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Euro NCap to overhaul car safety ratings

New system will look at ‘overall safety’ of cars

Thatcham car crash test

The European body set up to assess car safety is overhauling its rating system in an attempt to save lives.

From next year, Euro NCap will begin looking at the ‘overall safety’ of cars, taking new technology like electronic stability control into account when handing out its star ratings. And, for the first time, cars will be judged on how well they protect adult occupants from whiplash.

Narrow focus

Until now cars have been rated on their ability to protect passengers and pedestrians from harm during crashes. But Euro NCap thinks manufacturers could be setting out to achieve high scores for adult occupant protection in a bid to attract customers, whilst compromising on safety in other areas.

Of the five cars in the latest crash tests, four scored top marks for adult occupant protection. But just two – the Renault Koleos and the Hyundai i30 – scored as high as four out of five for child occupant protection.

Pedestrian protection scores were much lower, with all but one of the cars on test given two stars out of a possible four. The Mercedes ML Class, a large off-roader, received just one star.

‘Euro NCap believes that consumers are interested in the safety offered to all occupants and also to other road users when they are choosing a new car,’ a spokesperson said. ‘For this reason, Euro NCap is developing a new rating system that will reward the overall safety of a vehicle.’

Higher standards

Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCap’s secretary general, said he is glad more manufacturers are achieving five stars in the crash tests, but that the organisation must continue to set higher standards for carmakers to aspire to.

‘Our new rating system will do this,’ he said. ‘I have no doubt that manufacturers will step up to the challenge, just as they did when we first started.’

Which? motoring editor Richard Headland said, ‘We think the time is right for Euro NCap to revise its ratings system – too many carmakers are using only the adult occupant protection rating to promote their cars’ safety credentials.

‘Clearly, overall safety should include child safety, pedestrian safety and accident avoidance, so these changes should reflect that and, we hope, encourage carmakers to improve safety design for pedestrians and to fit electronic stability control as standard.’

Old and new ratings

He added, ‘It will be tricky for consumers to compare old and new ratings during the changeover period, but Euro NCap tells us it will issue a guide to this nearer the time’.

The first results for vehicles tested under the new rating system are expected in February 2009.

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