Guide to Euro NCAP Crash Tests
Friday 17 September 2010
The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) provides an independent and comparative assessment of new car safety, allowing buyers to make more informed choices.
The Euro NCAP rates a car’s overall safety performance out of five stars, taking into account adult, child and pedestrian protection as well as safety assist. The higher the rating, the safer the car.
Before 2009, each car was awarded three individual star ratings based on adult, child and pedestrian protection. This was replaced in 2009 with one overall rating, simplifying the comparison process and placing a greater emphasis on pedestrian protection.
Each category is now rated on a percentage basis and every report includes comments explaining how the panel reached its conclusion and any fears they may have had about the car’s performance in each test area. These comments give motorists a clearer overall picture and allow easier comparisons.
Legislation provides a minimum statutory standard of safety for all new cars before they can be sold. The Euro NCAP encourages manufacturers to exceed these minimum requirements.
The programme launched in 1997 and has since tested and rated more than 300 new cars.
How safe is your car?
Find out your car’s crash test rating by visiting the Euro NCAP website and inputting your vehicle’s make and model.
Overall star rating
The overall star rating is calculated by assessing the four criteria below.
Adult occupant protection
Adult occupant protection is based on frontal, side and pole impact tests. A whiplash test is carried out separately on the driver and passenger seats.
Child occupant protection
In 2003, Euro NCAP introduced a designated child occupant protection rating to provide clearer information for consumers about the results of these tests.
The test uses 18-month-old and 3-year-old sized dummies in frontal and side impact tests. The rating takes into account clarity of the instructions and ease of seat installation in the vehicle to ensure that the child seat can be fitted safely and securely.
The pedestrian protection rating is calculated on the basis of leg, upper leg and head protection testing.
A safety assist rating was introduced in 2009 and reflects the increasing importance of driver assistance systems and active safety technologies (such as Electronic Stability Control and speed limiters) in avoiding accidents and minimising injury.
The programme rewards manufacturers for the fitment of electronic stability control, in addition to points given for the presence of a speed limitation device and intelligent seat belt reminders.
Pre 2009 ratings
Before 2009, each car was awarded three individual star ratings based on adult, child and pedestrian protection.
Every report includes comments explaining how the panel reached its conclusion and any fears they may have had about certain areas. These comments give motorists a clearer overall picture and allow easier comparisons.
Frontal impact | Car to car side impact | Pole side impact | Child protection
Pedestrian protection | Whiplash | Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Seat belt reminders (SBR) | Speed limitation devices
The frontal impact test is based on the test developed by the European Enhanced Vehicle-Safety Committee as a basis for legislation. The end rating is based on information taken from dummies and is used to assess protection given to adult front occupants.
Each car tested is subjected to an impact at 40mph into an immovable block fitted with a deformable aluminium honeycomb face (to represent the flex of another car). As research shows most frontal crashes involve only part of the car’s front, the test is offset to replicate a half-width impact between the cars.
The test simulates one car having a frontal impact with another car of similar size. Its purpose is to test a car’s ability to survive the impact without suffering passenger compartment intrusion.
Car to car side impact
Euro NCAP simulates a car to car side crash by having a mobile deformable barrier (MDB) impact the driver’s door at 30mph. The injury protection is assessed by a side impact test dummy in the driver’s seat, to rate the MDB’s intrusion into the cabin. Side impact airbags are now fitted as standard to many new cars.
Pole side impact
Approximately a quarter of all serious-to-fatal injuries happen in side impact collisions. Many of these injuries occur when one car runs into the side of another or into a fixed narrow object such as a tree or pole.
The pole test encourages manufacturers to fit head protection devices, such as side impact head or curtain airbags to help to protect the head and upper torso and by preventing the head from passing through the window opening. The test involves propelling a car sideways at 18mph into a rigid pole.
Child protection is assessed using dummies representing 18-month and 3-year-old children in the frontal and side impact barrier tests. The dummies are placed in the rear of the car in the type of child restraint recommended by the car manufacturer.
The score depends on the child seat performance as well as the fitting instructions for the child restraints, airbag warning labels, and the car’s ability to accommodate the child restraints safely.
Before 2009, Euro NCAP released a separate star rating for child protection.
Euro NCAP carries out a series of tests at 25mph to replicate accidents involving child and adult pedestrians: a Legform test assesses the protection afforded to the lower leg by the bumper, an Upper Legform assesses the leading edge of the bonnet, while child and adult Headforms are used to assess the bonnet top area. Impact sites are then assessed and rated fair, weak and poor.
A car will score more highly if it features pedestrian friendly bumpers (which deform when they hit a pedestrian’s leg), if the leg is impacted low down and away from the knee, and if the forces are spread over a longer length of leg. The bonnet top area needs to be able to flex to protect the head.
Before 2009, Euro NCAP released a separate pedestrian protection rating, which was based on the adult and child Headform tests and the two Legform tests.
The test procedure applied by Euro NCAP promotes the best practice in seat design, with emphasis on good head restraint positioning, its ease of use as far as adjustment, the locking of the head restraint and the overall seat integrity.
The Whiplash score is based on both the position of the front seat, the size and shape of the head restraint and its proximity to the occupant, as well as the seat and head restraint performance during an actual crash test. As of 2009, the whiplash score is included in Adult Protection.
Electronic Stability Control
Euro NCAP rewards the fitment of electronic stability control – more commonly known as Electronic Stability Programme or ESP – rather than its technical performance. By 2012, Euro NCAP will assess and only reward equipment fitted as standard across the whole model range.
Seat belt reminders
Euro NCAP rewards efforts made to ensure that seat belts are worn. Cars fitted with a seatbelt reminder are tested by driving the car on a test track with the belts buckled then unbuckled and assesses the loudness, and duration of the audible signal, as well as the position and clarity of any visual warning.
Speed limitation devices
Euro NCAP rewards two types of system: those which can be set by the driver to prevent the car from exceeding a maximum speed (such as cruise control); and those which simply warn the driver when the car’s speed is above the set maximum.
The test is based on functionality – that the system can be set and unset easily and without undue distraction – and the clarity of signals. A maximum of one point is available to active systems which meet Euro NCAP’s requirements. Warning-only systems can get a maximum of 0.5 points.
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By Rhian Angharad Jones