While basic safety features such as ABS brakes and airbags have been mandatory in countries like the USA for more than 20 years now, there is still no legislation in South Africa that requires these life-saving features to be fitted to new vehicles.
This of course, leaves the door wide open for carmakers to cut corners at the bottom end of the market. Thankfully most have seen the sense in standardising these features in recent years, particularly in the passenger car segment, however there are still a few commercial vehicles lacking essential kit.
In order to give us a better understanding of how entry-level cars rank in terms of safety features, the Automobile Association has released its 2020 Entry-Level Vehicle Safety Report, which awards points to cars based on the number of active safety features that they are fitted with (such as ABS and stability control) as well as passive safety features such as airbags.
However, this survey does come with a disclaimer. Although additional points were awarded to the 12 vehicles that were crash tested under the Global NCAP #SaferCarsforAfrica programme, the ranking is still based on the fitment of safety features rather than actual crash test performance. This means that a vehicle like the Nissan NP300 could score highly in this research, even though it was handed a zero-star Global NCAP safety rating due to its weak structure.
Nonetheless, the AA report still highlights the unacceptable practice of not fitting essential features, while also rewarding the cars that have items that you don’t always find in this neck of the woods, such as ESC stability control and curtain airbags.
It’s safety features such as these that led to the Peugeot 108 achieving the highest score in the report, with 110 points awarded.
Also making it into the ‘Acceptable’ category were the Toyota Aygo and Etios, Honda Amaze, Kia Picanto, Datsun Go+, Suzuki Ignis and Volkswagen Up.
At the other end of the scale, seven vehicles were given a ‘Poor’ rating, and these were all commercial vehicles sold by brands such as Mahindra, Changan, GWM and Suzuki.
See how they fared below:
As mentioned, it is also very important to look at the actual crash test safety rating that was awarded to the car you want to buy. This can get tricky as not all cars have been put through independent crash testing programmes such as Global NCAP and Euro NCAP.
So which cars have been crash tested?
Global NCAP has crash tested 12 South African spec vehicles under its #SaferCarsForAfrica campaign. The top performers in these tests were the Honda Amaze and Toyota Avanza and Etios, which each received four stars.
Most of the vehicles received three stars, including the Hyundai i20, Kia Picanto, Renault Sandero, Suzuki Ignis, Toyota Yaris and the previous-generation Volkswagen Polo Vivo.
There have also been some poor performers, with the Datsun Go+ achieving just one star and the Nissan NP300 and Chery QQ shocking us with zero-star ratings.
There are also some cars tested under the #SaferCarsForIndia campaign which should be representative of the equivalent models sold in South Africa.
These include the Renault Kwid (1 star), Hyundai Atos (2 stars) and Suzuki Swift (2 stars).
Given that South Africa’s roads are among the most dangerous in the world, safety ratings should always be a factor in your purchase decision.