The usage of lightweight materials such as plastics and their derivatives continues to increase in automobiles driven by the urgency for weight reduction. For structural performance, body components such as A-pillar or B-pillar trim, instrument panel, etc. have to meet various requirements including resistance to penetration and energy absorption capability under impact indentation. A range of plain and reinforced thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics has been considered in the present study in the form of plates which are subject to low velocity perforation in a drop-weight impact testing set-up with a rigid cylindrical indenter fitted to a tup. The tested plates are made of polypropylene (PP), nanoclay-reinforced PP of various percentages of nanoclay content, wood-PP composites of different volume fractions of wood fiber, a jute-polyester composite, and a hybrid jute-polyester reinforced with steel. In order to estimate the energy absorbed by a test specimen, a novel procedure is followed in which the initial (i.e. just before impact) and final (i.e. immediately after perforation) velocities of the impactor system are obtained using images recorded by a high speed camera. The energy absorbing capability of a plate during failure caused by transverse impact loading is quantified with the aid of a non-dimensional parameter. The efficacy of the various materials tested is compared by taking into account values of the latter parameter and density. The present study indicates that hybrid jute-polyester composite is most efficient in terms of energy absorption and localization of damage when compared to plain PP which is commonly used for making panels for automotive interior trim.