By on November 28, 2013


On the off chance that someday you might walk into your local Ford dealership in Kalamazoo and buy a Brazilian-built Ford EcoSport, at least you now get the ease of mind that it got five stars from Latin NCAP, the institution that tests cars sold in Latin America, in Germany, using pretty much Euro NCAP standards. So it would seem that, as TTAC has previously reported, Brazilian cars may not all be deathtraps.

In its latest round of testing, Latin NCAP tested the aforementioned EcoSport, a new Ford Focus, a VW Jetta, a Brazilian built and for local consumption only Hyundai HB20 sedan, and a Chevy Malibu. For front seat occupants, all cars got 5 stars with the exception of the Hyundai and Chevy that got only 4. Latin NCAP also tests for child safety in the back seats. In the tests, the institute straps the kid into an appropriate seat and whacks the car. In this instance the Brazilian EcoSport and HB20 sedan didn’t do all that well. While the Focus and Jetta managed 5 stars in that test, the Brazilian cars only got 3. Oddly, the Malibu only got 1.

My take on all of this is that modern Brazilian cars are as safe as their projects allow. There is no difference in quality of construction. What really made the previous poor showing was that Brazilian cars have always been low on active safety systems. However, passive safety systems are all built into the cars. This kind of test sets a standard and those who play the game are rewarded. In the case of the EcoSport and HB20 for instance, it’s the second time the institute tests them. In its first test, the cars didn’t manage 5 cars. What was the difference this time around?

As reported by Brazilian enthusiast site a simple sticker sufficed. Yes, you read that right. On the car tested before there was no warning sticker for the passenger to remember to buckle up. On the new car there is, and Latin NCAP graded the EcoSport accordingly. The Hyundai HB20 sedan in the previous test had gotten a low score for child protection. Now it got an acceptable rating. The difference in Hyundai’s case is that now the car was built with an Isofix-type latch. Arguably, safety then has been improved.

Such institutions as the Latin NCAP do provide an invaluable tool for consumers and industry. For consumers, they provide a comparison tool. For industry, they provide goalposts. It seems that the Brazilian car industry has gotten a little smarter and consumers will be a little safer because of it. How much so is, however, an open question.

En passant, I am proud to say that this is the first time a Brazilian built car got the maximum number of stars. I have no doubt Ford will market this to no end and, in the end, this might be a good thing as it will get more Brazilians interested in just how safe the cars they drive everyday are.

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38 Comments on “Dispatches do Brasil: A Five Star Brazilian-Built Ford...”

  • avatar

    Is it just me or does HB20 sound like a particularly thick pencil lead?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Is this our Ford Escape?

    • 0 avatar

      It doesn’t exist in the US… it’s a competitor in the mini-CUV segment with the Chevy Trax/Buick Encore/Nissan Juke. Basically a jacked-up Ford Fiesta/Mazda 2.

      • 0 avatar

        Honest question: With the separation of Ford and Mazda, do the 2 cars still share platforms? From what I understand the US Festiva was a rebadged Mazda and had no relation with the Euro Fiesta of the time. Later on I really don’t know if the 2 and Fiesta became, more or less, the same car or if they still are that close after the new Fiesta came along.

        • 0 avatar

          Technically, since 2008, the Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta are on different platforms. The Fiesta is on the Ford Global B platform. The Mazda2 is on the Ford B3/Mazda DE platform. They probably aren’t that much different.

          I previosly had a 2012 Focus, and even though it was no longer on a Mazda shared platform, many Mazda parts fit. I know guys that were putting suspension parts from the Mazdaspeed3 on their Foci before the ST came out. I would suspect that the new Fusion and new Mazda6 aren’t that much different either. I know that the current Fusion platform is somewhat a revision of the Mondeo platform, the US Fusion/Mazda 6 and Euro Mondeo were all still Ford group products.

        • 0 avatar

          Looks like they did share until this year, it’s a little unclear from the article… there is now a “Ford global b-car platform” that is different from the Ford B3 platform built with Mazda.

