New safety ratings for 15 car models are released – one with a zero rating – as the Euro New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) wraps up its busiest year yet.

NCAP awards five stars to the Hyundai Kona, Kia Stinger, fourth-generation BMW 6-Series and Jaguar F-Pace.

There were only three stars for the MG ZS CUV, Dacia Duster 2 and Kia Stonic – but five stars with optional safety equipment.

Faced with a competitive marketplace and rapidly changing consumer preferences, more manufacturers are choosing to extend the lifetimes of their models, often introducing only minor facelifts along the way to boost sales, NCAP notes.

As a result, it has updated the ratings on several of the recently facelifted cars. Apart from the Toyota Yaris, which keeps its five-star rating, most of these cars have dropped to three stars in this year’s safety tests.

The list includes the Toyota Aygo (four stars with optional safety equipment), Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Ford C-Max and Grand C-Max, Opel Karl and PSA’s DS 3.

NCAP says the most extreme example is the Fiat Punto, which has been on sale since 2005 and remains a strong seller in Italy. The aging supermini is outclassed by every car tested in recent history and becomes Euro NCAP’s first car ever to be awarded zero stars.

Euro NCAP’s rating scheme requires cars to score a minimum number of points in all four areas of assessment to qualify for even one star.

In areas such as adult and child occupant safety and pedestrian protection, the Punto performs well enough to qualify for at least two stars. It is marked down for driver assistance and crash avoidance; with only a seatbelt reminder for the driver as standard, no points were scored in this part of the assessment.

The Punto “is perhaps the strongest example of a manufacturer continuing to sell a product that is well past its best-before date, at the expense of the unsuspecting car buyer,” Euro NCAP Secretary General Michiel van Ratingen says in a statement.

However, he adds: “We have seen a lot of good cars in 2017, able to meet Euro NCAP’s five-star requirements. Superminis such as the new (Volkswagen) Polo, (Ford) Fiesta and (SEAT) Ibiza now come with advanced safety technology as standard, offering the best in crash avoidance and crash protection.”

In Australia, the Australasian NCAP gave a three- and five-star rating to the Kia Stinger.

“As a new market entrant, the Kia Stinger has generated a lot of public interest and consumers should expect a five-star safety rating for this caliber of vehicle,” ANCAP CEO James Goodwin says in a statement.

The Si, GT Line and GT variants marketed in Australia and all New Zealand Stinger variants are well-equipped and have earned the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.

“Unfortunately, two Stinger variants offered as part of the Australian model lineup – the 200S and 330S – are supplied without the active safety aids provided in other variants and score three stars,” Goodwin says.

Autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist have been omitted from these grades, reducing their safety-assist score to 25%. Australasian variants also lack rear seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters which help manage the forces of a crash, Goodwin says.

“Australasian customers should feel let down that important safety features are being left out of the vehicles we’re being supplied,” he says. “We would urge Kia to offer the same safety specification across all variants and all markets to ensure the best safety outcomes.”