Drivers of badly rusted cars have up to a 20 per cent higher chance of dying in an accident, according to the world’s first used car crash test conducted under Euro NCAP criteria. 

A fifth-generation Volkswagen Golf and a first-generation Mazda 6 were tested by the UK’s crash test agency, Thatcham Research, on behalf of the Swedish Homeowners Association and the Swedish insurer, Folksam. 

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The results revealed that significant chassis rust can lead to a lower Euro NCAP score than the vehicle previously achieved, placing occupants under significantly more risk. The Mazda 6’s score was reduced from a weak four-star rating to a weak three-star finish, with the car moving down from a score of 26 out of 37 to 18 out of 37.

The Golf Mk5 fell from a five-star rating to a four-star result, although its test results weren’t significant enough to place passengers under great danger. According to Thatcham’s inspection report, parts of the Mazda’s chassis were “severely covered by rust”.

Folksam says the fall in Euro NCAP scores meant occupants in the Mazda would have a 20 per cent higher
chance of being killed in an accident. While Thatcham’s inspection report says the full effect of the rust is hard to gauge, it meant the car’s “structure was not able to transfer loads effectively [in] the impact, causing interaction between the steering wheel and the dummy”.

Thatcham’s Matthew Avery said previous studies show rust isn’t a big issue on used cars in the UK, but the test highlights the need for spot checks. He added: “There’s no need for systematic testing, but if on a European level some models perform poorly we can do spot checks to test their crashworthiness.”

Interested to learn more about Thatcham? Then read our article explaining all about the crash test experts

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