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How Cars Score Zero Star Ratings in Crash Tests?

With increasing awareness about safer cars all over the world, Indians have finally started giving some priority to safety. When the Global NCAP first conducted tests on cars manufactured in India, almost all the cars scored 0 stars. So, how do these cars score zero star ratings in crash tests? What makes these cars so unsafe and insecure? These are a few things we will be throwing some light on in this article.

What is NCAP?

NCAP is the New Car Assessment Program, that started in the US and is now present in many forms all over the world under different names. There is US-NCAP, Australian NCAP, Euro NCAP, Japan NCAP, ASEAN NCAP, China NCAP, Korean NCAP and the Global NCAP. The Global NCAP is an independent charity registered in 2011 as a bridge between the several NCAPs, whose primary notion is to promote vehicle crash-testing and reporting in emerging markets such as ourselves.

How are the cars crash-tested?

Every NCAP mentioned above has a variety of different protocols and methods to crash-test the cars. Since the methods are not the same, the results are also different and cannot be compared with each other. For example, Euro NCAP conducts front offset, full-frontal, side-impact, and side pole tests. The Global NCAP test ratings, on the other hand, are based on a single test which is the front offset crash test. In the frontal offset crash test, the car is driven at 64 kmph with 40% overlap into a deformable barrier, which is the equivalent of a crash between two cars of the same weight.


How the rating of the car is determined?

As you may be familiar with by now, each car is given a rating on a 5-star scale: the higher the rating, the safer the car. The rating is based on Adult Occupant Protection and Child Occupant Protection scores derived from the crash tests. These scores are derived from the readings of the crash-test dummies and additional points may be awarded for the presence of a few safety features. The 17-point Adult Occupant Protection scores are marked by considering the driver and passenger injury readings from four major body regions. Those regions are:

  1. Head and neck
  2. Chest
  3. Knee, femur, and pelvis
  4. Leg and foot

The 49-point Child Occupant Protection score takes into consideration the readings from the 18-month old and 3-year old sized dummies placed in manufacturer-recommended child seats. Additional points are given for the child restraint system, provision of three-point seat belts, Isofix, etc.

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How does a car score a 0-star rating in these crash tests?

Renault Lodgy Scores 0 star rating in GNCAP tests
Renault Lodgy Scores 0 star rating in GNCAP tests

Based on the crash-test results, the scores are converted to a 5-star scale as mentioned before. Failure to protect the crash-test dummies from the impact will fetch you 1-star but when the crash-test dummies bear a fatal impact resulting in a brutal blow without any safety feature will fetch a 0-star rating. This is a case where the crash-test dummies indicate that there is no possibility for the drivers or passengers to survive the crash.

Maruti S-Presso crash test safety rating
Maruti S-Presso crash test safety rating

As shown in the image above, red shows parts of the dummies that had little to no protection, and that’s a lot of red. The fact that the Maruti Suzuki S-Presso lacks many basic safety features makes it very unsafe. Some of them are a single airbag that is puny and lacks seat-belt pretensioners as well among many other basic features that would help it a lot.

Tata Altroz Global NCAP rating
Tata Altroz Global NCAP rating

But the most important thing missing from cars like the S-Presso is an effective crumple zone. This is the section at the front of the car designed to absorb most of the impact, while at the same time, redirecting the energy around the cabin. The crumple zone should first be tough enough to receive the impact and later redirect the rest of the energy throughout the chassis to make sure there is minimal impact sent to the cabin where the passengers are present. This is the reason why the Tata Altroz, which is a hatchback too, but a foot wider and over a foot long, with only 2 airbags scored an excellent 5-star rating.

So effectively, even if a car has more than 10 airbags and a weak crumple zone, it will surely fail to protect its passengers. On the contrary, if a car has a well-engineered chassis with an effective crumple zone and only two airbags, it can still protect you and reduce the fatality for the driver and passengers. It’s not just the number of airbags but also the lack of safety features and an unstable chassis, that will help a car score 0-stars in any of the crash tests throughout the world. Thanks to these crash tests, we have a better understanding of safety and can choose our vehicles accordingly.

The safety aspect of a car needs to become a higher priority and features like ESP, Traction control and at least 6 airbags need to be mandatory as it is in the US and other developed countries. Moreover, customers should stop buying unsafe products just because it costs less, as we believe human life is priceless and more so if that person in question is your loved one.

Just as a suggestion, we think that only cars that score 3-stars and above in the Global NCAP should be allowed in the market and this creates a necessity for the manufacturers to make their cars safer. Let us know what you think about this and if anything else needs to be mandated to prioritize safety.

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Gautam Ganesh
A believer in "Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul." An avid car and bike enthusiast. Anything that has a handle or a steering wheel, excites me.


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