Last month, the Global NCAP and the Automobile Association released the second part of the crash test results for the #SaferCarsForAfrica campaign, in which four more popular cars were put through the wringer. These were the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai i20, Kia Picanto and Nissan NP300.
The safety performance of each of the four models was rated out of five stars for both adult protection and child protection, and shockingly, not a single vehicle achieved higher than a three-star rating.
When #SaferCarsForAfrica first began last year, five value hatchbacks were put through the same tests as the vehicles mentioned above. These were the Toyota Etios (4/5), Renault Sandero (3/5), VW Polo Vivo (3/5), Datsun Go (1/5) and the awful 0/5 Chery QQ3.
When it comes to superior vehicle safety, there are a couple of cars we just know to stay away from – as they’re far more likely to murder you. These are commonly your Datsun Go, Chery QQ3 or anything made by Tata.
To the shock and horror of bakkie fans nationwide, the Nissan NP300 ‘Hardbody’ was recently added to that list. Apparently, the Hardbody isn’t very hard at all.
Let’s take a look at the findings.
The Toyota Yaris 5-door hatchback, with two airbags, proved the overall best of the current lot, achieving 3/5 for adult protection and 3/5 for children protection.
The Hyundai i20 (two airbags) and Kia Picanto (one airbag) 5-door hatchbacks both achieved a score of 3/5 for adult protection and 2/5 for children protection.
The Nissan NP300 Hardbody 4-door pickup, with two airbags, hit the barrier at 64km/h and crumpled like an empty soda can. It achieved a shocking 0/5 stars for adult protection and 2/5 for child protection.
The Secretary General of Global NCAP and the AA SA CEO have since called upon the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank for urgent action in preventing the sale of all zero-star cars, such as the NP300.
If you count vehicle structural collapse, the steering wheel column penetrating the passengers' compartment, the faulty installation of child seats and the high probability of life threatening injuries to the driver’s head and chest as a ‘good level of safety’ – then sure.
The Datsun Go, as many now know, had also scored a zero in the past. After finally adding a single airbag, the Go has now achieved loftier one-star heights.
Yet, despite the Datsun’s many failings being public knowledge – free for anybody to find with just a quick online search – many people continue to buy the Go as a first-time car for themselves or their children. It’s a complete death-trap – but it’s affordable.
This is part of the problem – the fact that South Africans might not be as concerned about vehicle safety ratings as they are about affordability. The Global NCAP would have us believe differently – that safety is the average South African car owner’s number one concern – but the sales consistently prove otherwise.
Now, when we have a look at the list of vehicles tested so far – the Polo Vivo, Go, Yaris, Etios, etc. – it may seem like odd company for the NP300 to keep. Surely, the Nissan double-cab would have been more at home among GWM’s Steed or Mahindra’s PikUp, but it is due to the NP300’s staggering popularity that it simply had to be tested.
Despite the rise of the SUV, the bakkie segment is still the most popular vehicle class in South Africa, and the NP300, in particular, is in the top five best-selling bakkies each and every month.
Here’s the other part of the problem; the NP300, like the VW Polo or the Toyota Corolla, is not a new car. In fact, the Nissan Hardbody can be dated back as far as the 1990’s.
See, in South Africa, we have a traditional practice known as continuation production, in which certain models (such as what VW did with the Citi Golf) are kept in production for decades after global discontinuation. As a result, we end up with a Nissan Hardbody with outdated safety technology, still being churned out and still being bought up by motorists who may or may not know any better.
But, again, the information is there. Regardless of the vehicle, South Africans need to adopt a different attitude to the types of vehicles we buy and drive, and why we buy and drive them. We need to take a closer look.
Image, status, entertainment features and a light pricing are always nice, but in a country which recorded over 14 000 road deaths in 2017 alone, we need to start taking safety features seriously again.