Renault ZOE sinks to zero-star Euro NCAP rating

The electric Renault supermini is scored badly for its lack of head airbags

Renault ZOE side impact safety test
  • Last set of Euro NCAP results this year
  • Dacia Spring Electric gets just one star
  • We list the five-star cars in latest roundup

The Renault ZOE has been given a zero-star safety score in a retest by Euro NCAP. It’s only the third car to ever score no stars at all, after the Fiat Punto and Fiat Panda. The car safety body also gave a one-star score to the Dacia Spring Electric, although the news was better for cars like the BMW iX and Skoda Fabia, which gained five-star scores.

It’s a shock result after the ZOE scored the full five stars in its original test in 2013. Euro NCAP blamed the low score in the 2021 retest on several factors, but the main one was Renault’s decision to remove the airbag that would protect the driver’s head in side impacts.

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The side pole crash test showed up the ZOE’s shortcomings, with the pole directly impacting the head of the crash-test dummy. This test is designed to replicate side impacts with trees or telegraph poles.

The headline-grabbing score was also partly down to the fact that some now-required safety equipment isn’t fitted as standard on the ZOE. Lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking are not included, although they can be fitted optionally - and doing so would improve the ZOE’s score.

Renault’s decision to remove one of the ZOE’s airbags seems to have been the key factor but this result does also highlight the extent to which Euro NCAP moves the goalposts of its tests each year. New criteria is added annually to make the tests tougher and better judge the generally improving safety standards across the automotive industry. This does mean that comparisons between cars tested in different years can’t be accurately made and makes it difficult for consumers to understand how safe a car really is. It’s certainly strange to see that a car that was rated top for safety just eight years ago is now rated as one of the very worst on the market, but this could also be taken as an indicator of how rapidly car safety technology has progressed.

The French brand said: “Renault takes note of the results published by Euro NCAP following specific tests on ZOE E-TECH Electric according to its new protocol implemented in 2020.

”First of all, Renault reaffirms that ZOE E-TECH Electric is a safe vehicle, which complies with all regulatory safety standards. These standards are constantly evolving and are becoming more stringent in all domains, especially in safety. Renault therefore continually improves its offer in order to comply with the regulations applicable where its vehicles are sold.

”ZOE was launched in 2013 and received five stars with Euro NCAP protocol at that time. The Euro NCAP protocol has since 2013 undergone five changes. With the same equipment, a model can lose up to two stars in each protocol change.

”The evolution of the current ZOE was decided in 2017, adapting the passive safety equipment to real accidentology and updating the car with state of the art ADAS equipments such as Advanced Emergency Braking with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Departure Alert and Lane Keeping Assist, using a radar and a camera.”

One star for the Dacia Spring Electric

Dacia, another Alliance Group brand with Renault, also received a poor score for its small electric car. While it does feature the head airbag that the ZOE bizarrely goes without, the Dacia Spring Electric also misses out on the latest safety features. 

Its scores of 49% for adult protection and 56% for children are low, and the ‘driver’ dummy recorded “severe chest compression and little protection for the pelvis and legs” in the tests. It’s worth noting that the Dacia Spring Electric, one of Europe’s cheapest EVs, isn’t yet coming to the UK.

Five-star scores for other cars tested

A host of cars received top five-star ratings in this round of tests. These include the Genesis G70, BMW iX, Nissan Qashqai, Mercedes EQS, Volkswagen Caddy and Skoda Fabia. Of these, the family-friendly Qashqai scored 95% for adult protection, just one percent behind the vastly more expensive EQS.

The electric Fiat 500 and MG Marvel R SUV were both awarded four stars out of five.

Read our guides to the best family cars and best electric cars.

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