A Wheels24 article of 23 October 20171 reveals interesting information on the 10 safest cars in South Africa, priced under R160 000. The article refers to a 2017 report by the Automobile Association (AA) called ‘Entry-level Vehicle Safety Report.’ Categorising safe cars must be linked to affordability. A R1 million car can be the safest car ever made, but if only a handful of motorists in South Africa can afford it, what is the point? As expected, the cost of a vehicle is the most prominent factor considered by any motorist looking to buy. They need wheels now, and only have so much finance. The idea of car safety is possibly last on their minds – after all, it’s the other drivers who have all the accidents. To say it another way, for many motorists, safety is a ‘luxury’ they can ill afford.
Following this approach, the AA evaluated the safety features of cars in South Africa priced under R160 000 (October 2017).The AA noticed that cheaper cars have less safety features than the more expensive ones. It appears manufacturers cut back on safety costs to remain competitive, price-wise. How could this be resolved? Should certain minimum safety features in cars be made a legal requirement in South Africa? In the European Union, electronic stability control (ESC) is legally required in all new cars, as from November 2014.2
The AA evaluated safety features that included anti-lock brake system (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC), and passive safety features, such as airbags. Those cars from Europe which had an NCAP rating (New Car Assessment Programme), were allocated points, based on their safety rating. The one condition for including the NCAP rating is that the car on sale in South Africa had to be identical to the one that received the NCAP rating in Europe.It must be noted that the AA only evaluated safety features, and not the structural integrity of the car compartment.
When wheels lock, a car can begin to skid out of control. ABS stops the wheels from locking, thus allowing the driver to stay in control.
The ESC picks up any irregular steering changes and corrects for that through braking. Control of the car is thus maintained at all times.
Passive safety components are those that protect car occupants from injury in the event of a crash. This would include airbags, which are part of the secondary/supplementary restraint system (SRS).
ABS and ESC were allocated the highest scores of 30 points each, seeing such systems avoid collisions. Regarding passive safety items, 10 points were allocated for each airbag inside the car. Curtain airbags, however, were allocated 20 points, as they prevent serious head injuries.
An additional 5 points were given for each star of the 5-star rating scale, used for those cars that had been subjected to EURO NCAP crash tests. Thus, a maximum of 25 points could be achieved.
A total of 135 points is achievable if a motor vehicle has all of the safety features installed:21. Toyota Aygo 1.0 (R159 100), 60 points (extra side airbag of 10 points). 2. Nissan Micra 1.2 Visia+ (audio) (R159 900), 60 points (extra side airbag of 10 points). 3. Chery QQ3 1.1 TXE (R114 995), 50 points. 4. Chevrolet Spark 1.2 Curve (R140 700), 50 points. 5. Mitsubishi Mirage 1.2 GL (R149 900), 50 points. 6. BAIC D20 hatch 1.3 Comfort (R149 990), 50 points. 7. Chery J2 1.5 TX (R149 995), 50 points. 8. Kia Picanto 1.0 Street (R149 995), 50 points. 9. Suzuki Swift hatch 1.2 GA (R154 900), 50 points. 10. Mahindra KUV100 1.2 G80 K4+ (R154 995), 50 points. Apart for the Toyota Aygo 1.0, and the Nissan Micra 1.2 Visia+ (audio) with their extra side airbags, all the above car makes have ABS, a driver’s airbag, and a front passenger airbag. However, none of the 10 cars have ESC, curtain airbags, or have been subjected to any NCAP crash testing. The above reading makes one realize that certain safety aspects of new cars should be compulsory in South Africa. For instance, should that apply to ESC, as it does in Europe? What about curtain airbags, and NCAP crash testing – should they not also be compulsory? Let’s see what the future brings regarding South African car safety.