At Renault, the news had the effect of a cold shower. Among the latest models that have just been screened in Euro NCAP tests, the Zoe has seen its rating drop from five stars, the maximum score, to… zero. An independent organization supported by European governments and consumer organizations, the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP) has established itself as the arbiter of the safety qualities of cars sold in Europe.
In 2013, when it was launched, the Zoe won the Grail of five stars. Eight years have passed and the little Renault, which until recently was the best-selling electric model in Europe, has fallen to the bottom of the ladder. This sudden demotion is the result of a lost race between a model designed ten years ago and the successive standards defined by Euro NCAP, which set the bar higher and higher, far beyond the criteria of approval. « Since 2013, the Euro NCAP protocol has undergone five changes. With the same equipment, a model can lose up to two stars for each change of protocol ”, underlines Renault who « reaffirms that the Zoé is a safe vehicle, which meets all regulatory safety standards ”.
The Zoe, restyled in 2017, has been enhanced with driving aids, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB) with detection of pedestrians and cyclists, lane departure warning and maintenance assistance in the lane, using radar and camera. It would have taken more to pass without damage under the caudine forks of Euro NCAP. Decision to retest Zoe, says Argus, was claimed by a Swedish organization having noticed that a head airbag (located above the side window) was no longer included in the initial standard equipment.
Subjected to the crash test as defined in 2021, the Zoe lost its stars, in particular because of its poor results during a side collision, known as the “post test”. An integrated event in 2016, three years after the launch of the car. Euro NCAP also penalized the fact that the basic version of the Renault (26,500 euros, ecological bonus deducted) does not have the AEB, which is the case for the other finishes.
Looming conflict between Euro NCAP and certain manufacturers
The increasing demands of this body are increasingly focused on driving aids (ADAS for Advanced driver-assistance systems), electronic equipment that takes over from the driver when it is necessary to brake or informs him of a more or less imminent danger. Systems that are certainly effective, but which can be ambivalent, according to many researchers, who accuse them of promoting loss of vigilance while driving.
The misadventure that the Zoe has just suffered, which has never been considered a dangerous or under-equipped vehicle in terms of safety, sheds light on the latent conflict which opposes Euro NCAP to certain manufacturers, in particular the generalist brands which market the models. the cheapest, therefore more sensitive to the impact of a piece of equipment on the selling price.
While most manufacturers continue to consistently race for the five stars, some have broken the taboo. This is the case of Peugeot, whose latest 2008, launched in 2020, can be ordered without the presence of a radar in the front bumper “ capable of improving the detection of a pedestrian or cyclist in night traffic conditions or in thick fog “. In this case, she will only be entitled to four stars. Missing equipment will be charged 500 euros to those who request it.
During the last test session conducted by Euro NCAP, the small Dacia Spring, a model that wants to democratize the electric car, won a single star. The managers of the Romanian brand, a subsidiary of Renault, did not hope for a better verdict.