It’s pretty obvious that modern cars are a lot safer than vehicles of the past. Nearly every vehicle sold today will have a set of airbags fitted as standard, as well as safety belts for all occupants. Crash-testing, unheard of prior to the 1990s, has become a standard procedure for every new vehicle sold today.
Continue reading to learn about the vehicles that have received the worst safety ratings from different organizations. Some of them even had to be discontinued due to safety concerns followed by crash-tests!
Sadly, the Escalade has lost a large part of its appeal. The premium SUV was a hit among consumers, with over 20 000 units sold in the US when it was first launched in 1999. Unfortunately, the current fourth-gen Escalade is no longer regarded as a luxury vehicle. The car’s handling could be dramatically improved, and the cramped rear seats repel buyers.
Unarguably, the biggest disadvantage of the Escalade is its poor safety rating. In fact, the Cadillac Escalade is the lowest-rated Large Luxury SUV on the market. Hopefully, the upcoming fifth-gen will be improved.
Chrysler Town & Country
The Chrysler Town & Country is widely regarded as one of the worst minivans available on the market. The vehicle’s fuel-efficiency, or lack thereof, has made the Town & Country infamous. Some of the frequent owner complaints mention the seats being painfully uncomfortable, as well as pointing out the unreliability of the minivan.
The absolute worst aspect of the Chrysler Town & Country minivan is its questionable crashworthiness. When tested by the IIHS, a 2014 Chrysler Town & Country received the worst possible rating in the “small overlap front” crash test. The Town & Country is the worst in its class in terms of safety.
The Dodge Journey was the automaker’s flagship crossover SUV that’s been in production for 11 years starting in 2009. The SUV came fitted with a variety of different engines, ranging from a 2.4L flat-four up to a 3.6L Pentastar V6. US sales of the Journey peaked in 2015 at over 100 000 units sold that year.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS in short, tested the safety of the Dodge Journey crossover. Although the car performed well in most tests, it received a poor rating for the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, only gave the Journey four stars overall.
1999 Ford Escort
The Ford Escort followed in the footsteps of the previously-mentioned Ford Sierra sedan. The sixth-gen Escort was in production between 1995 and 2002, the car was offered in five different body styles. Updating the Escort was Ford’s attempt to save the vehicle after the fifth-gen Escort has met with lots of criticisms among both consumers and journalists.
The safety rating of the 1999 Ford Escort was simply dreadful. Crash tests by the Euro NCAP revealed a serious flaw, resulting in a mere two-star overall rating for adult occupant safety.
The Ford Figo was a small subcompact car based on the Fiesta hatchback, built and sold in developing countries. The first generation was sold from 2010 up until 2015, the vehicles were assembled at Ford’s plant in Chennai, India. In order to maintain a low price tag, Ford decided to only fit the front airbags as a part of the optional premium package. Rear seat airbags were not available at all.
As expected, the Ford Figo performed terribly in safety tests. in fact, Global NCAP gave it a zero-star rating for adult occupant safety.
Chrysler 200 (first-generation)
The Chrysler 200 is a midsize sedan that was first introduced by the American automaker for the 2011 model year. Chrysler’s attempt at creating an affordable, fuel-efficient, and reliable sedan turned out a lot worse than expected. New owners of the 200 quickly discovered various flaws of the vehicle, including bungling handling and reliability issues.
On top of all this, the first-generation Chrysler 200 didn’t perform well during crash tests. NHTSA only gave the sedan 3 stars (out of 5) for overall side-impact protection, including 1 star in the “Pole” side damage crash test!
The Ford Explorer has been around since the 1990s. The fifth-gen Explorer, sold from 2011 up until 2019, was not off to a good start. A series of crash tests conducted by the IIHS revealed a serious issue regarding the vehicle’s safety. The 2018 Explorer received a poor rating in the small-overlap frontal-offset test on the passenger’s side, as well as a marginal rating on the driver side.
The poor safety rating was not the end of Ford’s struggles with the Explorer. In 2019, the automaker announced a global recall for 1.2 million units of the fifth-gen Explorer. According to Ford, an element of the SUV’s rear suspension could fracture affecting the vehicle’s steering.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Discovery Sport is Land Rover’s alternative to other Luxury mid-SUVs, such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the Volvo XC60, or the Audi Q5. Despite the fact that Land Rover is a very reputable automaker, the Discovery struggles to keep up with its competitors. Owners claim that the car’s unresponsive transmission paired with a four-cylinder motor is not worthy of the Sport moniker.
