How safe South Africa’s best-selling cars really are

When buying a car, drivers take many factors into account.

Can I afford it? Is it a high-risk vehicle in terms of theft? Will it suit my day-to-day-needs? And can it put up a decent challenge against that souped-up Golf at the robots?

These are all questions prospective car owners asks themselves.

Another important aspect is safety – essentially, will you survive a serious accident while driving your new car?

In terms of vehicle safety ratings, two organisations are at the fore of ranking how likely you are to walk out of your automobile in one piece after a crash: Euro NCAP and ANCAP.


Euro NCAP, based in Europe, tests a selection of the most popular and interesting cars each year. This mainly consists of new cars entering the market.

Four cars of a single model are taken and tested at one of NCAP’s facilities, and a safety ranking out of five stars given.


The Australasian New Car Assessment Program tests a variety of vehicles and, like NCAP, ranks their safety out of five stars.

Since 1993, ANCAP has published crash test results for over 500 passenger and light commercial vehicles sold in Australia and New Zealand. The ANCAP tests are relevant to SA as the organisation tests the popular Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger.

Where a rating from Euro NCAP or ANCAP was unavailable, other recognised ratings were used.

How safe is your car?

According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), the top-selling car in South Africa between January and September 2014 was the Toyota Hilux.

Second was the VW Polo Vivo (essentially a rebranded Polo), with third place going to the VW Polo.

Based on Naamsa’s sales stats, and which vehicles have been tested in the international market, here are the safety rankings of South Africa’s best-selling cars.

1. Toyota Hilux – ANCAP 5 Stars

The 5-star rating applies to all diesel and petrol double-cab variants of the Hilux built from November 2013.

2. VW Polo – NCAP and ANCAP 5 Stars

The ratings apply to Polos made in 2009, 2010, and 2014.

3. Ford Ranger – NCAP and ANCAP 5 Stars

The 5-star rating covers all variants of the of the Ford Ranger, with side curtain airbags, made from October 2011.

4. Toyota Etios – Latin NCAP 4 Stars

Only valid in Brazil

The 4-star rating applies to models of the Etios fitted with double airbags.

5. Isuzu KB (D-Max) – 4 Stars NCAP, 5 Stars ANCAP

The Isuzu KB – known as the D-Max in international markets – received four stars from NCAP in 2012, and five stars from ANCAP in 2013.

6. Toyota Quantum (Hiace) – 4 Starts ANCAP

Toyota Hiace
Toyota Hiace

The Toyota Quantum, known as the Hiace in Australia, was awarded four stars by ANCAP. This applies to vehicles built from 17 September 2011.

7. Ford Figo – 0 Stars Global NCAP

The basic model of the Ford Figo, which did not include airbags at the time, received zero stars during Global NCAP testing in 2014.

The tests found that the Figo had structures that remained stable, and with airbags fitted protection for the driver and front passenger would be improved.

The Ford Figo models sold in South Africa all include dual front airbags and ABS with EBD.

8. Mercedes C-Class – 5 Stars NCAP and ANCAP

The new C-Class received five stars from NCAP when tested in 2014, while the  C220 BlueTEC, C250 BlueTEC, C200, and C250 variants received five stars from ANCAP, also in 2014.

9. BMW 3-Series – 5 Stars NCAP and ANCAP

NCAP awarded the 2012 BMW 3-Series five stars in its crash testing, while the 320 version tested by ANCAP also received five stars.

10. Ford Fiesta – 5 Stars NCAP and ANCAP

Euro NCAP awarded the Fiesta five stars in 2012, while ANCAP’s rating applies to all models made from 2013 onward.

Cars which didn’t fare so well

While not necessarily sold in South Africa, or anywhere after being discontinued, here are some cars which did not perform well in crash tests.

Chery J11 – 1 Star ANCAP

ANCAP planned to conduct a side impact test on the Chery, but was advised by the manufacturer that a recall campaign had been initiated on the vehicle.

Nissan Urvan / E25 – 1 Star ANCAP

“After ANCAP decided to crash test this model it was advised that stocks of new models were no longer being shipped to New Zealand.”

Lifan 320 – 0 Stars Latin NCAP

Without airbags, the Lifan 320 failed to earn a single star.

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How safe South Africa’s best-selling cars really are