Experts have given Renault’s Zoe an A-minus rating in crash tests because the French manufacturer removed a vital safety device. 

In the current model of this small zero emission vehicle, there is no seat-mounted airbag for protecting the head of an occupant in case it’s struck by a car. It was therefore found that the vehicle could directly hit a driver’s skull in an impact with a pole when it collided sideways.  

In 25 years of vehicle testing, the Zoe is the third car to receive a zero out-of-five rating. It’s the safest new car Britons have the option to buy.

It wasn’t just the model that failed in this round of testing; Dacia, which also received a poor rating for its first electric vehicle, the Spring crossover, was given a one star rating. This is still to be confirmed for UK markets. 

French car flunks crash tests: The electric Zoe is only the third new car to score ZERO stars in Euro NCAP assessments after Renault removed a side-impact head airbag from the model in 2020

French car fails crash tests: After Renault took the side-impact head airbag out of the model’s 2020 version, the electric Zoe was the only new vehicle to earn ZERO stars in Euro NCAP assessment.

Safety experts say the side-pole collision test the £27,595 (after the £2,500 Plug-in Car Grant) electric car failed abysmally replicates real-world impacts involving a vehicle skidding into rigid roadside objects, such as trees or lampposts. 

Thatcham Research says a third of these collision types are classified as fatal or serious accidents, because the solid object can penetrate deeply into the passenger compartment.

In cars, extra protection has been provided over the years with specific seat-mounted airbags. These are designed to provide additional protection in case of an accident. 

When the vehicle was redesigned in 2020, it made changes to the safety system. It now protects the thorax and not its head.

This feature has been removed by Renault from its latest Zoe model. However, tests showed that it is possible for a pole to strike the head of the driver and could cause serious injury.

Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research’s chief strategy officer, said it is a ‘serious concern to see results like this in 2021’, especially given the vital safety feature previously fitted has now been omitted.

This is not surprising considering Renault’s safety record.

Safety experts awarded the car zero stars for a multitude of failings, though most notably the omission of a head airbag. The EV costs from £27,595 in the UK (with the £2,500 EV grant)

Safety experts gave zero stars to the vehicle for many failings. However, the most significant was the lack of head airbags. The EV costs from £27,595 in the UK (with the £2,500 EV grant)

Most new cars offer a specific seat-mounted airbag designed to shield a driver or passenger's head and thorax area if this type of accident. However, Renault's updated system in the Zoe only protects the thorax

The majority of new cars come with a special seat-mounted, airbag to protect the head or thorax in case of an accident. Renault’s Zoe has an updated system that protects the chest.

The low scores across all four categories reviewed by Euro NCAP means the Zoe is only the third car in 25 years of testing to be awarded the lowest zero star safety rating

Euro NCAP has given the Zoe the lowest safety rating of zero stars in all categories, meaning it is the third time that Zoe has been tested over the 25-year period.

With its Laguna family of models, the French brand was the first to earn a complete Euro NCAP rating with five starts in 2001. It also became the first mainstream vehicle to have the Zoe’s combined head-thorax airbag. 

“Although it was an innovative safety measure, this airbag can be found on almost all modern vehicles today,” Mr Avery explained. 

“Unfortunately, the conscious decision was made by the company that invented it to eliminate the protection of the head from this crucial passive safety feature. 

These disappointing results show that safety has now become collateral damage in Renault’s transition to electric cars

Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP

“As such, safety has been seriously compromised in the vehicle.”

Euro NCAP stated that the Renault Laguna’s legacy was ruined by the elimination of the airbag. 

Euro NCAP originally evaluated the Renault Zoe and awarded it five stars. 

Thatcham Research, UK’s vehicle safety expert says that by removing the crucial airbag as well other important passive safety features, the Zoe “has been far behind the standard attained by most carmakers 2021”.  

Avery states that Renault Zoe’s score for adult occupants of 43% is the lowest recorded in over 11 years. 

“Overall, automakers are achieving good scores in impact testing today, even though Euro NCAP has raised the standards to make sure the program remains safest in the world.

‘It’s a shame to see Renault threaten a safety pedigree built from the inception of the rating.’

What makes the result especially disappointing is that Renault was the first car maker to score five stars in Euro NCAP tests some 20 years ago. Euro NCAP said safety had become collateral damage in its transition to EVs

The fact that Renault is the only car manufacturer to have received five stars from Euro NCAP testing 20 years ago makes this disappointing. Euro NCAP stated that safety was a collateral injury in the transition to EVs.

A ‘frontal offset” crash was replicated using the Zoe. It also proved to be weakly protective for the driver’s chest. 

Euro NCAP’s Zoe safety review also revealed a dearth of standard active safety technology in new cars.

What’s Euro NCAP? 

Euro NCAP crash tests around 100 cars every year to provide customers info about how safe popular models are

Euro NCAP crashes around 100 cars each year in order to give customers information about the safety of popular models 

Euro NCAP stands for European New Car Assessment Programme and has been crash testing vehicles since 1996.

The independent organization is funded by seven organisations, three of which are from Britain: the Department for Transport and Thatcham Research and International Consumer Research and Testing. 