Although the 2014 Discovery Sport scored 93% for adult occupant safety in tests conducted by the Euro NCAP, the overall child occupant safety was only rated at 83%. Add in the weak reliability ratings, and the Discovery Sport ranks the lowest in its class.
Ford Escape (third-gen)
The Ford Escape, also known as the Ford Kuga, has been in production since the 2001 model year. The American manufacturer recently unveiled the latest, fourth generation of the Escape. The crossover starts at $25,980, though options can bring up the sticker price above $40,000.
Despite the latest, fourth-generation 2020 model dubbed a “Top Safety Pick” by the IIHS, the third-gen 2014 Escape scored a poor rating small-overlap frontal-offset crash tests, both for the driver and passenger side of the vehicle. Luckily, Ford improved the safety of the Escape for the fourth-generation model.
The Fiat 500L was introduced for the 2013 model year as a more spacious alternative to the successful Fiat 500. The compact car, however, was anything but a hit among car buyers. The 500L was dubbed the most unreliable car in Fiat’s lineup in 2016. Owners complained that the oddly-sized compact was uncomfortable to drive due to an odd driving position.
On top of all this, the Fiat 500L was certainly not the safest vehicle in its class. IIHS gave it a poor rating for the small-overlap frontal test. Fiat only sold 771 units of the 500L in 2019 in the US.
Alfa Romeo 147
The 147 was a small hatchback sold by Alfa Romeo between 2000 and 2010. The stylish family car made 247 horsepower in its high-performance variant, referred to as the 147 GTA. In effect, the 147 GTA could reach 60 miles per hour in just 6 seconds!
Unfortunately, safety wasn’t a top priority for Alfa Romeo at the time. When Euro NCAP tested a 2001 Alfa Romeo 147, the car only received 2 out of 5 stars in the adult occupant safety category, along with 2 out of 4 stars for pedestrian safety.
The Datsun Go was an important vehicle for Nissan, it was the first time the Japanese manufacturer used the Datsun brand after its discontinuation in the 1980s. The car is targeted for developing countries, as it packs a fuel-efficient 1.2L flat-three engine and a very attractive price tag of around US$5500.
Unfortunately, the Go was deemed unsafe following a series of crash tests conducted by NCAP. The base model, not equipped with any airbags, received a terrible zero-star safety rating. In fact, the chairman of NCAP wrote a letter to the CEO of Renault-Nissan asking to withdraw the vehicle from the market, as the crash-tested Go was completely wrecked.
There is a very good chance that you’ve never heard of the BS4. The subcompact, developed by the Chinese automaker and designed by Pininfarina, was produced in China and Egypt between 2006 and 2014. The car was set to enter the German market in 2008, but the launch was delayed following terrible crash test results. In the end, the BS4 never made it to Europe.
The small sedan was crash-tested by the European New Car Assessment Programme or Euro NCAP for short. The BS4 received a shocking zero-star rating. The organization claimed that the car was far away from the current safety standards at the time.
The Citroen Saxo, a supermini that was in production from 1996 to 2004, was an economical automobile created by the French manufacturer. The car was largely based on the Peugeot 106. The car was fitted with a variety of different fuel-efficient powerplants, ranging from a 49-horsepower 1.0L up to a 1.6L flat-four that peaked at 118 horsepower.
The Citroen Saxo quickly became infamous for its poor safety rating. When the Euro NCAP crash-tested the little Saxo, the vehicle only scored 2 out of 5 stars in the adult occupant protection category. However, the lack of safety did not discourage car buyers, as Citroen sold nearly 1.5 million units of the Saxo.
The Fiat Seicento, a successor to the previously mentioned Cinquecento, shared the same safety issues as its predecessors. Euro NCAP gave the car a mere 1.5-star rating for overall adult occupant safety, becoming one of the worst cars ever tested by the company. The crash test footage released by Euro NCAP looks simply horrifying.
Despite concerns regarding the car’s safety, Fiat sold a total of 1.33 million units of the Seicento between 1997 and 2010. Sales peaked in 1999 with over a quarter-million Seicentos sold that year. Initially, the Seicento came powered by a 39-horsepower 0.9L motor.
