MG 5 and Mahindra Scorpio hit with zero-star safety ratings

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The MG 5 sedan and Mahindra Scorpio 4WD have received the lowest safety scores – in both crash protection and crash avoidance – ever awarded to new vehicles in Australia.

The MG 5 sedan from China – and Mahindra Scorpio 4WD from India – have been slapped with zero-star safety ratings by the Australasian New-Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

They are the second and third vehicles ever to be awarded the lowest rating in the 30-year history of the safety organisation – after the Mitsubishi Express van, a rebadged Renault Trafic, in 2020.

The vehicles fell short in both crash-avoidance technology – given their lack of nearly all modern, advanced safety features fitted to other cars to earn five stars – and how well their body structures protected adults from injury in a crash.

Representatives for MG and Mahindra say there are no plans to remove either vehicle from sale, and upgrades to their crash-avoidance systems – but not their crash structures – are in development.

Even if the ANCAP score only counted the ability for each vehicle to protect adult occupants in a crash, the Mahindra would only earn one star – while the MG would still score zero.

Both vehicles are fitted with little to no crash-avoidance technology – and lack features such as lane-keep assist, driver attention monitors, and speed warnings standard on the latest five-star safety-rated cars.

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The MG 5 and Mahindra Scorpio meet Australian Government safety standards needed for a vehicle to be legal for sale locally, however these are vastly less stringent than those of ANCAP.

The only other zero-star vehicle tested by ANCAP is the Mitsubishi Express van, rated in 2020 – but it was a rebadged version of the Renault Trafic, which when tested at its introduction in 2015 against the less stringent criteria of the time, only earned three stars.

Other examples of low safety scores include one-star ratings given to the previous Mitsubishi Express in 2007, Proton Jumbuck ute in 2008, and Jeep Wrangler 4WD in 2018 (later upgraded to three stars following an update to the vehicle in 2019).

ANCAP awarded two stars to a Great Wall Motors ute in 2009, and the Ford Mustang in 2017 – though the latter was upgraded to three stars in 2018 following updates to the car.

The MG 5 and Mahindra Scorpio were tested to the latest ANCAP test criteria introduced this year – and in force until 2025 – which are the most stringent in history.

The safety organisation updates its test criteria every two to three years; the protocols used to test the most recent Mitsubishi Express in 2020 were in force from 2020 to 2022.

The overall ANCAP rating of a vehicle is determined by its lowest score in one of the four test criteria ‘pillars’: Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Vulnerable Road User Protection (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists), and Safety Assist (crash-avoidance tech).

It means that a vehicle can earn enough marks in three of the four categories for five stars – but if its performance in the fourth category equates to zero stars, the overall star rating will be zero.

The MG 5 earned scores not high enough for any more than zero stars in Adult Occupant Protection (37 per cent) and Safety Assist (13 per cent) – and only high enough for two stars in Vulnerable Road User Protection (42 per cent) and Child Occupant Protection (58 per cent).

The Mahindra Scorpio’s results in Safety Assist (0 per cent) and Vulnerable Road User Protection (23 per cent) would earn zero stars if there were no other test categories – while its Adult Occupant Protection score (44 per cent) would be enough for one, and the Child Occupant Protection result (80 per cent) eligible for five.

It is believed the Scorpio is the first vehicle in the history of ANCAP to score 0 per cent in one of the four test categories.

In stark contrast to the Australian result, the Mahindra Scorpio earned five stars in crash testing by Global NCAP – a fact which company executives at the Australian launch of the vehicle spoke highly of to media in attendance, including Drive.

The MG 5 recorded “significant injury risk measurements for the chest (Poor) and legs (Poor) of the driver in the frontal offset test, and the chest (Poor) and legs (Poor) of the rear passenger in the full width frontal test,” according to ANCAP.

The safety organisation says “penalties were applied for chest deflection and seatbelt loading exceeding injury limits, and hazards behind the dashboard structure.”

ANCAP has accused MG of “a lack of design effort to prevent rear-seat occupant injury in frontal impact and side impact scenarios” due to loads on the head and neck of child dummies in the rear seats “significantly higher than seen in most current generation vehicles”.

