The Renault Zoe, one of Europe's most popular electric cars, has been given a zero-star safety rating in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash tests, while Renault's sibling brand Dacia Spring EV was awarded just one star.
The Zoe becomes just the third car in Euro NCAP's history to record a zero-star rating, 20 years after the Renault Laguna became the first car to achieve a five-star verdict.
The Zoe previously held a five-star Euro NCAP rating but was entered into the tests following a substantial facelift last year which ushered in a bigger battery and extra power but also, the safety organisation notes, a new seat-mounted side airbag that protects just the occupant's thorax, rather than the head and thorax as it did previously.
This change represents "a degradation in occupant protection", according to Euro NCAP, which reported that in the side-pole-impact test, the "driver's head directly impacted the intruding pole and head injury values indicated poor protection of this part of the body".
The supermini's performance in the frontal offset crash test was also "poor", with Euro NCAP citing weak protection for the driver's chest area and the necks of children in the back seats specifically.
The Zoe is also said to lack active safety technology "commonly fitted as standard", such as lane-departure warning and standard-fit automatic emergency braking (AEB), which vehicle safety research firm Thatcham says can reduce "front-to-rear crashes with injuries by 56%". Therefore it achieved a rating of just 14% in the Safety Assist category, some 61% lower than the 2021 average.
Importantly, however, Renault will make AEB standard to all Zoe models ordered from 1 March 2022.
Overall, the Zoe achieved a 43% adult occupant safety rating (the lowest for 11 years), a 52% child occupant rating and a 41% rating in the Vulnerable Road Users category.
Matthew Avery, Euro NCAP board member and chief research and strategy officer at Thatcham, told Autocar: “Every few years, Euro NCAP raises the bar by introducing new tests which either exploit new technologies or lift the hurdle to make manufacturers do better. If everyone is five-star, we need to lift the barrier."