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Microcar crash test results cause concern

By raccars Published

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Do Euro NCAP crash test results cast doubt over the safety of microcars or quadricycles?

Euro NCAP crash testing isn't compulsory but most of the automotive industry voluntarily undergoes the procedure because customers place great importance upon safety when buying a new car. However Euro NCAP itself has now raised concerns about the safety of microcars after its crash test programme revealed worryingly poor performance.

What are microcars?

Microcars or quadricycles sit between the moped and compact car classes. They are small four wheeled vehicles with low power outputs which are often used by drivers to get around the city. Many can be driven with only a motorbike or provisional car licence, saving drivers money and time and making them available to those who are unable to get a full licence.

Lower powered models can be driven after taking the CBT course at an accredited training centre. However, just as drivers are not obliged to pass the same tests as they would to drive a standard four wheel car, neither are microcars subject to the same stringent test procedures as full sized cars.

Microcars are still a relatively rare sight on UK roads but are more popular in continental Europe, where they are frequently used to replace passenger car by drivers who have lost their full licence as a result of drink driving charges. However trendy modern quadricycles such as the electric Renault Twizy are raising the profile of the sector, promising low running costs for cash-strapped British vehicle owners.

Euro NCAP first began crash testing on microcars in 2014, and the results were shocking. None of the vehicles contain essential safety kit including airbags, while their lightweight construction methods mean that occupants are at a greater risk of injury upon impact than they would be even in older passenger cars. This year Euro NCAP crash tested another four microcars in the hope that improvements have been made, but was sadly disappointed.

Crash test cycle modified to suit vehicle status

The cars put through the latest round of testing were the Aixam Crossover GTR, Chatenet CH30, Microcar M.GO Family and the Bajaj Qute. This time Euro NCAP modified its test procedures to take into account the differences between microcars and full sized passenger cars. The vehicles were tested for their response to a full frontal impact using a deformable barrier instead of Euro NCAP's usual offset impact, and also tested against a side impact.

The speed for testing was reduced from the usual 39mph to 31mph. Even so, none of the microcars achieved more than a very poor two star rating. By comparison, the same test procedures were carried out on a Toyota iQ city car, which easily achieved the full five star score.

Catastrophic damage

All four of the microcars were badly structurally damaged thanks to their flimsy body shells. Seatbelts detached from their moorings during testing and spot welds failed. Even the driver's seat came loose in some cases. The steering wheel caused major injury to the driver in all four vehicles, injuring the head upon impact.

One of the vehicles tested, the Microcar M.GO, can be ordered with an airbag as an optional extra, but testing found the feature redundant as it failed to stop the driver's head from hitting the steering wheel.

Euro NCAP released a damning statement describing microcars as unacceptably dangerous and urged manufacturers to consider making some significant changes to their structures. It pointed out that safety should not be sacrificed on the altar of eco friendliness. Meanwhile, Euro NCAP advises purchasers on a tight budget to go for older small cars or, if they must buy a quadricycle, to specify every safety option available.

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