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Old 28th September 2014, 13:11   #1
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Default Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

We all know the typical cliches with respect to car companies in our market.

The Europeans are thought to make the better build cars.
Their cars often come up with thicker sheet metal, seems to be more sturdy and overall feels like a vault, especially ze Germans. As a result they are thought to be much more safer as well.

The Asians on the other hand are thought to make flimsy cars with less protection focusing solely on fuel economy and making more profits. Their cars generally have a light feel to everything including the doors, bonnet, boot..etc. As a result they are thought to be less safe, even dangerous. Several people claim they didn't buy the Honda city because it felt dangerously light build and so they went and brought a rapid/vento.

Is there any reliable sources which claim that the Japanese cars are far less safer than their European competition?
In the recent ASEAN NCAP safety ratings the Honda city actually came ahead of the Vento scoring a full 5 stars. So did the CRV which is also thought to be relatively flimsily build in it's segment.

http://www.autocarindia.com/auto-new...rs-384684.aspx

Now I know these were not Indian made cars but the thing is the kerb weight of both the Indian made honda and the Malayasian made honda are reported to be the same. So it is not like Honda makes city like VW makes the vento over there in Malaysia.

Here is my argument though. If the Japanese are able to make a considerably lighter car as safe as a heavy European car then aren't they the more brighter folks here. I mean a lighter car means better power to weight ratio, better economy, nimbler handling, basically better at everything. Sure you lose out on the novelty factor of a Vault like build quality and maybe the thicker sheet metal may help in case of fender benders. But is that more relevant than better performance of the car?

Case in point the Linea T jet is a gem of a car. I am in no way going to say the Honda city is a better driver's car but the fact is even with all that extra torque and similar power figures the T-jet is noticeably slower than the Honda. And so too is the case with the Vento/Rapid. Also I recently found out that the new Maruti Ciaz is actually lighter than a Polo. That is just absurd. Is the tiny German Hatchback made out of lead?

And if the Honda/Maruti is as safe as the vento/linea/rapid while having better performance then what exactly is the point of all that sheet metal thickness. Isn't it just wasteful use of resources? Aren't car makers nowadays striving to make their cars lighter to get better fuel economy and meeting emissions? Isn't that more important than just some doors shutting with a thud?

The Germans seems to have seen the light. Their new MQB platform is the testament to that. Still sad to see many people criticizing it because MQB platformed cars seemed to be "lighter" than their previous models. I think it's time us Indians saw the bigger picture here. Any pointer you have is deeply welcome and sorry for the excessively long rant.
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Old 28th September 2014, 13:52   #2
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Default Sheet metal Thickness- Is it a big deal?

NCAP ratings judge how good the car can protect the cabin against external shocks. A lighter car can be as safe/ better than a car with stronger sheet metal- in the way it 'crumbles' itself to prevent the impact being transferred to the cabin.

But what about smaller impacts? Like a basketball hit? Or a bicycle hit? Have seen cars like the previous generation City takes quite a hit in such mundane cases. My uncle's old WagonR had its boot caved in when his school-going child leaned against it while trying to push another kid. With sheet metal offering little resistance- the car does what it does best- crumble.

Observe the cars around you. Personally I am of the opinion that the European cars age much better as they take fewer kinks from smaller shocks. My 75k run Punto still looks good whereas our WagonR was a mess with dents all around. Never even got to figure out how some of the dents were formed! The other car in our garage now is a brand new Hyundai Xcent and even that has picked up a deep dent from a mild impact!

Another angle to look at is in terms of torsional rigidity. Cars like the Swift for example don't 'feel' heavy but the figure seem surprising. The added extra unladen weight helps in making the chasis more rigid and fun to drive.

This is not to say that stronger sheet metal makes cars stronger at 60kph speeds, where NCAP tests are done. Design plays a major role here, but for your particular query- you also need to consider that fact that the City is a 2014 design but all the other cars like Vento, Linea, Fiesta etc are nearing the end of their current generation life cycle. The modern compacts fare better than even the biggies of not so long ago- that's the rate at which design and technology progresses.

