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Smashing, great, super!

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Over the last couple of series, as you've doubtless noticed, we've developed a bit of a reputation here at Fifth Gear for our real-world crashtests.

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Sure, they create some spectacular footage. But they also serve a more serious purpose - testing some of the suppositions and principals on which people select which cars to buy every day. With our latest effort being, we reckon, the most relevant yet - as we pitch a full-sized people carrier against a traditional 4x4. Renault Espace versus Land Rover Discovery.

It's certainly a timely addition to the debate over the future of big, brutal SUVs. Accused of being large, hard to park and of slurping a disproportionate amount of the earth's natural resources, buyers of road-dwelling SUVs have tended to defend their choice from the supposedly impenetrable position that they protect their occupants better than more conventional cars in the event of an accident. It's a supposition that we've tested to destruction on this week's show.

The Renault Espace comes with impeccable safety credentials. When it was introduced in 2003 it was the highest-scoring car that Euro NCAP had ever tested, winning a coveted five-star rating.

We showed just how safe it was when we put one into a live crashtest with an earlier Espace in a previous series.

But as the market for big 4x4s has boomed, so buyers have started to turn to them in the belief that they offer an even safer alternative. They're big, brutal and - tests prove - likely to emerge as the "victor" from pretty much any impact with a conventional car.The Land Rover Discovery that we've chosen for our live crash test is typical of the tens of thousands of similar cars pounding the roads of Britain today.

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