“Euro NCAP unfairly penalizes cheap cars like the Dacia Jogger”
► A one-star security score should be overwhelming…
► … if Euro NCAP had tested the car in question
► Tom Wiltshire has an opinion
The last batch of Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) the safety ratings might make for uncomfortable reading for those of us who just weeks ago championed the Dacia Jogger as the best budget family car since the Citroën Sliced Breadlingo.
Safety scores aren’t a typical Dacia strong point, and when we sat down in the product presentation about the Jogger’s trim levels, I’m not sure anyone expected it to pass well in safety tests. But giving it a one-star rating suggests it’s an inherently dangerous car, not something you want to cram seven of your family into. To the right?
Well, maybe not. The thing is, while a simple five-star scale should be as consumer-friendly as possible, it actually requires some decoding to be fair to both automakers and buyers.
Thus, the Dacia scored 70% (four stars) for adult occupant protection and 69% (three stars) for child occupant protection – the two areas of the NCAP test that really focus on the car’s performance in the event of a crash. of collision.
They’re not stellar scores, but they’re acceptable – compared to older used family cars that rival this car’s sub-£15,000 price tag, the Jogger holds its own. Gone are the days of cheap cars collapsing like deckchairs in an accident.
The scores are also at odds with Euro NCAP’s own rating scale, stating that a one-star verdict means the cars offer “marginal crash protection”. What’s marginal about four stars in adult protection?
Why is the score so low? Well, to keep the price so cheap, Dacia doesn’t fit its cars with the latest active safety equipment – it doesn’t think its customers will want to pay for it. The Jogger’s autonomous emergency braking only detects other cars, not cyclists or pedestrians, and it doesn’t have lane-keeping assist on any model. It even lost a star because the third-row seats don’t have a seat belt warning.
And since the overall Euro NCAP rating can only achieve the lowest rating in any of the four categories, that’s one star for the Dacia Jogger.
Look, I don’t own a car newer than 1994, but even I can see that some active safety systems make sense. Autonomous emergency braking recognizes and accommodates the fact that we can’t concentrate everywhere, all the time — and while lane-keeping aids can be colossally irritating, they’re probably useful if sudden narcolepsy knocks you out from lane 3 on the M4.
But it’s dishonest to suggest that not having systems like these make a car dangerous in the event of an accident – or even that it makes the car more likely to crash in the first place.
We have seen it before – my colleague Richard Kilpatrick had a lot to say in 2018 when the Fiat Panda received zero stars. Five-star verdicts are increasingly difficult to obtain without the installation of many expensive and complex systems which, although they may work well in a test scenario, can in fact be irritating or even dangerous in certain road conditions.
That’s not even the biggest reveal. It turns out that Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the Jogger. Instead, he decided the Dacia Sandero Stepway was close enough that his scores could replace a dedicated Jogger crash test. Although he says he tested a Jogger to assess its differences from the Sandero, the test video footage only shows the latter engaged in crash, pedestrian safety, and safety assist testing.
NCAP calls these “corporate twins” and states that they are models “identical to each other in all respects except make and model name.”
Identical from the B-pillar forward and riding the same CMF-B platform, there are undoubtedly similarities in how they look. It’s not the first time it’s been done either – the SEAT Arona and Skoda Kamiq inherit the Ibiza and Scala scores respectively.
But the Jogger is 18 inches longer than the Sandero Stepway, with two extra seats and two-thirds of its body completely new. It may have performed less well than the Sandero, being 200 kg heavier. Regardless of the outcome, I find it baffling that, even for its own credibility, Euro NCAP did not test the Jogger separately before issuing a score.
Admittedly, I don’t think that “it is clear to consumers that it is, in fact, the same vehicle”. At least not to those who have the gift of seeing.
Dacia knows that it is not performing well in these assessments. But the company said it is “not chasing crash test results” and sales appear to have been unaffected – the Sandero is one of Europe’s best-selling cars. But it may indicate that buyers no longer care about the Euro NCAP score. And if buyers don’t care, what’s the point?
Crash test programs can undoubtedly do a good job. Decades ago, Euro NCAP exposed serious flaws in cars like the Rover 100, removing a genuinely dangerous car from sale. The Laguna’s five-star rating in 2001 spurred manufacturers to pursue higher and higher safety scores, leading to impressive advancements and improved passive safety for everyone.
Programs in developing countries campaign for vital safety kits like airbags to be standardized and outline cost-cutting measures that impact safety, such as when Renault only beefed up its Kwid city car by only one side to pass the tests.
Euro NCAP is funded by government bodies but is independent of them and car manufacturers – it should be trusted to be independent and provide useful information to car buyers.
But the organization’s stubborn emphasis on such driver assistance systems means it unfairly penalizes cheap cars of the type that are vital during a cost of living crisis. The Jogger is still a fabulous car – practical, comfortable, incredibly good value for money. Don’t immediately dismiss it because of its lack of stars.
Personally, I’d like to see the existing system replaced with two scores – one indicating the car’s performance in a real accident, and another rating its safety assistance and collision protection systems. After all, if you’re going to be crushed between a truck and the central reservation, you’ll be concerned about the former.
But while how the airbags and crumple zones work is secondary to whether the car buzzes you if you veer out of your lane, then you have to wonder if Euro NCAP is still fit for purpose.