Robson said of the results.

However, the Defender lost points for pedestrian impacts and fell short in frontal offset crash test. ANCAP also warned against fitting child seats to the third row, due to a lack of tethering points.

The score is in stark contrast to the old Defender, which offered little in the way of safety features other than legally-mandated airbags and electronic stability control.