The Datsun Go’s structure performed so badly that fitting an airbag would be futile, says Global NCAP.
The Datsun Go’s structure performed so badly that fitting an airbag would be futile, says Global NCAP.
The Maruti Suzuki Swift, it was concluded, would perform better with airbags. Luckily SA models are fitted with these essential safety items.
The Maruti Suzuki Swift, it was concluded, would perform better with airbags. Luckily SA models are fitted with these essential safety items.

The Datsun Go recently hit South African streets with a refreshingly affordable price tag of just R89 500, yet it also came under fire for not offering basic safety features like airbags and ABS. Now it appears that airbags might not help much anyway.

In a recent crash test conducted by Global NCAP's new Indian division, the Go's structure collapsed during the 64km/h frontal offset test.

According to Bharat NCAP, the crash test dummy's readings “indicated a high probability of life-threatening injuries.” While the lack of airbags ensured that the driver's head hit the steering wheel and dashboard, even having them on board might not have made much of a difference as the organisation also remarked that “the failure of the body shell makes fitting an airbag redundant.”

ZERO STARS ACROSS THE BOARD

Little surprise then, that the Datsun Go received an adult occupant rating of zero stars. Bharat NCAP also announced the crash test results of the Maruti Suzuki Swift and although it also failed to gain a single star, its structure performed better in the tests. It appears that main problem here was a lack of airbags, causing the dummy's head to hit the steering wheel. The structure did show some signs of collapsing in the frontal offset crash test, however the crash testing authority concluded that “the fitting of airbags would improve occupant protection.”

Suzuki South Africa sources its 1.2-litre Swift models from India and thankfully our cars do have airbags fitted across the range.

Providing that the structure remains relatively stable, these explosive cushions actually do appear to make a big difference. Earlier this year, Global NCAP crash tested a batch of compact hatchbacks, including the Ford Figo and VW Polo, and all of them were slapped with a zero star rating. However, the Polo was later retested with airbags, after they were made standard, and the car suddenly achieved a four-star rating.

IS IT SCAREMONGERING?

However, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has dismissed the crash test reports as “scaremongering”. Its director general, Vishnu Mathur, said: “Global NCAP can do what they want. We have our own safety road map that we are going to follow and are already following.” Mathur accused Global NCAP of not considering that average speeds are lower in India than in more developed countries, as a result of bad roads and heavy traffic.

Strange then, that these conditions have not prevented India from having one of the worst road death tolls in the world, with around 1.2 million deaths recorded in the last decade, according to Reuters. And if it's ok for cars to be less protective because of India's 'slow' roads what are the implications, then, when these cars are imported to the not-so-slow streets of South Africa? Do we even matter?

THREE PILLARS OF PROTECTION

The moral of the story is that a seatbelt alone is not going to stop you from striking the steering wheel during a frontal crash, although it will most certainly soften the blow of the impact and you really have to be an idiot not to wear one. But to maximise your changes, you need a seatbelt, airbag and a decent structure around you.

And if you're going to Go for the Datsun, it is a rather solid and affordable car, just make sure you never have an accident.

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