How we test cars Euro NCAP ratings explained
Euro NCAP ratings improved
Euro NCAP was set up by European consumer organisations in 1997 to provide independent crash-test assessments of popular cars. Its aim was to inform buyers which cars protect occupants best in typical crash situations, helping them to choose a safer car.
Since then, Euro NCAP spurred a revolution in the levels of crash protection, as carmakers competed to make the safest cars.
The scheme led to poorly performing models being withdrawn from sale (especially in the early days) and, by 2007, the vast majority of new cars were achieving four or five stars for adult occupant protection. So, to prompt further innovation, it was time to raise the bar...
A more balanced Euro NCAP test
Carmakers were targeting their efforts at achieving the high profile five-star rating for adult occupant protection – and often used this to promote their cars to buyers.
However, that ‘headline’ rating didn’t account for all aspects of a car’s safety, such as how well it protects child occupants, how ‘pedestrian friendly’ it is, how well it protects against serious spinal injuries (whiplash) and how good the car’s support systems are at helping the driver to avoid a crash in the first place.
So the Euro NCAP rating system was altered in 2009, in order to encourage manufacturers to improve all such elements of car safety and give a more balanced view.
From 2009, Euro NCAP’s safety scores have been shown as a single overall rating, out of a maximum of five stars.
This is made up from several sub-ratings, some of which are based on established tests – such as adult, child and pedestrian protection – and others on totally new assessments, such as for ‘anti-crash’ systems (such as electronic stability control) and protection against particular types of injury, such as whiplash.
Making sense of Euro NCAP scores
The post-2009 scoring system comprises four key areas:
The existing adult protection tests (front and side impacts and the ‘pole test’, which mimics a collision with a tree or lamp post) was complemented by a new whiplash test, showing how well the front seats protect against spinal injuries during a low-speed rear impact.
This includes crash tests using child-like dummies in child car seats, and an assessment of car seat design and instructions to ensure correct child seat installation.
Euro NCAP testers assess how well each car is designed to minimise head and leg injuries for adult or child pedestrians in various accident scenarios.
This new rating rewards systems designed to help avoid crashes and mitigate their effects. These include seatbelt reminder systems and, for the first time, speed-limiting devices and stability control (which helps avoid skidding).