Three of the four dummies recorded “Weak results … across both the frontal and side impact tests.”

No MG 5 model is fitted with a centre airbag between the front seats, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, a driver drowsiness detection system, or sensors to detect children left in the car.

“Seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters are not fitted to front or rear seating positions on the base Vibe variant of the MG 5 nor the rear seating positions on the Essence variant,” ANCAP says.

Meanwhile, ANCAP says “the Mahindra Scorpio was shown to provide a mix of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, Weak and Poor protection for adult occupants in the frontal offset, full width frontal, side impact and oblique pole crash tests.”

However it noted “a high risk of serious injury was recorded for the head, neck and chest of the rear female passenger in the full width frontal test with a penalty applied for high seatbelt loading.”

While it reportedly did not have an impact on the test score, ANCAP said it observed the driver’s seatbelt unbuckle during the deployment of the seatbelt pre-tensioner immediately prior to impact in the side-impact crash test – which can be seen in the crash-test video – and has reported this Mahindra for “further examination”.

The side curtain airbags only cover the first and second seating rows of the three-row Scorpio, there is no front-centre airbag, and in New Zealand models – where the Scorpio is sold with seven seats, rather than six in Australia – the centre seat in the second row is only fitted with a lap seatbelt (not lap-sash).

No advanced safety technology – including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – is fitted to the Mahindra Scorpio.

AEB became mandatory for new vehicles introduced to Australia from March 2023, however the paperwork was filed for the Scorpio early enough to beat this deadline.

Both vehicles are fitted with six airbags, as well as government-mandated features such as anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control.

“The MG 5 and Mahindra Scorpio were both released into the Australian and New Zealand new car markets for the first time this year, yet it’s clear that their safety offerings are some generations behind what we see with almost every new car on sale today,” ANCAP CEO Carla Hoorweg said in a media statement.

“This is a stark reminder that not all cars offer the same level of safety – even when they’re brand new models.”

MG and Mahindra have confirmed plans to add more advanced safety features to their vehicles.

However it is believed there are no plans to upgrade their crash structures – which also did not perform well in ANCAP testing.

In a statement to Drive, an MG Motor Australia spokesperson said a “safety pack” would be introduced next year with lane-keep assist and a speed assist system.

However it appears to be optional – and it may not lift the overall score of the MG 5 as it does not improve the crash structure of the vehicle.

“We are always striving to do the right thing by our customers in terms of affordability, form and function. Where and when possible, we will add improvements to our products for our models during their life cycle,” the spokesperson said.

“In 2024, the MG 5 will receive a safety pack upgrade which will increase the overall safety of this model inline with ANCAP’s rating system.

“These planned enhancements for the MG 5 will reiterate our commitment to customers and ensure further passenger safety with a much more advanced [driver assist] systems including Autonomous Emergency Braking, Speed Assist systems, Lane Assist systems and Pedestrian Protection safety systems as seen in some of our other models.”

The spokesperson said: “MG has worked closely with the Australian Government to ensure that the MG 5 has met the relevant Australian Design Rules (ADRs) for vehicle design when they are first supplied to the Australian market.

“The MG 5 was certified and approved for sale in Australia and has met the (ADR) rules to be sold. The current MG 5 is offered to the Australian market as an affordable car in the sedan segment.”

Mahindra has previously announced an intention to add autonomous emergency braking to the Scorpio by 2025 – when it will become mandatory for all new passenger vehicles sold in Australia – as part of a mid-life update.

In a statement to Drive, a Mahindra Australia spokesperson said: “The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), updated on January 1, 2023 has specific requirements that include certain additional features.

“We at Mahindra are committed to our promise of safety and are working towards meeting unique safety regulations and these requirements for Australia as part of our product mid-cycle update.”

The spokesperson said: “At its launch, the Scorpio fully adhered to the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) … equipped with comprehensive safety features, including 6 airbags, ESP, ABS, a crashworthy ring structure with multiple load paths and extensive use of high-strength steel, it reaffirms our focus on the structural safety of the vehicle and the protection it offers to the occupants.”

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

Read more about Alex MisoyannisLinkIcon

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