The tests saw the basic models, all without airbags, driven at 64 kilometres an hour (40 miles) into a block simulating a head-on collision.

The NCAP tested only the basic models of the cars in question and it said the Figo and Polo would provide much better protection if fitted with airbags, which were an optional extra. But the Nano, the i10 and the Alto had "inadequate" structures that meant that even air bags would "not be effective in reducing the risk of serious injury".

The combined sales of these five cars account for around 20 percent of all the new cars sold in India last year. These cars form a fifth of the total passenger vehicle sales in India.

Head of NCAP Global, Max Mosley, said that it's worrying to see levels of safety that are 20 years behind the five-star standards now common in Europe and North America.