Purpose: Road passenger transportation faces a global challenge of reducing environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions because of the vehicle weight increases needed to enhance passenger safety and comfort. This paper aims to present a preliminary mechanical design evaluation of the Wikispeed Car (with a focus on body bending, body torsion and body crash) to assess light-weighting implications and improve the vehicle’s environmental performance without compromising safety. Design/methodology/approach: For this research, finite element analysis (FEA) was performed to examine the Wikispeed chassis for light-weighting opportunities in three key aspects of the vehicle’s design, namely, for body bending the rockers (or longitudinal tubes), for body torsion (again on the rockers but also the chassis as a whole) and for crash safety – on the frontal crash structure. A two-phase approach was adopted, namely, in phase one, a 3D CAD geometry was generated and in phase, two FEA was generated. The combination of analysis results was used to develop the virtual model using FEA tools, and the model was updated based on the correlation process. Findings: The research revealed that changing the specified material Aluminium Alloy 6061-T651 to Magnesium EN-MB10020 allows vehicle mass to be reduced by an estimated 110 kg, thus producing a concomitant 10 per cent improvement in fuel economy. The initial results imply that the current beam design made from magnesium would perform worst during a crash as the force required to buckle the beam is the lowest (between 95.2 kN and 134 kN). Steel has the largest bandwidth of force required for buckling and also requires the largest force for buckling (between 317 kN and 540 kN). Originality/value: This is the first study of its kind to compare and contrast between material substitution and its impact upon Wikispeed car safety and performance.