          According to the book of knowledge, the ecosport switched from the mazda platford to the ford global for 2013:

          • 0 avatar

            It ends up all being about the same anyway. The EcoSport moved to the Fiesta platfrom, which stopped being directly shared with the Mazda2 a few years ago. However, its not like they are all that different anyway.

        • 0 avatar

          Thanks guys. So it seems that though still closely related the Fiesta and Mazda are no longer umbilical twins.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Volt, I believe the Escape is the same as the Kuga in other markets.

  • avatar

    I never thought Brazilian cars were death traps. I have, however, thought that the drivers down there were eager to die or just plain crazy.

  • avatar

    I hate to burst your bubble, but European NCAP rates this model as 4 star.
    It sounds like Latin NCAP is not equivalent to Euro NCAP. I’m not going to try to delve in NCAP difference.

    • 0 avatar

      About the EcoSport’s 5 stars you can read, if you like, the news from Latin NCap, in English:

      As to the differences between Latin Ncap and the Euro NCap. cut and pasted from the site itself:

      “Can you compare Latin NCAP with Euro NCAP?

      The star ratings in Euro NCAP cannot be directly compared with the star ratings in Latin NCAP. Euro NCAP makes the final star rating from 5 different tests: Frontal off-set, side, pole, whiplash and pedestrian tests. Latin NCAP only performs the frontal off-set crash test to develop the star rating for each car. This is why there is no possible comparison between both star ratings.

      Latin NCAP frontal crash test itself is the same as performed by Euro NCAP. So the performance of the car in the frontal crash test can be directly compared between the two. This test does give a very good indication of the safety performance of the car.”

      The link for that would be:

  • avatar

    In addition to the previous practice of keeping prices down by omitting active safety systems like ABS and airbags (now being rectified legislatively), many European and American automakers have historically consigned decades-old platforms to their South American manufacturing units. Good to see this is changing at last.

    • 0 avatar

      That is true. With the exception of most best selling models from Fiat and VW, and a couple of offerings from GM (Celta, Classic) and Ford (Ka), also Peugeot (208), most Brazilian cars use the same platforms of their equivalent “world” counterparts. So, like you said, with the exception of the active safety systems, they’re on par with what’s offered in Europe. I fully expect that next year, in Latin NCap’s next round of testing, all cars will do much better as all will include frontal airbags and ABS. Also, as mentioned in the article, Brazilian makers are adapting their cars to perform better in the tests. Even if to get a top ranking, things that don’t really affect safety (like warning stickers) are included by makers in their cars in order to get bragging rights.

      One example of how well Brazilian cars are made, the Renault Sandero got the same (poor) results as a Chinese car on sale here. The difference between the Brazilian built Sandero and the Chinese import was that the Sandero didn’t offer airbags or ABS. In spite of that, its better construction and safer platform guaranteed it better results than the Chinese car that had the active systems, but lacked quality in its project and construction.

  • avatar

    This would be the perfect competitor to the new Honda Vezel (awful name!), Honda’s new CUV version of the Fit, especially if they priced it in the $18-22K range. i just saw one running around the Detroit area about a week ago. I think this would be a HUGE seller for Ford if available here.

  • avatar

    “Air bags cannot compensate for poor structural crashworthiness and Latin NCAP strongly believes that consumers should not be misled by manufacturers that are relying on airbags alone to give a false impression of safety. Just including an airbag will not guarantee safety. That is why both the public and governments need to be able to verify the structural integrity of the vehicle.”

    There is a difference between cars built for the EU and those built for Latin America. An airbag won’t fix a lower level of structural integrity.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s also a difference between modern cars built on up to date platforms and older cars built on platforms from days gone by. Luckily, in Brazil at least, we are getting the most modern platforms and de-contentment happens on sound proofing, simpler wiring harnesses for cars with less processing demands etc. The case of the Sandero mentioned above in some comments is a good example. It had had enough structural rigidity to outdo a lesser built car.

