Euro NCAP Explained

You may have heard of NCAP car safety/star ratings when considering which new car you should choose. The guide below explains what NCAP is and the associated test process.

Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) is an independent crash safety body set up to rigorously test the crash safety of new cars, the aim being to help improve and guide advancements in car safety technology.

All cars receive a rating based on the standard amount of safety technology fitted to every trim level available, with an additional secondary rating given taking into account any extra safety technology that is optionally available. The secondary optional rating is based upon manufacturers confirmation that they expect the “extra safety technology” to be fitted to at least 25% of the models sold.

Bearing in mind that before 1997 the idea, that UK car buyers could compare actual crash performance of cars and safety systems from rival manufacturers, was just a pipe-dream, we are sure you will agree that a top five-star crash safety test result should be a key factor when choosing a new car.

Dual Ratings

The current Euro NCAP safety regime includes a dual rating, first introduced in April 2016 and altering the perception of how the safety rating works compared to even just a couple of years ago.

It should be noted that four-star cars can offer the same protection in the simulated collision tests as a five-star car. However, full five-star ratings are reserved for cars fitted with the latest safety technology like Autonomous Emergency Braking.

The rating was brought into place to address the pressure from manufacturers who believed that it was unfair to rate vehicles based on the lowest specification of car when more expensive versions with extra safety features could be significantly safer in an accident. NCAP also felt that the prospect of an extra star rating being available might also provide an incentive for carmakers to invest in more ‘safety driven’ technologies.

The dual rating system is also intended to provide a more effective mechanism for consumers to understand the benefits and value of additional safety options that are available to them on car options lists.

The current Euro NCAP tests

Euro NCAP tests provide crash safety scores as a percentage rating so you can more easily compare the results between different makes and models that have taken the same tests.

These ratings are broke down into four categories:

Adult Occupant Protection is based upon crash scenarios that simulate frontal impact (off-set and head-on), crashing side-on into a moving object, and hitting a fixed object like a lamp post or telegraph pole. Whiplash protection and the effectiveness of Autonomous Braking Systems are also factored in.

Child Occupant Protection is based on three factors, with the key areas such as child restraint systems in front and side impacts, the ability to accommodate restraints of different sizes and design, and provisions within the vehicle that facilitate safe use of child seats, e.g. ISOFIX child seat anchorages, airbag deactivation systems and clear labelling of such features.

Pedestrian Protection also takes into consideration the safety of the car from a pedestrian’s point of view.  It assesses the risk of injuries to head, pelvis and legs from various front-end structures including the bonnet and windscreen, bonnet edge and bumper. More points are awarded if Autonomous Emergency Braking systems are likely to assist in mitigating the injury.

Safety Assist rating is compiled from the driver assistance technologies that Euro NCAP has determined as offering the greatest safety. It monitors the inclusion of everything from seatbelt reminders to more advanced systems like Electronic Stability Control, Speed limiters and warnings, Lane Keep Assistance and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

Comparing the Euro NCAP test scores

Using the current NCAP configuration you can easily look at the overall star rating and make a swift comparison between different cars. You can also make a more detailed comparison using the percentage scores of each four test categories. For further details and analysis, the Euro NCAP website provides the test results for all vehicles tested to date.

It may not always be easy to make a direct comparison between vehicles as pre-rule change models, tested before 2009, could have scored a five-star rating purely on good scores within the impact test. If the same model was tested after the change it may only have gained a four-star rating. We would simply recommend that you compare ‘like for like’ NCAP test regimes when looking at the performance of different models. This is more readily done by comparing models of the same year.

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