French car maker Renault has defended its decision to omit curtain airbags from its new-generation Renault Clio city car, arguing that independent testing has proven it is one of the safest models in its class.
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The fourth-generation Renault Clio was launched in Florence, Italy, this week, ahead of its Australian release in the third quarter of 2013.

The French five-door hatch is equipped with dual front airbags and side/thorax airbags that protect the front occupants, but the Clio misses out on the curtain airbags that drop down to also protect those in the rear.

Many city cars are now offering at least six airbags.

Renault admits cost was a factor in the decision but says it didn’t save money but instead focused its safety investment in other areas.

“In a car you can put in everything and sometimes you have to make decisions [on how much you spend],” said Renault’s communications manager, Christophe Deville.

“The occupancy rate of cars in the segment is that most are in the front seats.

“So either we could have curtain airbags or we could invest in sensors [in the B-pillar] and be sure the sensing was much quicker for side impacts. They need to trigger very quickly in order to save front seat driver or passenger.

“You could technically put in six or eight airbags. Every car maker makes these choices. There are some who have put money into knee airbags.

“Passive safety is done by avoiding submarining and putting effort into seatbelt pretensioners.

“The number of airbags is not always a guarantee [of safety]. We don’t believe airbags are the only solution.”

Deville says its market research reveals customers consider safety as a basic requirement of a new vehicle but that there has never been specific demand for a particular type or number of airbags.

“The best way to make [customers] feel safe about a car is by Euro NCAP testing, or Korean NCAP, etc.”

The Renault Clio scored the maximum five-star rating for adult occupancy protection in testing by European independent crash-test body NCAP.

Adult Occupancy Protection was rated at 88 per cent for the new Clio and Child Occupancy Protection, which includes assessing the impact of a side collision on a baby or child in a forward-facing child seat, scored 89 per cent, the highest score in the city car – or ‘supermini’ – segment.

Read CarAdvice's review of the new Renault Clio.