This test is designed to evaluate popular mainstream models in terms of their safety.

By publishing safety ratings and data for cars tested over several decades,  new and used car buyers can gauge the protective qualities of models they’re considering buying.

This unit crashes tests more than 100 vehicles each year. 

Euro NCAP continually tightens their testing and ratings, to include new technologies like Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), meaning that a five star car in 2021 is much safer than one which was tested a decade ago.

This rating system has been split into four groups: Safety Assist, Adult Occupant and Vulnerable road user.

These are protection ratings. The latter, however, is an indicator of the amount and quality of safety equipment available. 

This includes Lane Departure Warnings – which has been shown to have a lower involvement rate in fatal crashes by up to 86 per cent – and standard-fit Autonomous Emergency Braking, which is one of the most important recent developments in car safety which has been shown to reduce front-to-rear crashes with injuries by 56 per cent.

It was scored at 14% in Safety Assist, which is 61% less than the 75 percent average achieved this year by car manufacturers in that category.

Avery stated that the French marque forced its buyers to trade safety for emissions. 

He stated that despite being a motorcyclist, they can still save the earth and drive a car which could help to rescue their families in case of an accident. 

“There are other choices of similar size and price that can be found and have received solid ratings. They also come with a variety of active safety features as standard.

Mail Online, This is Money and Renault UK reached out to Renault UK in order for comments on the Zoe’s zero crash-test rating. 

A response from Renault stated that it took note of Euro NCAP results after specific tests were conducted on Zoe E-Tech Electric under its updated protocol, which was implemented in 2020.

“Renault confirms that Zoe E-Tech Electric meets all safety regulations. 

These standards, which are continually evolving, are increasingly stringent in all areas of life and safety. 

Renault continues to improve its offerings in compliance with all regulations.

The Euro NCAP protocol awarded five stars to Zoe when it was launched. Since 2013, five modifications have occurred to EuroNCAP protocol. 

A model may lose two stars if they use the same equipment for every protocol change.

“The modern Zoe evolved in 2017 by adapting its passive safety equipment for real accidentology and modernizing the vehicle with state-of-the art ADAS. [Advanced Driver Assist Systems]Advanced Emergency Braking, Pedestrian and Bicyclist Detection, Lane Departure alert and Lane Keeping Assist are all examples of equipment that can be used with a radar and a cam.

As a result of Euro NCAP crash test scores, Zoe has officially joined the Fiat Punto and Panda.

Dacia’s first EV received a one-star crash rating

Renault’s Dacia is another vehicle maker that saw poor results in Euro NCAP safety tests this year.

In Euro NCAP testing, the Spring, a crossover of Sandero size that is not yet available for UK customers, received a single-star rating. 

Adult Occupant Safety scores of less than 49 per cent could indicate poor protection for several areas in crash simulators. These can lead to life-threatening injuries during a crash.

However, the Dacia has the same airbag as the Renault Zoe. This protects from head injuries in side collisions.

The Renault Spring - a compact SUV that's not yet confirmed for the UK market - scored a lowly one-star rating in the latest round of crash tests on new vehicles

In the most recent round of crash testing on new cars, the Renault Spring – an SUV compact that has yet to be confirmed for UK markets – received a very low one star rating.

An Adult Occupant Protection score of just 49 per cent represented poor and weak protection across several areas of the crash test dummies used for the collision simulations

Adult Occupant Protection scores of less than 49 percent indicate poor or weak protection for several areas in the crash test models used to simulate collisions.

The Dacia Spring is estimated to retail at around €17,000 in Europe. That means it could be priced from approximately £14,500 in Britain, if bosses decide to sell it here from 2022

The Dacia Spring is estimated to retail at around €17,000 in Europe. That means it could be priced from approximately £14,500 in Britain, if bosses decide to sell it here from 2022

Also, the rating of Child Occupant protection in Spring was low at 56 percent 

Avery said, “The 6-year-old dummy was not protected. This suggests that a collision could cause serious head and neck injuries.” 

This is not a car that can be trusted by families, although it has been marketed to them as an option. 

Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP, said: ‘These disappointing results for the Zoe and Dacia Spring show that safety has now become collateral damage in Renault’s transition to electric cars.’

He stated that the cars did not provide any active safety and that their occupant protection was even worse than other vehicles we had seen for many years. 

It is foolish to sell a green vehicle at a low price to consumers if there are higher chances of injury in an accident. 

“Other cars have proven that safety doesn’t need to be compromised for the sake of environmental cleanliness.”

The Dacia Spring is estimated to retail at around €17,000 in Europe, before the government grant is factored in. That means it could be priced from approximately £14,500 in Britain, if bosses decide to sell it here from 2022. 

Euro NCAP crash testing results for another nine models have been also released.

BMW iX (built in Sunderland), Genesis G70 and GV70s, Mercedes-Benz EQS Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Fabia, VW Caddy and Mercedes-Benz EQS all earn five-star ratings for excellent passive and active safety performances. 

Ratings of four stars were assigned to the Fiat 500e as well as the MG Marvel R. 


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