In October 2019, a second-generation Renault Duster built at the factory in Mioveni, Romania was subjected to the Latin NCAP test, earning a decent four-star rating. Production of the affordable small SUV has since commenced in Brazil at the plant in São José dos Pinhais, prompting Latin NCAP to redo the test and see if there are any differences between the two vehicles.
The outcome is equally shocking and worrying as the Brazilian-built Duster failed the New Car Assessment Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean. It's not the first car to get a zero-star rating, but the subcompact SUV showed signs of fuel leakage following the frontal impact. Not only that, but it flipped over in the side impact, which greatly affected the B-pillar and caused one of the doors to open.
Latin NCAP explains that one of the key differences between the Renault and Dacia versions is the lack of standard side body and side head protection airbags for the model carrying the diamond logo. The hugely popular SUV received a 29.47-percent rating for adult occupant protection, 22.93 percent for child occupant protection, 50.79 percent for pedestrian protection, and 34.88 percent for safety assist.
The fuel leak is particularly problematic, prompting Latin NCAP to ask Renault to recall all second-generation Duster SUVs built in Brazil. In addition, the automaker is being asked to do something about the door opening in the side impact as in a worst-case scenario, people could be thrown out of the car.
It should be noted the vehicle used to evaluate pedestrian safety was a Romanian-built Duster, and Latin NCAP says the Brazilian one has a different front section that might impact the result. Side note – the Dacia-badged Duster was evaluated by Euro NCAP in late 2017 and received a three-star rating.
As of October 2020, the Latin NCAP crash test is stricter than before, meaning the SUV built at the factory in Eastern Europe would likely get a lower score. That said, the downgrade from four to zero stars is highly unexpected, making some people wonder whether we're dealing with a case of double standards.
Our colleagues at Motor1.com Brazil have contacted Renault and the automaker claims the Duster is identical to the one that got four stars in late 2019:
"The Duster vehicle, which had its test released in August 2021, is exactly the same in terms of active and passive safety content as the vehicle that obtained four stars in adult protection and three stars in child protection in a test conducted by the same institution in 2019. In 2020 Latin NCAP changed the testing protocols and, because of this, the results are different.
It is important to reinforce that Renault Duster strictly complies with the regulations in the countries where it is sold, surpassing them in some aspects. The model comes with safety equipment such as ESP, blind-spot alert, multiview camera, and ramp start assistant, among others, which are not mandatory by law.
Renault believes that, just as there has been a great evolution in vehicle safety in recent years, the theme will continue to evolve and Renault will continue to offer products with a high level of safety."
In related news, Latin NCAP also tested the Suzuki Swift for Latin American markets and it too received zero stars in both hatchback and sedan body styles.