Here's what a zero-star pickup crash test looks like

The latest round of crash testing by Global New Car Assessment Program, or Global NCAP, put the spotlight on a number of popular vehicles in the South African market, which by itself represents an eclectic mix of European, Japanese and Korean models, for the most part.

Global NCAP tested the Hyundai i20, the Kia Picanto, the Toyota Yaris and the Nissan Hardbody, the latter being a locally built model in single- and double-cab form. At its core, the truck is a slightly evolved version of the 1997-generation Nissan Frontier that's sold alongside more modern trucks like the Navara.

As usual, Global NCAP selected the base versions of each of the vehicles to prevent automakers from evading the focus of the tests: It wouldn't be fair for automakers to load up the more expensive versions with all the safety tech they can throw at a car and advertise it as being "available," then leave it out of the cheaper trim levels.

The three hatches all achieved three stars each out of a possible five — marginal results for cars of their size and equipment. But the Nissan NP300 Hardbody, despite a significant size advantage, managed to net far poorer results.

"The NP300 Hardbody achieved an alarming zero star rating for its poor adult occupant protection mainly in the driver head and chest areas in the frontal crash test at 64 km/h (40 mph)," Global NCAP noted. "The vehicle structure collapsed during the crash test, and it was rated as unstable. The steering wheel column did not collapse, penetrating the passengers’ compartment, creating an additional risk for the driver as it moved straight into the dummy chest. This performance showed a significant risk of injuries for the driver despite the car being equipped with double frontal airbags. The high probability of life-threatening injuries to the driver’s head and chest resulted in the zero-star adult occupant protection rating. Even with an airbag, the driver’s head and chest showed high biomechanical readings."

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