An ideal combination according to me would a combination of the two. Good design along with strong sheet metal. Even if it might not be safer- but won't it contribute hugely to the feel good factor? Take the city itself for example- wouldn't it be nicer if it had the same design and efficient crumble zones, but better sheet metal so you don't get the feeling that the whole door is flexing if you bang the door a bit harder?

Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 28th September 2014 at 14:14.
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Old 28th September 2014, 14:24   #3
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

I agree to what both the posts above me imply. Just to add on a point more is the fact that, most of these cars which score so high in the NCAP ratings come with front and side airbags. Remove those, we might very well see a huge difference in the ratings. Coming to indian scene it is important to note that only a fraction of the cars sold in india come with the full range of safety features. Under these circumstances do those ratings still hold fine? In the absence of complete range of safety features that actually help the cars get those ratings, I would rather be in a modern well built car than one which feels flimsy.

Then the point of how well the thin sheet metal takes up the small hits throughout its lifecycle. I have a Swift and a Punto. The Punto has taken much worser roads much better than The Swift.

It would be interesting to see these tests done on models as they are sold in India. Without Airbags and with just the front airbags.
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Old 28th September 2014, 14:24   #4
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrAzY dRiVeR View Post
Take the city itself for example- wouldn't it be nicer if it had the same design and efficient crumble zones, but better sheet metal so you don't get the feeling that the whole door is flexing if you bang the door a bit harder?
Well it certainly would be nicer, I agree to that. But then is it good to add that unnecessary weight just for the sake of it? A good reason why Japanese cars offer good performance despite average horsepower figures is because of their power to weight ratio (brio,swift,liva trd). If they resort to use heavier steel just for the novelty factor, it's simply going to blunt their performance as well as mileage.

Which one would you pick? A faster, more efficient car or one which simply feels good when you close the door and gets fewer dents?

And as for the smaller dents here and there, well its not the end of the world you know. Yes it is depressing for a car lover when his car gets dented, but I am sure you could get it fixed cheaply.
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Old 28th September 2014, 14:43   #5
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Default Sheet metal Thickness- Is it a big deal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by nakul0888 View Post
But then is it good to add that unnecessary weight just for the sake of it? A good reason why Japanese cars offer good performance despite average horsepower figures is because of their power to weight ratio (brio,swift,liva trd). If they resort to use heavier steel just for the novelty factor, it's simply going to blunt their performance as well as mileage.

Which one would you pick? A faster, more efficient car or one which simply feels good when you close the door and gets fewer dents?
Faster more efficient car with better build. I would pick the GT TDi eyes closed, against Swift/ Liva TRD/ Brio. My second choice would be Punto 90hp. Third choice would be Swift. If Swift 90hp diesel comes out- then it would be a tough fight for the first slot.

As for the Liva / Brio- it won't be even considered! Forget me- even my mom rejected the Amaze outright even when it was the only contender in that segment, because of the build and perceived quality. We had to wait a good 6 months for the Xcent to launch to get an automatic compact sedan.

Even the new generation City was rejected by my wife because of the build. We had almost finalised on the Vento diesel (which was not VFM as the City and had only similar features as my Punto), but later decided to just retain the Punto by paying Bangalore road tax.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nakul0888 View Post
And as for the smaller dents here and there, well its not the end of the world you know. Yes it is depressing for a car lover when his car gets dented, but I am sure you could get it fixed cheaply.
Maintaining the showroom looks is anything but cheap. One detailing session costs as much as a regular service for the Japanese brands. Forget repainting costs which are just too prohibitive. Of course, not everyone will panic because of a single dent.

Depends on priorities. Life is more than just kmpl. A decent mix of both is what I would look at!

Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 28th September 2014 at 14:55.
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Old 28th September 2014, 14:58   #6
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

Yes it matters, but it all depends on what will be the choice for buyer. We can see all German and Italian brands have a stronger body with better quality sheet metal than Japanese and Korean ones. I think they absorb impacts better (still remember one earlier post when a Linea met with an accident where the car was partially covered with rock pieces from a truck and the passengers were safe). Europeans are heavier for daily use IMO. Chances of getting a dent is less, but what if something happens? How are the maintenance costs? In case of the Asian brands, i guess they are not known to be good for surviving in case of accidents. It is a different story for the fully equipped variants though. Even a slight push on the body will make a dent as explained above. But, we can get this repaired from local garages at a fraction of what ASS is charging. And these are lighter for daily use with the added advantage of better mileage.

