How important is safety to you? - Small cars

Over the next few weeks I plan to post a series of short articles focusing on safety. We'll take a look at groups of cars that are available on the Thai market. This time we'll have a look at the budget market.

Cheap and cheerful though they might be, are budget cars going to end up costing you an arm and a leg if you have an accident? Is there really much difference between the safety of a Yaris and Jazz? Let's try to find out.

First I would like to remind you that I'm not affiliated with any manufacturers. Also, please be aware that the information here is taken from various independent testing agencies. In most cases the information is coming from the Euro NCAP test results, carried out on European models. But for the purposes of comparison I believe that these results can give us a fairly accurate representation of the safety performance we can expect from these cars in Thailand.

In all cases the test models include at least two airbags. Obviously the base models in Thailand without any airbags fitted will not perform as well. Having said that I'm assuming that the reader is safety conscious and would be looking at models with airbags fitted.

Lets start with the Aveo:

Chevrolet Aveo

Chevrolet have been quite effective developing a image of toughness in Thailand. Some people believe that because they are buying an "American" car, they are buying something stronger and better engineered than a Japanese car. But the Chevrolet badged models on sale here in Thailand are about as American as Vladimir Putin. The Aveo is a case in point, as it is actually a product of GM Daewoo.

In 2001 GM bought most of Daewoo motors, at a time when the Korean company was struggling. The Optra and Aveo on-sale in Thailand are the results of that merger. Although the Optra does share some GM underpinnings, the Aveo is the 2nd generation Daewoo Kalos, and goes by the Chevrolet Kalos name in some markets.

Now, please don't misunderstand, I'm not trying to suggest that if the Aveo was 100% American that it would be any better, I simply want to be sure that nobody is under the misconception that they are buying an American product.

On to the safety performance. The top of the line Aveo does come equipped with twin airbags, and it is this top end model that has been given the Euro NCAP safety test treatment. How did it do?

Aveo crash

Ouch!! Comments from the Euro NCAP report:
Structural deformation and spot-weld release indicated that the body shell had been overloaded and had become unstable. Rearward movement of the A-pillar was penalized. Movement of the steering-wheel presented a hazard to the driver's head. The driver's chest made contact with the steering-wheel, distorting the rim. Compression of the driver's chest indicated an unacceptably high risk of life-threatening injury. As a result, the final star of the adult occupant rating is struck through. Structures in the dashboard represented a potential hazard to the knees and femurs of the driver and passenger. No points were awarded for the protection offered to the feet and ankles.

Out of 5 stars, the Aveo scored a dismal 2 stars, with the final star being struck through because of the "unacceptably high risk of life-threatening injury."

The Aveo did manage an impressive 4/5 stars for child occupant protection, but it sounds like the surviving children will likely be orphaned by this car! The pedestrian protection score of 3/4 stars is also impressive for a small car and is thanks in part to the rounded nature of the front bumper and hood.

Not a great start in this small car segment, let's hope things improve.

Honda Jazz

And they do! the Jazz scores better managing an impressive 4/5 for the adult protection, and equals the Aveo on pedestrian safety. It is only in child safety score that the Jazz falls behind the Aveo.

Jazz Crash

The Jazz structure holds together better than that of the Aveo, and it is impressive considering the size constraints of the Jazz. There is less car to crumple, so the force of impact can't be dissipated as gradually as with a larger car, but to some extent this problem is offset by the fact that smaller, lighter cars carry less momentum through the impact, and this means that there is less energy to dissipate.

What about the City? Well, given that the City is based on the same underpinnings as the Jazz, we can assume a similar level of protection from the sedan in the absence of official tests.

Toyota Yaris

Finally we come to the Yaris. The Yaris is a generation ahead of the Jazz, and advances in safety have been remarkable over the last few years. The Yaris scores 5/5 stars in the adult occupant protection category. Remember, this is a small car!

However, the European Yaris tested included a knee level airbag on the drivers side, and this is not an option here in Thailand. despite this fact, the front passenger is better protected than in the Jazz, and the safety even without the knee airbag is the best of these three.

Yaris crash

Pedestrian safety is not as impressive however, and with 2/4 stars the Yaris is going to cause more harm to jaywalkers that the other two cars here.


Safety is not a primary consideration for may motorists in Thailand, and therefore it is not high on the agenda for the auto makers either. When have you seen a car being marketed for it's safety features in Thailand?

Power, performance, size, and little parking cameras help sell cars, but safety is not that interesting. This needs to change. Over 14,000 people die on Thai roads each year, and many of these deaths are needless. Very few accidents are unavoidable!

But for the ones that are, serious injury could also be avoided through the proper use of safety features available.

I urge all of you reading this to take responsibility for your role in improving the safety of Thai roads. Wear your seatbelt, or if you are a cyclists (motor or peddle power) wear a crash helmet. Never drink and drive, not even a short distance, not even one drink. Stay within the posted limits.

Finally, when buying a new car, put more importance on safety features. Make safety a priority.

As we have seen from this trio of small, cheap cars, there is a stark difference in safety performance from one model to the next.

Eventually legislation in Thailand will make airbags a requirement, but until then I urge you all to self regulate, and budget for the safe option.

In this case the Aveo might appear to be great value for money, and in some respects it is, but a little extra can buy you a lot of extra piece of mind.

Safe motoring.