Some of the most popular small cars in India have failed the crash tests conducted by Global NCAP, an independent UK-based charity that carries out consumer orientated vehicle safety initiatives.
In the first-ever independent crash tests conducted on Indian vehicles, most small cars showed high risk of life threatening injuries in road crashes. "All the cars selected by Global NCAP for testing in a frontal impact at 64kmph received zero-star adult protection ratings," the report said.
The models tested included the Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800, which is India's best-selling car, Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Polo. The NCAP first chose the entry-level versions of each model, none of which were fitted with airbags as standard. These cars form a fifth of the total passenger vehicle sales in India.
After the tests, Volkswagen Polo has made twin front airbags standard across its entire range. When it was tested again with twin-front airbags it passsed with a four-star rating.
The report added that in the Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800, the Tata Nano and the Hyundai i10, the extent of the structural weaknesses were such that even fitting airbags would not be effective in reducing the risk of serious injury.
The Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo had structures that remained stable, and, therefore, with airbags fitted, protection for the driver and front passenger would be much improved.
Most models fail UN's basic crash test
Global NCAP also assessed the same models against the UN's basic crash test. This 40 per cent offset frontal impact test at 56kmph is now widely applied by major manufacturing countries and regions, including Australia, China, European Union, Japan and Malaysia. However, India is yet to implement it. All but one of the cars tested failed to pass even this minimum UN safety standard.
In a separate child safety rating, the child seats recommended by manufacturers were often found to be incompatible with their vehicle's belt system. Here again, Polo's base model initially failed the test, but when it was tested again with the newly introduced twin airbags, it cleared the test.
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