Back in the 1990s, passenger safety wasn’t the top priority when designing cars, at least not as much as it is today. In fact, the IIHS only began evaluating the crashworthiness of automobiles in 1995. Ford’s Sierra is a great example, as the car was one of the first vehicles that were tested by major organizations.
The Ford Sierra was tested by the Euro NCAP when the organization began crash-testing back in 1997. The Sierra did not receive an official rating, though the horrifying crash test footage released by Euro NCAP leaves little to the imagination. Luckily, automakers began paying a lot more attention to occupant safety following the beginning of modern crash-testing.
The MKS was Lincoln’s flagship sedan produced between 2009 and 2016. The luxury automobile was criticized for its outdated interior and limited visibility, as well as an underpowered V6 engine under the hood. The 3.7L, 273-horsepower V6 powerplant was quickly deemed unreliable by the owners.
Unarguably, the biggest disadvantage of the Lincoln MKS is its poor safety rating. Tests conducted by the IIHS revealed poor driver protection. In effect, the organization gave the MKS a poor safety rating based on the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W202)
Today, cars produced by Mercedes-Benz are widely regarded as perfectly safe, reliable, and luxurious vehicles. However, this was certainly not the case for the first-gen C-Class. Back in the 1990s, Mercedes unveiled the W202 C-Class 4-door sedan. The family car was relatively fuel-efficient and affordable.
Safety tests conducted by Euro NCAP revealed the biggest flaw of the C-Class: its lack of occupant protection. In fact, the W202 Mercedes-Benz C-Class only received 2 out of 5 stars in the adult occupant protection category, along with 2 stars (out of 4) for pedestrian safety.
The Hyundai i10 was a cheap, fuel-efficient city car that first appeared on the market in 2007, following the success of its predecessor, the Hyundai Atos. Some variants of the i10 were sold with airbags as an extra option, in order to reduce the car’s sticker price.
In effect, the Hyundai i10 performed poorly in crash tests. The European variant of the i10, fitted with airbags as standard, achieved 4-stars for both adult and child occupant safety. The Indian variant of the i10, however, received an alarming 0-star rating. ASEAN NCAP tested the i10, and the vehicle received just two out of four stars for adult occupant protection.
The Hyundai Eon was a car designed for developing countries. The South Korean manufacturer sold the Eon between 2011 and 2019 in countries such as India, the Philippines, Vietnam, or Sri Lanka. As expected, airbags were not fitted as standard and were instead available as an extra option.
A result of Hyundai cutting down costs was clearly visible in the car’s safety rating. The car scored a zero-star rating in the adult occupant protection category conducted by NCAP. What’s more, the body shell integrity was dubbed unstable by the organization.
Isuzu D-Max 2008
The Isuzu D-Max is a Japanese pick-up truck that was first introduced for the 2002 model year. The first generation of the compact truck was sold for 10 years until 2012. Isuzu focused on maintaining a low sticker price of the vehicle. In effect, the car lacked safety features such as AEB, ESC, or LSS systems.
When ANCAP tested the safety of the D-Max back in 2008, the truck was only awarded a 3-star overall rating. What’s more, the vehicle only scored 5.4 points (out of 16) for frontal-offset protection. The report mentions a high risk of life-threatening chest injury in the event of a crash.
The Indian variant of the Volkswagen Polo was among a group of automobiles selected for a series of crash tests conducted by Global NCAP. The European/US variant of the Polo comes with two airbags as standard and received a four-star overall safety rating.
On the other hand, the Indian version of the Volkswagen Polo comes with no airbags as standard. In effect, the Polo received a concerning zero-star safety rating. Volkswagen quickly discontinued the no-airbag variant of the Polo in 2014, fitting the car with two airbags as standard for all markets.
The Fiat Cinquecento was a successor to the Fiat 126, a tiny fuel-efficient city car that was incredibly popular in Eastern Europe. Fiat sold over 1.1 million units of the Cinquecento during its 7-year-long production run starting in 1991. The Cinquecento suffered from countless issues due to cut corners during production, all to maintain a low sticker price.
Despite the car’s success among consumers, the vehicle’s safety is questionable. When ADAC conducted a small-overlap frontal-offset test, the passenger compartment was brutally crushed.
