The Ford Ranger scores what the European New Car Assessment Program calls a remarkable result as it becomes first pickup to achieve a 5-star rating in Europe’s crash-test protocol, scoring 89% for overall safety.

Euro NCAP says that is the best score ever earned by a pickup and one of the highest scores for any type of vehicle. The Ranger also achieved an 81% rating for pedestrian protection, the highest rating of any pickup ever tested by the program.

The safety organization says the third-generation model, designed and engineered by Ford Australia, marks a significant improvement over the 2-star adult-occupant rating of the previous Ranger in 2008.

Euro NCAP attributes the Ranger’s high rating to a softer and well-engineered front end that absorbs impact energy, giving pedestrians better protection.

“With such pedestrian protection the Ford Ranger is undoubtedly raising the bar of safety in the category of pickup trucks, which had until now not proven to be the safest,” Euro NCAP Secretary General Michiel van Ratingen says.

Ford engineers developing the pickup used computer modeling to assess more than 9,000 virtual crash tests before the 110 actual vehicle crash tests or 410 system-sled tests were undertaken.

Adam Frost, chief engineer-digital innovation, Ford Asia/Pacific and Africa, says the virtual simulations allowed the engineers to design the vehicle structure and safety systems to provide maximum protection in a wide range of real-world collisions.

All this was achieved before a prototype vehicle was built and subjected to crash-testing.

“On the all-new Ranger we did more crash simulations than any of our prior programs to ensure all parts of the vehicle’s safety performance were optimized,” Frost says. “This was backed up by a comprehensive physical-crash-test program.”

Euro NCAP also announced 5-star safety ratings for the Audi Q3, BMW 1-Series, Chevrolet Captiva, Fiat Freemont, Hyundai Veloster, Mercedes M-Class, Opel/Vauxhall Astra and Zafira Tourer, Lancia Thema and Toyota Yaris.

The Lancia Voyager was awarded 4 stars.

Other vehicles given good scores for pedestrian protection include the BMW 1-Series, Mercedes M-Class and Toyota Yaris, all scoring more than 60% of available points, the Euro NCAP’s minimum for a 5-star rating from 2012.

The highly rated Fiat Freemont, Mercedes M-Class and Lancia Thema and Voyager are equipped with active hoods to improve pedestrian protection. Sensors in the hoods detect when a pedestrian has been struck and actuators lift the hood to provide greater clearance to hard structures underneath.

Vauxhall says the Zafira Tourer and Astra GTC achieved excellent results in all test categories including passenger safety for adults and children, as well as pedestrian-safety and driver-assistance systems.

U.K. order books for the Astra GTC opened in June and the first cars will appear in showrooms next month. The Zafira Tourer will be available to order Nov. 1 and the car will reach Vauxhall retailers next February.

Euro NCAP is made up of representatives from EU transport ministries, automotive associations and car insurers.