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NCAP safety warning over Euro city runabouts

Twizted: The Renault Twizy performed better than others in the quadricycle crash tests conducted by Euro NCAP, but the safety authority still has serious concerns about its level of occupant protection.

Renault Twizy and other quadricycles perform poorly in European NCAP crash tests

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General News logo6 Jun 2014

THE prospect of the Renault Twizy being sold in Australia has dampened with the European NCAP crash-test authority finding serious cause for concern with the safety afforded by the tiny zero-emissions city runabout and others in the so-called quadricycle category.

As GoAuto has reported, the pure-electric vehicle – built in Spain and designed primarily as an alternative to motorcycles and scooters in major European cities – was under consideration for release in Australia with a potential starting price of less than $10,000.

Renault Australia had begun discussions with federal transport authorities about updating regulations here to accommodate the unique little vehicle, which marks a new breed of urban mobility from some of the world’s major car manufacturers and comes under quadricycle regulations in Europe.

Twizy’s four wheels and steering wheel would put it into the passenger car category here, but its quadricycle classification overseas has enabled it to be developed, and sold, without the same degree of safety features – including side-impact beams and electronic stability control – required for homologation of regular cars in Australia.

By its very nature the Twizy will never offer occupants the same degree of protection as a modern passenger car, and European NCAP quadricycle testing is not directly comparable with star ratings published for passenger vehicles.

However, Euro NCAP has highlighted that Twizy and three other quadricycles tested recently – all type-approved for use on public roads – “showed severe safety problems” in specific tests, including a 50km/h frontal impact (down from 64km/h on cars) and 50km/h side impact (the same speed used when testing cars).

The safety watchdog has also questioned whether consumers should be satisfied with the level of protection currently offered by these lightweight and environmentally friendly vehicles.

“It’s worrying to find that, because crash safety tests are not required by law, quadricycles show a level of safety that is way below that of cars,” said Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen.

“Even though they meet legislative standards, these vehicles lack the minimum safety equipment which has become commonplace on passenger cars sold in Europe.”

The Twizy has a four-point seatbelt and a driver’s airbag fitted standard, and scored better than the other vehicles – the similar-concept Tazzari Zero and Ligier IXO, plus the Club Car Villager golf cart – but Euro NCAP says its stiff structure and restraint system resulted in “some dangerously high dummy readings”.

The vehicle scored six points out of 16 for the frontal test and seven points out of 16 for the side impact.

“Our test campaign confirms that quadricycles generally provide a much lower level of safety than regular passenger cars,” Mr van Ratingen said.

“The poor results, however, urge us to ask ourselves whether consumers should really be satisfied with the protection currently being offered? “As quadricycles look set to become more and more popular, Euro NCAP is calling for manufacturers and legislative authorities to ensure a minimum level of crash safety for this vehicle segment.”

The battery-powered two-seater Twizy 80 model tested is classified as a ‘heavy quadricycle’ in Europe and requires the driver to have a licence. It tips the scales at 474kg and produces 13kW of power and 57Nm of torque.

It is capable of reaching 45km/h from standstill in 6.1 seconds, on its way to an electronically limited 81km/h top speed. Renault claims the vehicle has a driving range of up to 100km before requiring a recharge.

As well as developing a driver’s airbag and a harness-style seatbelt for the Twizy, Renault built in a three-point passenger seatbelt, four-wheel disc brakes, front and rear crumple zones and a ‘safety cell’ body structure.

As GoAuto reported from our first drive of the Twizy in Europe in 2012, Renault also simulated Euro NCAP-style impacts from various angles, although it acknowledged that the open design meant there was no side-impact protection within the circumference of the passenger cell.

A number of other manufacturers in Europe and Japan in particular are working on similar electrified vehicles, with some of the concepts and prototypes shown in recent years including the Honda MC-B, Toyota i-Road, Audi Urban Concept, Volkswagen Nils, Opel RAK-e and PSA Peugeot Citroen’s VELV.

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