Zero stars: Here is what the crash test of a $5,000 car looks like

Ronan Glon
·2-min read

Government regulations have gradually made even tiny economy cars relatively safe, but some brands (and some markets) still lag behind in the safety department. In November 2020, the Global NCAP crash-tested a batch of cars sold new on the Indian market, and it awarded the Maruti-Suzuki S-Presso a zero-star rating.

NCAP stuffed the S-Presso into an offset deformable barrier at about 40 mph, and its observations are damning. "Its structure was rated as unstable and should be improved. Its footwell area was rated as unstable as well," the organization wrote on its website. It explained that high readings in the passenger's neck caused the hatchback to flunk this reasonably basic test, though it speculated a more thorough examination of the results would show damage to the driver's chest, too. If you're wondering, the S-Presso comes standard with a single airbag.

It's not all terrible: the NCAP awarded the S-Presso a two-star rating for child occupant protection, which is low but better than none. However, it warned that the poor performance of the restraint systems put the rear occupants at risk, and it added the S-Presso is not equipped with an ISOFIX system used to install a child's seat.

Maruti-Suzuki can't even argue the S-Presso is an older design not developed with modern crash-tests in mind. Marketed as an SUV, and aimed primarily at younger buyers, this pint-sized hatchback was released on the Indian market in late 2019. It's built in India, but it's also sold in a handful of emerging markets including South Africa, Egypt, and Sri Lanka. Pricing starts at approximately $5,000 on the local market, a figure which gets buyers a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine rated at 67 horsepower and a five-speed manual transmission.

Although new cars are progressively getting safer, zero-star models remain more common than they should be, notably in India and in several African countries. NCAP gave this appalling result to the 2018 Renault Lodgy, the 2017 Chevrolet Enjoy, and the 2016 Tata Zest; none of these cars were equipped with airbags. Latin America is home to a surprising number of zero-star cars, too, including the 2019 Chery Tiggo and the 2018 Hyundai Accent.