Euro NCAP final safety ratings for 2021 tested 11 new models. Seven achieved a top five star rating – the BMW iX, Genesis G70 and GV70, Mercedes-EQ EQS, Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Caddy.
The electric FIAT 500e and MG’s Marvel R also did well and earned four stars each.
However, the Dacia Spring and facelifted Renault ’s Zoe EV qualified for only one star and zero stars respectively, performing even worse than expected.
Despite having different powertrains and price tickets, all five star cars performed very well overall in terms of crash protection and crash avoidance. There were stand-out performances from the new Qashqai in the area of safety assist and the EQS for adult and child occupant protection.
Fiat’s 500e EV and the new MG Marvel R, also both put in strong performances and achieved commendable four star ratings.
Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, said: “Bravo to these manufacturers for giving consumers the levels of safety they have come to expect. These results once more make clear that safety is all about good engineering and less about the type of powertrain or price per se.”
Renault launched the Zoe EV in 2013. The ‘new’ model, a facelift introduced in 2020, received several battery improvements but no added safety.
On the contrary, the seat mounted side airbag which previously protected head and thorax was replaced by a less effective thorax-only airbag, representing a degradation in occupant protection. The latest Zoe offers poor protection in crashes overall, poor vulnerable road user protection and lacks meaningful crash avoidance technology, disqualifying it for any stars.
Things did not fare much better for Renault’s cheap brand Dacia. The full electric Spring, marketed as a brand new vehicle, is heavily based on the Chinese-made Renault City K-ZE, itself a derivative of the troublesome Renault Kwid, sold in India and Brazil for several years. Dacia has staunch supporters across Europe: car buyers who appreciate the low entry prices and steer clear of ‘useless features’ in their car. However, with the Spring, the ‘masters of frugal engineering’ have launched a product that goes beyond no frills. Its performance in crash tests is downright problematic, with a high risk of life threatening injuries for driver chest and rear passenger head in frontal crash tests and marginal chest protection in side impact. The mediocre crash performance and poor crash avoidance technology resulted in a one star rating.
Van Ratingen said: “Renault was once synonymous with safety. The Laguna was the first car to get five stars, back in 2001. But these disappointing results for the Zoe and the Dacia Spring show that safety has now become collateral damage in the group’s transition to electric cars.
“Only a few months ago, Dacia claimed that they were ‘preoccupied with always increasing safety for those on board’ and that their cars always have passenger safety improved. That’s clearly not the case: not only do these cars fail to offer any appreciable active safety as standard but their occupant protection is also worse than any vehicle we have seen in many years. It is cynical to offer the consumer an affordable green car if it comes at the price of higher injury risk in the event of an accident.
“Other cars, such as the 500e, recently awarded 5 stars in Green NCAP, show safety does not need to be sacrificed for environmental cleanliness.”
Rikard Fredriksson, vehicle aafety advisor from Trafikverket in Sweden said: “Euro NCAP’s tests highlight the significant differences which arise when the decision is taken not to upgrade the safety level of a vehicle which is kept in production. Especially alarming is the airbag downgrading by the manufacturer when its vehicle was facelifted in other non-safety areas. In this release we can see examples of electric cars at similar price levels but remarkably different safety levels.”