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Car safety vs savings: Readers' answers will surprise you

2014-11-10 13:36

FAILED CRASH TEST: A screenshot of crash test footage, released by the Global NCAP, shows the Datsun GO failing its front impact safety test. Image: Global NCAP

CAPE TOWN - Early in November 2014 Wheels24 reported that the Global NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme), called on Datsun to withdraw its Go hatchback from the Indian market because it scored zero in tests for basic safety features.

The Go was launched in South Africa in October 2014 but Datsun is not the only automaker listed by the safety watchdogs as having failed crash tests.

In January 2014 five top-selling small cars failed the first Global NCAP crash tests for Indian cars - source of the SA-retailed Go. They were India's best-selling Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800, Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Polo (You can view crash test footage of all the models mentioned at the end of the article).


A News24 home page poll drew 18 728 votes after asking readers whether vehicle safety features and crash test ratings influenced their car-buying decision.

WATCH the Datsun Go crash-test video!

Most (9658) said vehicle safety was a primary concern selecting "Yes, I want the best protection". Most tellingly, 7545 respondents said "it all comes down to price". Does this mean that thousands of car buyers would forgo safety systems in favour of a cheaper alternative?

Only 1535 respondents said they were not bothered about vehicle safety.


Nick van den Berg said: "80% of cars on our roads don't have airbags or anti-lock brakes. My Bantam and Corsa don't have either. We survived 60 years without these money-making schemes and we can for a further 160 years."

Jak Keyter said: "So you want BMW-class safety in a R90k car? Let's not be unrealistic. If you buy a new car for under R100k, (unfortunately) you shouldn't expect too much."

Gottlieb Von Schneider said: "Blame the manufacturers for this. It seems they feel SA lives are worth far less. With the way we behave there's some merit in that!"

Lawrie Sathekge said: "It's just that South Africans are very vulnerable, we shouldn't be trading with countries such as India. Everything they produce is of lesser quality, just like copy-cat China."

Jaco Nel said: "Ja but it's cheap. I'm going to get one. Just don't crash."


The Datsun Go is available in SA in two versions - an entry-level unit priced at R89 500 and a R99 500 variant. Neither has airbags or anti-lock brakes, not even as an option. Datsun told Wheels24 it planned to review these (and other) safety features in the near future as part of a model upgrade.

Wheels24 contacted Datsun South Africa's general manager, Des Fenner, for comment on whether the GNCAP results would affect local buyers/owners.

Fenner said: "The Datsun Go meets required local vehicle regulations in India and South Africa and was developed with a strong intention to deliver the best-adapted solutions for local conditions, from best-in-class braking and good visibility to durability, seat comfort and reduced motion sickness – all being taken as a package aiming to decrease potential risk of road accidents.
"Automotive regulation standards in fast-growing countries are constantly evolving and, as a global manufacturer, we may confirm that we are willing to adopt as well as help evolve vehicular safety standards."

Wheels24 reader, The Fox 5366, had the following to say in response: "You have to feel sorry for Datsun, actually. Manufacturers make cheap rubbish products all the time and we just live with it.

"You might complain if your R100 kettle stops working but ultimately nobody died because of it. Car safety is a far more emotive issue because the costs of cars' failings are more directly felt and more dire. It's a slippery slope, though, because if we force all car manufacturers to produce 'safe' cars are we also going to force all manufacturers of cheap knives to ensure that people cannot stab themselves during a catastrophic failure of the handle?

"Ultimately then... sorry Datsun, your car is rubbish, but it's not your fault. You designed it to be as cheap as possible and it's still the buyer's responsibility. What I disagree with is the automakers calling patently unsafe cars 'safe' in their marketing materials, so we may well need proper independent ratings of all cars' safety included on their windscreens right there alongside their fuel consumption (even though that's still faked sometimes).

"If you the consumer then buy a cheap car with a Z- safety rating, you only have yourself to blame when the possible happens. At least you didn't get conned into believing a marketing scam, with no legal recourse."

Click here for full Datsun Go safety test results

Click on the links below to view Global NCAP Indian model crash tests:

Suzuki-Maruti Alto 800

Tata Nano
Ford Figo
Hyundai i10 
Volkswagen Polo

How important is vehicle safety in terms of your car-buying decision? Email us and we'll publish your thoughts on Wheels24.

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