Dacia Sandero loses Car of the Year 2021 crown after receiving two-star safety rating

Difficult but right decision taken after dialogue with Dacia failed to find a solution to improve the Sandero's safety...

Dacia Sandero Stepway Euro NCAP crash test

The Dacia Sandero has had its What Car? Car of the Year and Small Car of the Year 2021 titles removed after it received a two-star overall safety rating from independent test experts Euro NCAP earlier this month.

Following a thorough evaluation of the Euro NCAP scores and after dialogue with Dacia, it became clear that, despite the car maker’s best efforts, there was no solution that could be implemented in the short-term that would increase the Sandero's rating.

The Sandero did achieve four stars for the protection it offers adult and child occupants in an impact, along with a three-star rating for pedestrian impact protection. However, according to Euro NCAP rules, the car’s overall rating was dictated by its lowest score: two stars for active safety assist technology.

Explaining this rating, Euro NCAP said that while the Sandero’s radar-only automatic emergency braking system can detect other vehicles and avoid collisions with them, it doesn’t prevent crashes with pedestrians or cyclists. The safety organisation also criticised the Sandero for not being available with active lane-keeping assistance.

Two stars falls short of What Car? expectations for an award-winning model, due to the need for Car of the Year winners to push boundaries for consumers.

We always judge cars against their rivals and in-line with customer expectations, so don't expect a small, budget hatchback to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP rating. However, having been assured by independent safety experts that the Sandero could comfortably be engineered to achieve at least three stars, the actual result came as a disappointment.

Dacia Sandero 2022 front cornering

We also took into account concerns raised by UK safety experts Thatcham Research around the risk of injury to front seat occupants’ knees, femurs and chest in the event of a frontal impact.

Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research's Director of Insurance Research, said: "Renault and Nissan both have five-star rated models in the small car segment with the Clio and Micra, and the Sandero is closely related to those vehicles. But it appears Dacia has made a clear decision not to prioritise safety, exposing occupants and other road users to increased risk."

A spokesman for Dacia said: "The safety of our customers is of the utmost importance. We continue to improve the safety of our cars year-on-year and, as a result, each generation of vehicle is safer than the previous one.

"The all-new Sandero and Sandero Stepway are safe and protect occupants to a high standard. However, we will take these results into account while continuing to strike the perfect balance of safety, customer expectations and affordability."

No car will inherit the Sandero's titles, so 2021 will be the first year without an overall What Car? Car of the Year since the awards began in 1978.

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