      As explained on a previous articles, accidents happen a lot, more road deaths than in first world countries. From all I know, talking to factory people, engineering professors etc. most modern Brazilian cars are at least as structurally sound as their European counterparts.

      Construction techniques are not changed in order to save a buck (save a few more or less robots here or there). A buck is saved on what we could call the add ons to the car. Therein lies one of the reasons that I don’t fear construction of Brazilian cars.

      • 0 avatar

        The Latin American Sandero blew the test. And the Latin NCAP test is easier than the Euro NCAP.

        Safety requires structural reinforcement, and the cars sold in Latin America don’t get the same level of reinforcement. Those reinforcements cost money, and automakers don’t always provide them to the Latin American market, as local regulations don’t require them.

        Not only does the Brazilian model (of the Sandero) have no air bags, but expert testers found ***its body shell did not have the same strength as the European model*** and cannot cope effectively with a full-frontal crash. What that means in practice is the body structure started to give way at impact. The European model retains its integrity under the same conditions.

        The difference is significant. In the crash test in Brazil, the steering wheel and facia comes right up against the driver, and the lack of an airbag makes this even worse.

        Your position is simply factually wrong. Latin NCAP is a credible organization, and it points out that the structures are not the same.

        • 0 avatar


          You’re not wrong Pch. But you’re in that area that sometimes I think you have trouble getting out of, something like missing the forest for the trees (or is it the other way around?). For example, the Brazilian new Fiesta will not score as high as the Mexican built one for a rollover test. Why? Brazilian cars don’t have to follow the tougher American standards for that. So the Brazilian Fiesta does not use the special steels the Mexican one does in the columns and roof of the car. Does that make the Brazilian Fiesta less safe than the Mexican one? Yes. Does it make the Brazilian Fiesta unsafe? No. It follows Brazilian legislation that as I explain below follows American or European standards.

          The official word from Anfavea (the makers association) is more or less as follows.

          They said Brazilian built cars are safe. They must respect a Brazilian rule that takes into account the European or American rules, that the maker has the choice to do it in a series of accredited labs in Brazil or abroad. Finally, they must pass in order to be sold. Anfavea also said that while they respect Latin NCAP and its methodology, the methodology is different which leads to different results.

          Reading Latin NCAP’s comments on the Sandero crash, it’s clear that the impact on the driver dummy’s head was light while the passenger was well protected. The driver’s feet would also have survived but the steering column moved more than ideal.

          Unofficially, people I talked to found the results “strange”. They said they had expected the car to make at least 2 stars and with the airbags it would have easily made 3. Compare that with Agile and Clio crashes. Those cars got zero. Why? Because they sit on old platforms. Not the case with the Sandero, Logan, March or Versa (which all sit on pretty much the same platform).

          The problem with Latin NCAP and others is that they have a recipe and to get rewarded you must follow that recipe. “Proof” is the Malibu. It got 1 star for child protection while EcoSport and HB20 got three. How can that be? The Malibu follows American standards and Latin NCAP uses European standards. Does that mean a child is less protected in a Malibu than in a small Hyundai sedan specifically designed for Brazilians? I have trouble believing that.

          So, the Sandero did not do well. Renault is doing something wrong. I eagerly await the next rounds of tests. If Renault does badly again, now woth airbags, we can call the car unsafe. For the moment I, and I do mean I, with what I have been able to gather, believe the Sandero/Logan/Duster are safe enough. They are built on a world platform that gets sold the world over. I have no qualms putting my 2 and a half year old everyday into a Logan. Does my son have the best protection in the world? Hardly, but I think he has as much protection as I can afford and I believe he is is more protected in that car than in some other cars sold in Brazil that sit on 20 yr old platforms.

          • 0 avatar

            These Latin American cars don’t meet European standards, which themselves are generally below American standards.

            Adding airbags to the Latin American cars alone won’t raise them to meet European standards. Your assertion that safety equipment is the only difference is factually wrong. The cars aren’t built to the same standard.

