The new Dacia Sandero has been given a mere two-stars for its safety performance in the latest round of tests by independent crash test experts at Euro NCAP.
This is in spite of the latest Sandero moving to a new, more up-to-date chassis, which should in theory improve its safety performance relative to the old model (which scored three-stars on the NCAP test).
While the new Sandero performed relatively well in terms of its protection in a crash, NCAP has criticised Dacia’s decision not to fit a more sophisticated automated braking system. Such systems, which will shortly be made standard on all cars by legislation, detect when a collision is imminent and can automatically hit the car’s brakes, with no input from the driver. Most such setups use both a radar and a windscreen-mounted camera.
Dacia’s system, though, uses only a radar, so while it can detect if you’re going to hit something substantial - such as another car - it will not pick up a pedestrian crossing the road, nor a cyclist. Other systems can detect pedestrians and vulnerable road users, and indeed some can even detect them at night.
"Safety has moved on," says Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, "and the biggest strides forward are now being made by using high-tech to prevent accidents from happening. Clearly, Dacia have found their market and they're sticking to it, but a two-star rating shows little ambition, even for a low-cost product. Their decision not to offer a camera clearly is out of step with the market and disappointing as Dacia are aware that their cars will soon have to comply with the new General Safety Regulation. "
It’s not the first time that Dacia has been called out for its safety performance. The 2013 Dacia Duster was criticised at its launch for only offering electronic stability control on the most expensive versions, while recently the consumer reviews site Which? rated the current Duster as a ‘Don’t Buy’, saying: “Not only is adult and child occupant protection below the curve for cars of this type, the Duster is lacking in active safety technology, such as autonomous emergency braking. There’s also no lane-assist system, or knee or pelvis airbags.”
Dacia, and the Renault-Nissan Group which owns the Romanian brand, has previously defended its safety record, saying that the safety of its vehicles is "in keeping with the objectives of Dacia, which seeks to design and build vehicles that are acclaimed for their strength and reliability".
Nonetheless, it will be disappointing for many family buyers on a budget, especially given that cars from Dacia's sister brand, Renault - which of course use all of the same basic set of components - regularly score top marks in independent crash and safety tests. Indeed, it was the 2001 Renault Laguna II that was the first car ever to receive a maximum five-star safety score from Euro NCAP.