In the latest batch of tests, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Dacia Duster, DS 3, Ford C-Max, Ford Grand C-Max, Kia Stonic, MG ZS, Toyota Aygo and Vauxhall Viva all achieved three-star ratings in their standard forms. The Aygo increases to four stars and the Stonic to five stars with optional safety equipment fitted.
After every car tested in the previous two batches scored a five-star rating, the results are a huge letdown for Euro NCAP.
The Punto gained special attention from the NCAP's secretary general, Michiel van Ratingen, who said, “The fact that older cars cannot compete illustrates the pace at which the vehicle industry is innovating safety and the willingness and ability of competitive manufacturers to meet the highest standards. Those who do not keep their cars up to the latest standards get left behind – as these results clearly show.”
The third-generation Punto was launched in 2005, making the car a twelve-year-old model. It wasn't replaced in quite a few markets such as India and the UK following the 2008 economic downturn, upon Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne’s decision.
Continuing, van Ratingen said, “This is perhaps the strongest example of a manufacturer continuing to sell a product that is well past its best-before date at the expense of the unsuspecting buyer. We would urge consumers to choose cars with the most up-to-date five-star ratings – many examples of which we have seen in 2017.”
Thatcham Research, the UK’s organisation responsible for Euro NCAP tests, explained that while the Punto’s result is the most shocking, the number of three-star results spell out a wider problem.
“Some great strides have been made in car safety this year; 72 percent of the cars tested achieved a five-star Euro NCAP rating, as compared to the 56 percent in 2016; but December’s test results have shown that some car makers are choosing not to fit potentially life-saving safety technology as standard, despite an overall trend to the contrary in 2017,” said Matthew Avery, Thatcham’s research director.
Five cars were awarded five-star ratings with their standard equipment in this latest batch – the BMW 6 Series GT, Hyundai Kona, Jaguar F-Pace, Kia Stinger and Toyota Yaris.
A Fiat spokesman said, “Safety is of the utmost importance to the FCA group. When Punto was launched 12 years ago, it was the first 5-star Euro NCAP car, in its class. The importance of safety to the FCA group is demonstrated by the number of new models achieving 5 stars.”
The locally made Fiat Punto has been on sale in India since 2009, though it received a facelift in 2014, with the nameplate changing to Punto Evo. The aging model struggles to make a mark on the sales charts, especially compared to its newer rivals. Fiat brought the Argo out in some South American markets to replace the Punto. However, there has been no word on whether the hatchback, or the Cronos sedan (which is based on the Argo), will be introduced in India.
If not replaced, it remains to be seen how well the model will do when the Indian government’s crash safety norms come into effect, next year.
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