Established in 1997, Euro NCAP, short for the European New Car Assessment Programme, is an independent organisation that conducts safety tests on cars available in the European market.
Euro NCAP tests do not take into account such factors as fuel efficiency or the vehicle’s sleek design, which would likely have an important place in most other car ratings.
The sole focus of the tests is on the safety performance of vehicles in various crash scenarios. The main aim is to give consumers clear and complete safety details about new cars so they can make informed decisions.
How Are Cars Selected?
Testing every single car or model that enters the market is not realistic or cost-effective. Therefore, Euro NCAP selects the most popular or noteworthy models for testing. Additionally, car manufacturers can sponsor their own vehicles for testing. Having a car tested by Euro NCAP is voluntary and not a requirement for introducing new vehicles to the market.
To ensure impartiality, Euro NCAP purchases the chosen models anonymously from dealerships. They need to acquire up to four vehicles of the same make and model for testing purposes—vehicles that will be written off after testing. This practise ensures that the tests accurately represent the actual car model and demonstrate its true level of safety.
Tests and Scoring
The purpose of Euro NCAP tests is to simulate real-world accidents and evaluate factors such as occupant protection, child safety, pedestrian protection, and the effectiveness of safety assist technologies. The tests include frontal, side, pole impact, and also whiplash protection.
Based on the results of these tests, Euro NCAP assigns safety ratings to vehicles, ranging from one to five stars. These ratings provide an easy-to-understand and unified way to comprehend vehicle safety.
The tests consider not only the vehicle’s structural integrity but also the presence and effectiveness of safety features such as airbags, seatbelts, and the implementation of collision avoidance technology. Furthermore, Euro NCAP strongly encourages the inclusion of cutting-edge safety technologies that may not yet be part of their tests.
The test scores are valid for six years from the time of testing. During this period, the carmakers must confirm annually that they are installing the same safety technology in newly manufactured cars as the test model. They must also notify the testing organisation about any alterations in the vehicle’s design that could impact the rating.
According to the Euro NCAP website, a maximum score of 5 stars signifies “overall excellent performance in crash protection and being well equipped with comprehensive and robust crash avoidance technology.” However, it is possible to score as low as zero stars, which means the car meets the minimum required standard set by European lawmakers but “lacks critical modern safety technology.” At the same time, this does not necessarily mean the car is unsafe to drive, but rather that it’s not as safe as other similar types of cars.
Since 2016, Euro NCAP has provided dual-star ratings for cars based on both standard and optional safety equipment. The first rating assesses safety using standard equipment, while the second rating takes into account safety pack, which can include both crash avoidance technology and other safety features. This enables consumers to weigh the extra cost of an optional safety pack against the actual increase in safety it provides with the purchase. Car companies can earn the second rating if the optional pack is available on all model variants throughout the European markets.
A vehicle with a top rating is not guaranteed to keep that high score during subsequent testing. Euro NCAP enhances its protocol each year, with a major update implemented every two years. This makes it tougher to earn a high score as the tests become stricter. Additionally, there are high expectations for carmakers to integrate more technological advances in safety into the design of vehicles—another important factor in the test.
Due to evolving test criteria, it’s essential to compare ratings only within the same testing period. For a fair assessment of safety performance, comparisons should be limited to vehicles within the same vehicle type, as different car types might have varying safety requirements and standards.
Euro NCAP has greatly influenced vehicle safety and advanced technology development in the auto industry. They’ve improved safety standards, pushed carmakers for safer vehicles, and promoted technologies like seatbelt reminders and electronic stability control (ESC). Their impact is substantial, resulting in better vehicle safety and cars equipped with more advanced safety features.