That moment was at the launch of the Datsun Go. I remember one of the marketing people stating that there was no need for ABS “because the car is light and can stop quickly.” That wasn’t the end of it though, as we then discovered that the Go also lacked airbags and more importantly, a strong structure to absorb the forces generated by a collision.
Therefore, when Global NCAP and AA South Africa invited me to the launch of the #SaferCarsforAfrica conference in Cape Town, I jumped at the opportunity.
Unfortunately, on the morning of the event, I felt on the verge of death, overcome by a stomach bug and unable to make the trip to Cape Town. Thank goodness for social media and the ability to follow things live. I got the gist of what the conference was about from the coverage provided online.
In basic terms, the #SaferCarsforAfrica initiative is the first time that an independent crash test assessment has been carried out on cars sold in South Africa.
The five models tested are all of the compact variety and were tested in accordance with global crash test standards, where cars are given a star rating based on their performance in a crash scenario. Five is excellent, four is good, three is acceptable, two is not great, one it’s awful and zero, well, you can just imagine.
The cars that were tested
The models chosen for testing included the Volkswagen Polo Vivo, Datsun Go+, Toyota Etios, Renault Sandero and Chery QQ3.
According to AA South Africa, “Combined sales of these five cars account for around 65% of all the new cars sold in South Africa last year. Global NCAP chose the entry-level version of each model and as a result, one of them was not fitted with airbags as standard. The results highlight differences in the structural integrity of the vehicles tested.”
A word from Global NCAP
Lauchlan McIntosh, Chairman of Global NCAP, said: “In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a road safety resolution which recognised the important role NCAPs play as a catalyst for improving vehicle safety standards. The UN has sought to encourage the spread of NCAPs across the regions and automotive markets of the World and today, in Cape Town, I am delighted that Global NCAP is helping to achieve that goal with the launch of the first ever crashworthiness programme for cars sold in Africa.
“Global NCAP has provided assistance to launch similar programmes in South America, India and the ASEAN region, programmes which have led to the delivery of safer cars into those markets over the last five years.”
The Etios achieved a four star rating for adult occupant protection in the frontal crash test at 64km/h.The vehicle’s structure was rated as stable, offering good general adult occupant protection. The car included seatbelts with pretensioners for both front passengers. Using the child seat recommended by Toyota, the Etios achieved a three star rating for child occupant protection.
The Sandero achieved a three star rating for adult occupant protection in the frontal crash test. It’s structure was rated as stable, offering acceptable general adult protection, but the seatbelts do without pretensioners. Using the child seat recommended by Renault, the Sandero achieved a four star rating for child protection.
Volkswagen Polo Vivo
The locally built Polo Vivo achieved a three star rating for adult occupant protection, with its structure being rated stable, thereby obtaining an “acceptable” score for adults. No seatbelt pretensioners are offered with child safety being rated at three stars.
The MPV version of the Go, the Go+ achieved a one star rating for adults, giving it a poor classification. Aside from its structure being deemed unstable, the fitment of a driver’s airbag did little to alleviate a high compression rating on the chest of the crash test dummy, with the lack of a passenger airbag not helping. A two star child safety rating was obtained.
South Africa’s cheapest new car, the QQ3 scored zero stars due to it lacking any airbags. Its structure was rated unstable with some areas even collapsing on impact, with severe injuries to the head and chest of the crash test dummies. It was also given a zero rating for child occupant protection.
David Ward, Secretary General of Global NCAP said: “It is good to see a four star result in these first ever African crash test ratings. However, it’s extremely disappointing that there’s a zero star car. Such a poor result shows why it is so important for countries like South Africa to fully apply the UN’s crash test standards.