The Daewoo Lanos was a tiny subcompact car built by the South Korean manufacturer between 1997 and 2002. In order to maintain an affordable price tag, Daewoo cut corners during production. In effect, the Daewoo Lanos turned out to be very unreliable and the vehicles were recalled multiple times throughout the past years.
The Lanos achieved received terrible safety ratings from most organizations worldwide. In Europe, the Euro NCAP only gave it 2.5 out of 5 stars for overall safety. When ANCAP carried out safety tests of the Lanos, the car only received 0.31 out of 16 points in the offset front crash test.
The Scorpio is a mid-size SUV sold by the Indian manufacturer from 2002 in developing countries. The Mahindra Scorpio won several local awards, including “Car Of The Year” by Business Standard Motoring, a major automotive magazine in India.
Despite a local success, the SUV became infamous around the world as one of the worst-rated cars produced in India. Followed by a series of crash tests, the NCAP gave the Scorpio a zero-star rating for adult occupant safety. The poor results were largely due to the car’s bad body shell integrity, as well as the lack of airbags.
After poor safety ratings of its predecessors, Fiat made sure that the 500 released in 2007 would be up to standard. The car, tested by Euro NCAP, passed the safety tests with flying colors earning a 5 out of 5-star rating. Sadly, Fiat updated the vehicle for the 2017 model year. The Italian manufacturer seemed to have forgotten about the safety ratings this time.
When tested by the Euro NCAP, the updated 2017 Fiat 500 only received 3 out of 5 stars. What’s more, the compact vehicle only achieved a 49% score for child occupant protection.
Mitsubishi’s subcompact had first appeared on the market in 1978 and was in production until 2003. Then, the automaker revived the Mirage for the sixth-generation in 2012. The small car attracted buyers with its great fuel economy (37mpg) and an affordable sticker price of just $13,000.
The safety of the Mirage, however, remained questionable. The IIHS noticed a design flaw upon crash testing Mitsubishi’s subcompact. The car received a poor rating in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test, as the test dummy sustained serious injuries around the leg area. In effect, the Mirage received the lowest safety rating in its class.
Suzuki Baleno II
The latest, second-gen Suzuki Baleno has been in production since 2015. The small city car is available with one of two different petrol engines, as well as a hybrid powerplant. In its most powerful variant, the Baleno peaks at 110 horsepower and can reach 60 miles per hour in 11 seconds.
The second-generation Suzuki Baleno received two different safety ratings, a first in the history of Euro NCAP. The base model was awarded an alarming 3-star overall safety rating, while the high-spec variant equipped with the Radar Brake Support System received 4 out of 5 stars.
1997-2005 Pontiac Trans Sport
Much like the Sintra, the Pontiac Trans Sport performed poorly in crash tests. After all, the two MPVs do share the same platform and were both built at the same plant in Georgia. When IIHS tested a 1997 Pontiac Trans Sport, the test dummy sustained serious injuries to the head, as well as both legs.
In effect, the Pontiac Trans Sport received a poor overall safety rating by the IIHS, based on the results of the moderate-overlap frontal-offset crash test. At least, unlike the Opel Sintra, the steering wheel of the Trans Sport did not break off on impact.
The iMiEV was Mitsubishi’s attempt to create an environmentally-friendly electric car that would be perfect for the daily commute. Sadly, the final product was a lot worse than expected. Owners complained about the car’s weak performance, unresponsive steering, and a very cramped interior. The battery range is below 60 miles on a single charge, which is barely enough for the daily commute. On the plus side, it is the cheapest EV on the market with a starting price of $23 000.
NHTSA gave the iMiEV a mere two-star rating for the rear seat passengers in the Side Barrier crash test. The Euro NCAP gave the small EV a four-star rating overall.
The Sintra debuted as the German automaker’s flagship MPV for the 1996 model year. The car was built in the United States on the second-gen U-Body MPV platform, just like the Chevrolet Venture or the Pontiac Trans Sport from the same era.
Crash tests of the Opel Sintra conducted by the Euro NCAP revealed potentially fatal deficiencies of the MPV. During a frontal impact crash test, the steering wheel broke off causing serious injuries to the dummy’s neck. In effect, the car only received a 2.5-star rating for adult occupant safety, along with a 1-star pedestrian safety rating.
