Some of the most popular small cars sold in India, including Maruti Alto 800, Tata Nano, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Polo, have failed crash tests, showing high risk of life-threatening injuries in road accidents, according to Global NCAP.

According to tests done by Global NCAP, an independent charity based in the U.K. focused on consumer-orientated vehicle safety initiatives, these cars received zero for adult protection ratings in a frontal impact at 64 km/hour.

The combined sales of these five cars account for around 20 per cent of all the new cars sold in India last year, Global NCAP said.

According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, total domestic car sales stood at 18.07 lakh units in 2013.

Global NCAP Chairman Max Mosley said: “Poor structural integrity and the absence of airbags are putting the lives of Indian consumers at risk. They have a right to know how safe their vehicles are and to expect the same basic levels of safety as standard as customers in other parts of the world.” India is now a major global market and production centre for small cars, so it was worrying to see levels of safety that were 20 years behind the five-star standards now common in Europe and North America, he added. When contacted, spokespersons of the companies named said their products met Indian safety norms. According to the findings, in Maruti Alto 800, Tata Nano and Hyundai i10, the vehicle structures proved inadequate and collapsed to varying degrees, resulting in high risks of life-threatening injuries to the occupants. “The extent of the structural weaknesses in these models was such that fitting airbags would not be effective in reducing the risk of serious injury,” it said.

Stable structure

Ford Figo and Volkswagen Polo had structures that remained stable — and, therefore, with airbags fitted, protection for the driver and front passenger would be much improved, it added.

Global NCAP said it also assessed the same models against the UN’s basic crash test of 40 per cent offset frontal impact test at 56 km/hour, now widely applied by major manufacturing countries and regions, including Australia, China, the European Union, Japan and Malaysia. “All but one of the cars tested failed to pass even this minimum standard,” it said.