The Ford Ka has failed the Latin NCAP side impact crash test with a bang. Manufactured and sold in Brazil, the A-Segment minicar earned zero stars for adult occupant protection and just three stars for child protection. The global car testing program based on U.S. NCAP standards is pushing automakers to increase safety standards for developing markets, and for good reason. These small cars have big damn problems.
While the car earned four stars during a frontal crash test two years ago, Latin NCAP revised their testing procedures and put the same vehicle through the wringer in October. The Ford Ka was obliterated by additional side barrier impact tests at just 31 miles per hour. The chest of the crash test dummy was compacted and the B-Pillar punched through the passenger compartment. The child fared better, but three stars aren’t going to attract any cautious parents. Obviously a minicar isn’t going to have the best safety rating compared to larger vehicles, but this is an unacceptable level of risk in a common accident.
Compounding the problem, there are a lot of these vehicles on the road. The Ford Ka, also sold as the Ford Figo, is a popular economy car in Latin America and the third best-selling car in Brazil. This isn’t the only vehicle available with zero stars on the sticker, either. Other minis with stomach-churning ratings include the Chevrolet Spark, Renault Kwid, Hyundai Eon, Mahindra Scorpio, and Suzuki Maruti. While most of these vehicles are aimed at the Latin and South American markets and not available in the U.S., that doesn’t mean automakers should skimp on basic engineering.
Latin NCAP has chewed out General Motors, Ford, and other automakers for lax safety standards on small cars in the past. The revised tests reflect a growing determination to buck industry pressure to lower standards for cheap cars aimed at buyers with less money. Just because a family can’t afford a large car doesn’t mean they should be trapped in a rolling disaster. We all know consumers will gravitate towards the most affordable vehicles. Without tough industry standards, automakers won’t provide a safer alternative that gives consumer more choice and less risk. Don’t kid yourselves, either. Without crash testing standards in the U.S., automakers would do their best to put a cheaper (but more dangerous) vehicle on the road if it saved them money. Many consumers would accept the risk for a good deal—at least until you’re the one getting peeled out of a ruined car, or you T-bone a fellow driver at an intersection and kill a kid. Higher standards benefit everyone by raising the floor for road safety.
This is just the latest salvo in the NCAP’s attempt to improve occupant protections and avoid tragic fatalities in car accidents across the continent. Check out the video for yourself below.