          • 0 avatar

            Pch101, so you say, and I say otherwise. Guess we’ll have to leave it at that until the next tests show whether or not Brazilian cars that will all have, by law, airbags (double, frontal) and abs next year. It’ll be interesting to watch.

            BTW, the Kombi was axed because even with the airbags it wouldn’t be able to comply with the new standards. Along with the airbags and ABS, new safety standards are going to be applied. The old Fiat Uno is another one that no one knows whether or not will make the cut. Look for Chevy Celta, Agile and Classic, Fiat Uno Palio Fire, among others to have trouble meeting the standards even with airbags. Those like Logan, Sandero, new Uno, in other words, those that sit on current platforms to get at least an acceptable rating. If they don’t, I’ll be sure to write an article proclaiming myself wrong and you right. Just so you know, you’re not alone in your position. Many in Brazil partake of your views.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            I have discussed with you on this forum exactly what you are arguing now.

            I even provided links from the Latin NCAPs and WHO (World Health Organisation) that discusses the future movement of the less ‘wealthy’ countries and challenges they are faced with to meet these standards.

            Brazil will not overnight reach ANCAP, JNCAP, ENCAP standards.

            This will take time.

            But, all countries globally, including the Chinese have accepted and will become compliant to the global standards.

            This means in Brazil you can import from any country that is UNECE harmonised.

            The US is out on its own. Even the Canadian’s are looking more carefully at what direction they are heading in. The problem is the impact of the Big 3 primarily in Ontario.

            You must learn to differentiate between compliance and seeking compliance down the track.

            Brazil and every other so called developing nation are aligning themselves to become compliant to the UNECE standards.

            Once they reach this and produce vehicles that meet these standards the vehicles can be exported.

            American Exceptionalism, UAW and other paradigms you have makes it awkward for you to have a reasonable debate.

            DiM/Pch101, I think the phone is ringing at the UAW call centre. It’s Sergio wanting to know about Chrysler’s VEBA ;) Answer it.

          • 0 avatar

            “so you say, and I say otherwise.”

            Latin NCAP and others who devote their professional lives to automotive safety are telling you what I’m telling you. My position comes from them and their research.

            If you have a compelling, factually-based counterargument to the body of evidence, then provide it.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, many of the people who work at Latin NCap devote their lives to this. As do the people who work in Euro NCap, or the American equivalent. I have no doubt these organizations are serious and respectable. However, as with all other such organizations, they defend a point of view. A POV that is not necessarily, 100%, unquestionably correct. Warning sticker, EcoSport 5 stars, no warning sticker the exact same car gets 4. Does that make sense? Does it make sense the Malibu gets one star?

            On the other hand we have the other people involved. The people in the business I talked to, the professors, even the bureaucrats. They are earnest and do what they can in that area too. Of course they have an economic interest, but so does Latin NCap.

            Balancing this information leads me to the conclusion that like Big Al said, we do have a ways to go, but we’re getting there. I feel confident that Brazilian cars built off a modern, global platform are comparable to their counterparts elsewhere. It’s a matter of opinion of course.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Only my protagonists call me BAFO.

          • 0 avatar

            “I feel confident that Brazilian cars built off a modern, global platform are comparable to their counterparts elsewhere.”

            I asked for a factually based argument, not your feelings.

            Incidentally, safety isn’t merely dictated by a platform.

            “It’s a matter of opinion of course.”

            No, it isn’t just a matter of opinion. The cars are built to a lower standard, and crash tests reveal at least some of those differences.

            To raise the standard, you need to either (a) change the laws and/or (b) raise consumer awareness so that they demand improved safety standards. Fooling yourselves into believing that you’re already at the same level as the Europeans will only compromise your path to progress, since you are exaggerating how much progress has been made. National pride is not a substitute for structural reinforcement and side impact protection.

          • 0 avatar

            Big Al,

            Text amended, sorry for that!