Maruti Suzuki Celerio
The Maruti Suzuki Celerio is a popular car sold in developing countries, such as India. The car is incredibly fuel-efficient. According to the automaker, the Celerio can drive over 50 miles on a single gallon of gas.
Fuel efficiency and affordable price tags aside, the main flaw of the Celerio is its lack of occupant protection. A base model Celerio with no airbags tested by the NCAP did not receive a single star in the crash tests. The vehicle was deemed unsafe for all occupants.
The 100 was a supermini created by Rover in 1994, though the car dated back to the Austin Metro from the 1980s. The budget-friendly supermini lacked practically any safety features and was discontinued largely due to concerns over the safety of the vehicle.
The Rover 100 has gone down in history as one of the first cars ever tested by the Euro NCAP. It became infamous as it was the first car that received a one-star rating for adult occupant safety. The little Rover 100 was discontinued only a year after Euro NCAP published the safety report.
The Clio is a tiny supermini made by the French manufacturer, its history dates back to the launch of the 1st generation back in 1990. The base model came equipped with a 1.2L 53-horsepower flat-four, while the top-notch Clio Williams was fitted with a 150-horsepower 2.0L engine. Back in 1997, Renault sold nearly 350,000 units of the Clio in Europe alone.
Like the Rover 100, the Renault Clio was one of the first vehicles tested by the Euro NCAP. A 1997 Clio only received two out of five stars for adult occupant safety, as well as a one-star pedestrian safety rating.
The Renault Kwid is a car that was initially designed by the French manufacturer for the Indian market. Later on, Renault expanded the production to other markets, such as Brazil and China. When the Kwid was launched in India back in 2015, the starting price was just $3,884. Renault claims that as much as 98% of the car’s components and engineering work takes place locally by Renault staff in India.
As standard, the Kwid only came equipped with an airbag on the driver’s side of the car. In effect, the SUV only received a one-star safety rating when tested by Global NCAP.
Much like the rest of the Daewoo lineup, the South Korean manufacturer focused on reducing production costs to deliver an affordable vehicle. In effect, the cheap-made Daewoo Nubira lacked quality and suffered from reliability issues. On the other hand, a brand new Nubira was priced at only around $8,000 in 1997 in the UK.
While the car’s attractive price tag may have seemed like a decent deal, the Nubira did not perform well in safety tests. In fact, the compact only received 3 out of 5 stars in the side-impact category.
A quick peek at the Nano pictured here should be enough to be able to predict this city car’s safety ratings. The Nano was first unveiled in 2008 and was in production until 2018. The affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle won several awards in India, including Car of The Year by BS Motoring back in 2010.
As expected, the city car lacked modern safety features. NCAP tested the base model of the Nano, equipped with no airbags at all, and gave it a 0-star safety rating. What’s more, the body shell was rated as unstable.
The Tata Zest is a compact sedan sold by the Indian manufacturer between 2014 and 2019. The small vehicle is available either with a petrol engine made by Tata, or a 1.3L flat-four Diesel sourced from Fiat. Similarly to the Tata Nano, the Zest is fuel-efficient and very affordable. Its base model is fitted with no airbags, exactly like the Nano.
Global NCAP tested the safety of the Tata Zest, and the results were very similar to those of the Nano. The car received a zero-star rating for adult occupant safety and was deemed unsafe.
Today, Geely is known as an innovative China-based automaker, as well as the owner of Volvo, Lotus, and Proton. Back in the 2000s, however, Geely was focused on manufacturing the CK-1. The small four-door sedan was in production between 2005 and 2016.
NCAP tested the crashworthiness of the CK-1 sedan, and the results were absolutely shocking. Similarly to the previously-mentioned Ford Figo, the CK-1 scored a zero-star rating for adult occupant safety. Moreover, the report mentioned that fitting the sedan with airbags would not improve the protection as the integrity of the car’s body shell is bad.
A stripped-down variant of the Renault Duster was available in developing countries such as India or Indonesia. For those markets, the two front airbags were only available as an extra adoption. In effect, the variant equipped with no airbags received a 0-star safety rating from NCAP. Even with airbags, the Duster could only score 3 out of 5 stars.
Renault improved this variant of the Duster in 2019. A follow-up safety test by NCAP revealed that the Duster, now fitted with two airbags as standard, was dramatically improved. The vehicle received a 4-star safety rating for adult occupants.