Last edited by Aditya : 29th September 2014 at 11:57. Reason: Adding punctuation for better readability
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Old 28th September 2014, 15:10   #7
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

I have always believed that at the end of the day it is metal which will come to the rescue. Sure safety features like airbags etc are a big deal; but the airbags only come into play in the event of a major accident. The problem is that airbags in Honda, Maruti's (Cars which have low sheet metal thickness deploy faster because even a low severity accident's caving in metal will cause the sensors to activate the Airbags; not so in the cases of VW's and the other German's i believe- where the caving in metal has to be of a significant speed to activate the Airbags.

I have seen Hyundai's, Maruti's and Honda's caving in to the gentlest of pressure when somebody leans on their hood; i cant imagine what even a not-so-gentle accident will do to it.

I have a Bolero. Its a lump of metal; everywhere- Hood, Chassis, even the Bumpers are made out of Iron (instead of Fibre). 3 guys regularly sit on the hood at the local Drive-in Cinema. Sure the hood metal caves in; but as soon as you get up- the hood metal 'pop's back up again.

Pure metal being just that; metal- I would prefer being in my Bolero rather than any Maruti, Korean or Japanese in the event of a frontal impact (touchwood)
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Old 28th September 2014, 15:17   #8
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrAzY dRiVeR View Post
Faster more efficient car with better build. I would pick the GT TDi eyes closed, against Swift/ Liva TRD/ Brio. My second choice would be Punto 90hp. Third choice would be Swift. If Swift 90hp diesel comes out- then it would be a tough fight for the first slot.

No no you misunderstood me. I wasn't asking whether you would choose a Polo or Brio/Swift/Liva. I just mentioned brio/liva just because they have got good power to weight ratio.

Here is what I want to say.

Consider this situation. There are two type of Polo on sale in the market. Both have exactly the same engine and suspension set up, brakes..etc.

Ones a heavyweight because its made out of thick sheet metal in a typical German manner.

The other one is on a new platform which is a good 100 kilos lighter owing to the use of thinner sheet metal and stuff.

Both cars are equal in terms of safety, engine specs, steering feel...etc.

Shouldn't you be choosing the polo with the newer platform because its lighter, faster, more efficient, nimbler and just as safe rather than the old one which just feels good when you close the door and gets fewer dents in the long run?
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Old 28th September 2014, 15:24   #9
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

I don't think metal thickness is a big deal. My car is a Japanese one and I have got nearly 5 dents on the right and left doors. Yet, I was able to repair it with my local mechanic by just removing the fitment and then just pressing the bulged area. Nothing special happened in that case. my car was still in it's best condition and sheet metal thickness didn't do a big difference there. The Sunny got a 4 star rating in the Japanese NCAP and I don't think sheet metal thickness did a big difference there. And even the Polo and the Figo received Zero stars in the global NCAP ( Link:http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/indian-car-scene/147299-indian-nano-alto-figo-i10- (Indian Nano, Alto, Figo, i10 & Polo FAIL Global NCAP Safety Test)polo-fail-global-ncap-safety-test.html (Indian Nano, Alto, Figo, i10 & Polo FAIL Global NCAP Safety Test))

Sunny's four star NCAP link :http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/indian...ero-sport.html

Cheers,
Achyuth

Last edited by Achyuth Vaibhav : 28th September 2014 at 15:29.
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Old 28th September 2014, 15:38   #10
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

That was because none of the cars have Airbags. As I wrote before, NCAP results are heavily dependant on th safety features in the car. In the Indian context majority dont have. So we need to see how well these cars fare without airbags or with just 2 airbags and then compare the NCAP results or buy these cars only with 6 airbags and then claim about the NCAP tests. Is a japanese car (say swift) with 2 airbags as safe as a european (say polo/punto) with 2 airbags? What about the models without airbags? Which one fares better? NCAP doesn't help us here because the tests are with 6 airbags etc.