          • 0 avatar

            Yes Pch101, you are again right. But we’re running in circles here, like happens frequently in debates with you. You are kinda of like that guy who looks at the GTR’s numbers and say that it’s the best car in the world, while ignoring that subjectively it is not.

            I tried to point out to you my reasoning to you. I accept and take into consideration Latin NCap’s numbers, but I also take into account other things I hear and see. I can think for myself. Another analogy: CR. I can read. I see CR. I can respect their methodology and I’m forced to recognize them. That however does not mean that they are by any stretch of the imagination a major factor when I decide what car to buy.

            As to national pride, I regret having used the word proud in the text. It was more than a little forced. A better would have been happy. You have been on the site a long time. You will remember the many times I have disparaged against my country and countrymen. I don’t have blinders and I barely consider myself nationalistic. But I’m rather proud, or happy, of the steps we’ve taken over the couple of decades. I came back to Brazil in the mid 80s after having lived abroad many, many years. To be frank, I was quite taken aback. Nowadays, while the shocking and appalling are still very much a part of our everyday life, I can see many of the improvements that have been made over the years. The improvements in cars is just one of them.

            But yeah, to cut to the chase I have no “facts”. Just my experience, sensibility and intelligence to offer what I have stated in this article.

            Feel free to discard it and hold on to what you consider facts.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Are the current US vehicle safety standards below par with the ENCAP based standards?

            The US has a much higher fatality rate than most ENCAP, ANCAP, JNCAP members.

            So why doesn’t the US adopt the global standards?

            Brazilian Latin NCAP standards do not yet meet ENCAP as the Brazilians are in the process of reaching that goal.

            You seem to forget not everyone has the resources, ie, money available to implement these standards overnight.

            Current US safety standards are higher for US manufactured vehicles than in Brazil.

            But once the Brazilian Latin Standards are met they will be on par with US and the better global standards.

            Thailand is currently manufacturing pickups that are safer than any US manufactured pickup, even though Thailand is a developing nation. The differences are marginal, but all the same they are of a higher standard. But, the Thai’s export to OECD economies.

            What will help Brazil is to develop and export market to wealthy OECD economies like the Thai’s do. That will speed up the process for the Brazilians to receive safer vehicles.

            The Chinese will also have these problems, but when the Chinese start to manufacture cars like cordless drills then they will become complaint.

          • 0 avatar

            “I tried to point out to you my reasoning to you.”

            You haven’t offered much more than a few hunches. In the process, you’ve ignored the considerable body of evidence that proves you wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Latin NCAP is in its infancy. Not one Latino nation actually reaches the standards that will be on par with ENCAP.

            Latin American nations are in the process of improving their standards as was pointed out in the WHO article I posted on this site several months ago.

            The process of improvement of vehicle safety started in 2010 in Latin American countries and is being phased in, hence the removal of the VW Kombi. This is no different than the US with it’s gradual phase in of CAFE regulations.

            How hard is it for you to realise this.

            Brasil doesn’t have the resources to implement the ENCAP standards overnight.

            The people of Brazil don’t have the income to afford these safety features as well.

            Look at the debate with some logic.

            The US vehicle is safe and better than the current offerings from Brasil. But you will see a gradual implementation of safer vehicles being produced over the next decade or two coming out of Brazil.

            The US will eventually improve its vehicle design standards also and come in and join the ENCAP and other global standards.

          • 0 avatar

            @BAFO – It’s a simple acronym. Like HDC and others. Didn’t mean to offend. With that said, are you stupid? Too many here have disproved your outlandish claims with facts, links, common knowledge and or, plain old common sense. Your theories/assumptions oversimplify and have more holes than Swiss cheese. That’s at best. Still you keep repeating them as if you weren’t proven wrong, foolish and insane. Or just bad memory? Happy Holidays Mate!

  • avatar

    Hi Does anyone know if a Focus bought new in Brazil in 2012 will have ISOFIX fittings for car seats – or have the threaded holes that an ISOFIX bar can be fitted to?

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