The five vehicles for sale in Brazil that were evaluated in the last 12 months by the Latin NCAP, an independent road safety institute, received a score of zero. The last of them, being the Renault Duster: before came the Ford Ka and the Hyundai HB20 — the latter the 2nd best-selling car in the country in the first half and (justice be done) safer in the new generation.

Latin NCAP evaluates models based on four parameters: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, pedestrian protection and driving assist technologies. The analysis is rigorous: one bad spot on a sphere and the end result is likely to be zero.

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“Low performance in only one aspect means a low final result, even if the other three offer good performance”, warns the agency.

This was the case of the Renault Duster test, the most recent released by Latin NCAP (see video below) — There was also for Swift, but Suzuki will no longer offer the compact in Brazil. With two airbags, the crossover model provided low protection in all four categories.

In the frontal impact, until the protection offered to the head and neck of the driver and passenger was good. However, the child dummies in the backseat banged their heads into the cabin during the rebound of the collision, hurting the score. To make matters worse, during the crash, Duster leaked fuel, prompting NCAP to recommend a recall of the models.

“Duster is not illegal, but it has low security,” says Latin NCAP

Days after the test, released at the end of August, Renault took a stand on the problems observed and attributed the poor result to the protocol changes in Latin NCAP. That's because the same car, with identical configuration, has already been rated reasonably — between 3 and 4 stars — in previous tests by the institute.

“In 2020, Latin NCAP changed the testing protocols and, because of that, the results are different”, said an official note from Renault do Brasil. “It is important to emphasize that the Renault Duster strictly complies with the regulations in the countries where it is sold, exceeding them in some aspects. The model features various safety equipment such as ESC [stability control], blind spot alert, Multiview camera, ramp start assistant, among others, which are not required by law,” he added.

On Monday (13), the Latin NCAP positioned itself about the test, clarifying that he never mentioned the fact that the car did not meet the standards required by the government of Brazil, nor was it illegal. According to the agency, the only mention was the low safety of the vehicle, especially in relation to the protection offered in the European market.

“From our point of view, Renault implies that the security required by the government is not at the level of what is required in Europe,” he explained. “The ESC showed some worrying fluctuations in the video of the test conducted by Latin NCAP. Blind spot alert is optional, not standard. Renault does not offer curtain airbags and side airbags either as an option; on the contrary, they are standard in Europe, even if they were not mandatory.”

The Latin NCAP also adds that, in relation to other SUV or premium compact competitors, Duster “leaves many disappointments”, especially when the inclusion or not of safety equipment is a commercial decision. In other words, Renault conditions safety elements in the car to the price - it is worth noting that the institute always evaluates the entry models in tests.

Renault Duster crash test by NCAP
Renault Duster Impact Test (NCAP/Disclosure)

And what were the protocol reinforcements?

Every four years, Latin NCAP makes its tests tougher and stricter — assessments have been taking place since 2010. Last year, the agency added a set of series items as critical to good scoring.

These include electronic stability control, front and rear seat belt reminders, pedestrian protection, and better side impact protection — just where Duster did poorly. In addition, the new protocol unified star rating for adults and children.

Although Renault says that testing protocols have changed and therefore Duster was poorly rated, Latin NCAP explains that automakers have known about the change since 2016.

The minimum percentages to get a good grade in the first application step are as follows: 75% in adult occupant protection; 80% in child occupant protection; 50% in pedestrian protection; and 75% on assistive security technologies. The Renault Duster received 29% in the first, 23% in the second, 51% in the third and 35% in the fourth and hence the score of zero in the Latin NCAP verdict.

New line of Hyundai HB20 comes with safety improvements

One of the best selling models in Brazil, the Hyundai HB20 also got a zero grade on the Latin NCAP test in December of last year. At the time, the hatchback model, with its two standard airbags, scored 19% in adult occupant protection, 10% in child occupants, 43% in pedestrian protection and 14% in safety assistance.

The Latin NCAP also found that the car had average frontal impact protection and poor side protection for the driver's chest. In the cervical whiplash test, the HB20 also did not do well, in addition to not showing stability control.

Some of these details have been fixed, however, on the current 2022 line of HB20. Now, the popular entry-level car (the HB20 1.0 Sense, around R$56.990) comes with two more airbags — including a side, one of the worst-rated items in the test — and electronic traction and stability control.

O Ford Ka, in turn, was failed almost on the same bases: poor performance in the cervical whip and frontal and lateral protection, respectively, medium and weak. The only difference is that, according to Latin NCAP, the more complete version of the hatch performed much better in protecting passengers.

“The star rating will be updated as Ford incorporates these essential safety features as standard for the entire Latin American and Caribbean region,” the agency said at the time.

It is worth remembering, however, that, in January, the American manufacturer announced the closing of its three factories in Brazil and, consequently, the end of models such as Ka and EcoSport. Therefore, tests for later updated versions of the model should not be effective nationwide.

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