Only a test done in those lines can tell how the indian cars fare against each other. It is funny to see all models of i20 boast about the 5star rating when the car tested had all 6 airbags whereas only a small fraction of i20s sold in india have that and by that virtue are 5 star rated.

Last edited by vibbs : 28th September 2014 at 15:42.
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Old 28th September 2014, 15:52   #11
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vibbs View Post
Because none of the cars had airbags
But in the official NCAP page, they have said that that an airbag is essential for safety. Only after looking at that point I posted the link. Instead of thinking about metal thickness, why can't they add an airbag to the base variant. The chairman of NCAP is encouraging manufacturers to add an airbag as a standard safety measure in all the cars. He was personally worried about the safety standards of Indian cars. ( Link : http://www.globalncap.org/crash-test...rs-are-unsafe/)


Max Mosley, Chairman of Global NCAP, said: “India is now a major global market and production centre for small cars, so it’s worrying to see levels of safety that are 20 years behind the five-star standards now common in Europe and North America. Poor structural integrity and the absence of airbags are putting the lives of Indian consumers at risk. They have a right to know how safe their vehicles are and to expect the same basic levels of safety as standard as customers in other part of the world.” - See more at: http://www.globalncap.org/crash-test....VK1he83D.dpuf

Cheers,
Achyuth

Source: Global NCAP website

Last edited by Achyuth Vaibhav : 28th September 2014 at 15:54. Reason: Adding links for reference
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Old 28th September 2014, 16:08   #12
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Achyuth Vaibhav View Post
But in the official NCAP page, they have said that that an airbag is essential for safety. Only after looking at that point I posted the link. Instead of thinking about metal thickness, why can't they add an airbag to the base variant. The chairman of NCAP is encouraging manufacturers to add an airbag as a standard safety measure in all the cars. He was personally worried about the safety standards of Indian cars. ( Link : http://www.globalncap.org/crash-test...rs-are-unsafe/)



Cheers,
Achyuth

Source: Global NCAP website
Yes, but the link you shared for zero stars of polo and figo mentions clearly that all cars were the base models without airbags. Predictably all got zero stars. Interesting and infact a good thing is that after the tests, Volkswagen introduced airbags on all variants of polo

However we are still at the basic question. In a typical Indian scenario with no airbags or with just 2, how do the cars compare? Till the time I have a concrete answer to that, I am tempted to believe that a well built car with thicker sheet metal may be more safer than one with thin sheet metal in many of the accident scenarios ( like side impact, roll over etc. and not just frontal impact).
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Old 28th September 2014, 16:08   #13
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Default Sheet metal Thickness- Is it a big deal?

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Originally Posted by nakul0888 View Post
No no you misunderstood me. I wasn't asking whether you would choose a Polo or Brio/Swift/Liva. I just mentioned brio/liva just because they have got good power to weight ratio.

Here is what I want to say.

Consider this situation. There are two type of Polo on sale in the market. Both have exactly the same engine and suspension set up, brakes..etc.

Ones a heavyweight because its made out of thick sheet metal in a typical German manner.

The other one is on a new platform which is a good 100 kilos lighter owing to the use of thinner sheet metal and stuff.

Both cars are equal in terms of safety, engine specs, steering feel...etc.

Shouldn't you be choosing the polo with the newer platform because its lighter, faster, more efficient, nimbler and just as safe rather than the old one which just feels good when you close the door and gets fewer dents in the long run?

Depends. That's why the Swift weighs high on my list- I consider it a good mix in that particular segment. To answer your question- if the newer generation feels like a 90hp Swift- I would pick it against a 90hp Polo.

Moving a segment above for ease of explanation- if the newer generation feels like a Honda City (No offence meant to owners. It's their preference) (with a VW 1.5 TDi to make it even) as against the original Vento, I would pick the latter anytime no matter what improvement the 0-100 timings bring.

I guess I wouldn't repent the additional '1 or 2 seconds to 100' slowness unless the biriyani from last night is urging me to push for home.

A question though- why would anyone buy a Volkswagen/ Skoda/ FIAT/ Ford for that matter if they all felt just same as the Japanese brands?

Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 28th September 2014 at 16:21.
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Old 28th September 2014, 16:21   #14
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

Quoting the Australian NCAP here: "Modern car designs have a very strong passenger compartment combined with structures that are deigned to crush in a controlled manner. Exterior body panels have very little influence on these structures." This was found in the FAQ section, answering a very similar question.

That being said, most cars sold under 7 lakhs in India, go through serious cost cutting measures especially the east-asian ones so I'd be wary when using this information to purchase a cheaper car.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rahul4321 View Post
I have always believed that at the end of the day it is metal which will come to the rescue. Sure safety features like airbags etc are a big deal; but the airbags only come into play in the event of a major accident. The problem is that airbags in Honda, Maruti's (Cars which have low sheet metal thickness deploy faster because even a low severity accident's caving in metal will cause the sensors to activate the Airbags; not so in the cases of VW's and the other German's i believe- where the caving in metal has to be of a significant speed to activate the Airbags.

I have a Bolero. Its a lump of metal; everywhere- Hood, Chassis, even the Bumpers are made out of Iron (instead of Fibre). 3 guys regularly sit on the hood at the local Drive-in Cinema. Sure the hood metal caves in; but as soon as you get up- the hood metal 'pop's back up again.

Pure metal being just that; metal- I would prefer being in my Bolero rather than any Maruti, Korean or Japanese in the event of a frontal impact (touchwood)
Take good care buddy

Last edited by IshaanIan : 28th September 2014 at 16:30.
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Old 28th September 2014, 17:00   #15
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Default re: Sheet Metal Thickness - Does it matter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by nakul0888 View Post

Here is my argument though. If the Japanese are able to make a considerably lighter car as safe as a heavy European car then aren't they the more brighter folks here. I mean a lighter car means better power to weight ratio, better economy, nimbler handling, basically better at everything. Sure you lose out on the novelty factor of a Vault like build quality and maybe the thicker sheet metal may help in case of fender benders. But is that more relevant than better performance of the car?
....
Case in point the Linea T jet is a gem of a car. I am in no way going to say the Honda city is a better driver's car but the fact is even with all that extra torque and similar power figures the T-jet is noticeably slower than the Honda.
As a person who has used and driven both these cars (TJet and City 1.5 iVTEC previous gen) extensively for a few years, I beg to differ with some of the points, although off-topic. Firstly, the T-Jet is not noticeably slower. There are just a few tenths of a second difference separating the T-Jet and City on 0-100 dash timings.

Secondly, the City's usable power is all northwards in the rpm range and the engine is pretty much D-E-A-D in the lower range and mid range compared to the T-Jet. Yeah sure, if we keep revving high till 6000-7000 on all gears, shift as late as possible, you have a nice sounding Honda hit the 100 mark in slightly lesser time than the T-Jet will normally do (T-Jet does not rev as high). This (0-100 time on paper) is nowhere near the definition of usable power though. There is no pushed-to-the-seat feeling in the City lower down during normal day-to-day driving when shifting at 2000-3000-4000 rpm, and the punchy feel/acceleration of iVTEC is not at all comparable to that of a T-Jet (or even the TSI for that matter) anywhere in the rpm range except for the high-end.

Simply put, the T-Jet feels eager to go from as low as 1500 rpm due to the enormous peak torque generated as low as 2000 rpm. The City puts out peak torque at 4800 rpm or thereabouts, and peak power at 6600 rpm! Even if you remove all the build quality / heavier metal arguments from the picture, the City's 1.5 iVTEC is nowhere near the driving pleasure of a T-Jet. The iVTEC has to be milked and revved hard to show its true potential. Meanwhile a T-Jet will run circles around it while the iVtec is busy waking (revving) up from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

I know this is OT on this thread, but just wanted to clarify that the Linea's extra metal weight alone did not make City better performing than the T-Jet. The nature of the 2 engines is very different. 0-100 timings alone shouldn't be used as the only yardstick to conclude that a T-Jet is slower because it is heavier than the City! It is the other way round almost always, unless the City is revved hard and high. So, let us not base performance figures on weight or build alone. There are other factors also which come into play.

Last edited by KarthikK : 28th September 2014 at 17:07.
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