The vast majority of entry-level cars in South Africa fall short when it comes to safety, according to the latest Automobile Association (AA) Entry-Level Vehicle Safety Report.
Only four of 27 entry-level vehicles in a tested sample had safety affordability levels that were regarded as acceptable, according to the report.
AA spokesperson, Layton Beard, says the basic safety features considered in the research included electronic stability control, ABS anti-locking braking systems, the number of airbags in the vehicle while points were also awarded if the car had been crash tested. He added the safety affordability index considered the safety features in the car compared to its affordability.
“We want people to start looking at safety features in vehicles and not just the aesthetics.”
The report considered the safety features of these vehicles, which are available in South Africa and currently priced under R180 000. The price threshold to be included in the latest report is a 12.5% increase from the threshold in the previous report to account for inflation related price increases.
A vehicle is generally the second largest purchase by a consumer after their house while entry-level vehicles form a large and growing part of total new vehicle sales.
“The point we are making is that if they are paying R180 000 for instance for the vehicle and it doesn’t have all these safety features, then they should start asking why the vehicle is so expensive,” he said.
AA 2019 Entry-level vehicle safety report
The four entry-level vehicles with acceptable safety affordability levels were the Volkswagen Take up!, Renault Sandero 66kw turbo expression, Toyota Aygo 1.0 and Smart ForTwo.
A further 15 vehicles were ranked in the “Moderate” category while eight vehicles were in the “Poor” category in the safety/affordability index.
The eight vehicles in the “Poor” category were: Datsun Go+ 1.2 Lux, Kia Picanto 1.0 Start, Nissan NP 200, JMC 4×2 Boarding, Kia Picanto MT 1.0 Style, GWM M4, Nissan Micra Active 1.2 Visia+ and Haval H1.
The AA said the purpose of the entry-level vehicle safety research was to highlight the importance of safety features in new cars, understand how these features could save lives and to encourage new car buyers to consider safety in their decisions and not only price.
“Price is, unfortunately, a driving factor in people’s decisions to buy vehicles. What we would like to see more of is people considering other elements of the vehicles they intend buying such as safety features, which can mean the difference between life and death,” it said.
The AA said this is especially important because many of the people who were buying or driving entry-level vehicles were often those with the least driving experience and, as such, this made safety features even more critical.
Of the 27 vehicles assessed for the latest research report, five have local safety ratings, and were awarded points accordingly. The research report was the result of desktop research and specifically assessed safety features only and did not consider the structural integrity of the driver/passenger compartment.
The 27 vehicles were then categorised into three groups based on their safety ratings. Of the 27 vehicles assessed, seven vehicles were categorised in the “Acceptable Safety” range prior to considering their affordability. This was a marked improvement on the previous report, which only had two vehicles in this category.
Sixteen of the vehicles are ranked in the “Moderate Safety” class while four vehicles were classed as having “Poor Safety”. The AA said the overall results were encouraging despite eight vehicles still remaining in the “Poor” category.
It said these results indicated a definite move to more safety features in vehicles but also pointed to a dire need for these features to be standard instead of optional, particularly on entry-level vehicles.
The association confirmed in November it was engaging the national transport department in a bid to get the safety ratings of all vehicles sold in the country displayed on vehicles in dealer showrooms.
The engagement formed part of an initiative by the AA with the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) to provide consumers with information to enable them to make better purchasing choices.