Euro NCAP has been conducting crash tests in the name of safety since 1997, but it wasn’t until 2001 when it gave a maximum five-star rating to a car. Make and model? Renault Laguna. Well, the French automaker with the diamond logo is making history once again, but not for the right reasons. The Zoe electric city car is the third model ever to get a zero-star rating, after the Fiat Panda in 2018 and the Punto a year before.
Ok, so what happened? Well, the Zoe is technically in its second generation, but it's more of an updated version of the original model launched about a decade ago. In other words, the zero-emissions hatchback is showing its age, but there's more to it than that. For example, the revised model launched in 2020 lost the seat-mounted side airbag in favour of a "less effective" thorax-only airbag causing a "degradation in occupant protection."
Euro NCAP points out the Renault Zoe Mk2 "offers poor protection in crashes overall, poor vulnerable road user protection and lacks meaningful crash avoidance technology, disqualifying it for any stars." It should be noted the severity of these tests has greatly increased over the years, and the Zoe illustrates these changes. When it was tested back in 2013, it went home with a full five-star rating. Eight years later, it has lost all of them.
It was also penalised for its lack of standard automatic emergency braking, but Renault will install AEB as standard equipment from March 1, 2022. The Euro NCAP criticised it furthermore due to the absence of lane-departure warning as standard and explains it might have given the car a star if it still had the previously fitted side-mounted airbag.
Gallery: Renault Zoe and Dacia Spring in Euro NCAP crash tests
Rather surprisingly, the Dacia Spring fared better than the Zoe as it managed to grab one star. Europe's cheapest EV is essentially a Renault Kwid-derived City K-ZE built in China and mildly updated for the Old Continent. Understandably, Euro NCAP didn't have any praise words for the pint-sized electric hatch either:
"Its performance in crash tests is downright problematic, with a high risk of life-threatening injuries for the driver's chest and rear passenger's head in frontal crash tests and marginal chest protection in a side impact. The mediocre crash performance and poor crash avoidance technology result in a one-star rating."
Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP expressed his concern: "Not only do these cars fail to offer any appreciable active safety as standard, but their occupant protection is also worse than any vehicle we have seen in many years. It is cynical to offer the consumer an affordable green car if it comes at the price of higher injury risk in the event of an accident."
He went on to say a similarly sized electric vehicle can be impressively safe, praising the Fiat 500e and its five-star rating in the Green NCAP assessment.