euro ncap & new car safety

safety first?

euro ncap & new car safety

Every Manufacturer Will Tell You That Their Cars Are Safe But How Do You Judge The Fact Independently? By Checking The Safety Performance Of Your Chosen Car With EuroNCAP. But What Is That, How Do You Do It & What Can You Expect To Find? Jonathan Crouch Is Your Guide.

It's a fact: our cars are getting safer. Why? Well safety sells cars for one thing. For another, since the introduction of EuroNCAP crash testing, manufacturers simply can't afford not to prioritise this issue.

But what exactly is NCAP? and how much are these assessments actually worth? Well in short, quite a lot. Established in 1997 and now backed by five European Governments, the European Commission and motoring and consumer organisations in every EU country, the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) has rapidly become a catalyst for encouraging significant safety improvements to new car design.

Its efforts have emphasised that delivering safer cars is not just about performing well

in crash tests. Preventing a crash is more important than limiting its impact, and the need has been to encourage more focus on investment in active safety initiatives. As a result, technologies like stability and traction control systems, assisted braking and parking sensors are fitted as standard to a growing army of new models.

A major feather in NCAP's cap in recent times has been the manufacturers voluntary decision to fit ABS as standard to all new models made from 1 July 2004. In addition, rigid bull bars are no longer fitted to new cars, one of a number of design measures to deliver safer

front ends including softer bonnets and crash compatibility measures.

NCAP's Test Procedures

These are based on those developed by the European Experimental Vehicles Committee (EEVC) for legislation, except the front impact speed is increased by 8 km/h so as to cover accident severity leading to most deaths and serious injuries. The pole test is based on standards developed in the US. Cars designed to do well in the Euro NCAP tests should offer improved protection in a wide variety of road accidents. There is a front impact test at 40mph into an offset deformable barrier, a side impact test at 30mph, a side impact pole test at 18mph and tests with pedestrian head and leg forms at 25mph.

The injury risk is assessed using a number of sources including data from the dummy's instruments, examination of the high-speed film and examination of the car by crash investigation experts. As there is no instrumentation to measure injury risk in certain areas, adjustments are also made to take account of other potential dangers, including those to different sized occupants. The Euro NCAP assessment protocol is then applied to arrive at the rating for each body region.

Euro NCAP has introduced a separate star rating for child protection from November 2003. Car models are given a star rating for occupant protection, a star rating for child protection and a star rating for pedestrian protection. The child protection rating is for a combination of a car with specific child seats that have been recommended by the car manufacturer. The combination can now earn up to five stars for child protection. The rating depends on the fitting instructions for the child seats, the car's ability to accommodate them safely and their performance in front and side impact tests.

Which Cars Have Done Well In NCAP Tests?

This is the key question isn't it? and the answer lies in listings which are far too detailed to reproduce here. Before buying your car, just check its results out on www.euroncap.com.

The site divides new models into ten major market categories, with more recently announced cars getting a 'Child Protection Rating' as well as a 'Front and Side Impact Rating' and a 'Pedestrian Test Rating'. In the 'Superminis' group, fourteen of the twenty five featured cars have achieved a maximum five stars in the front and side impact test, while Hyundai's i20 and Suzuki's Swift are the most pedestrian-friendly small cars.

In the 'Small Family Cars' group, thirty two out of the thirty five cars tested achieved the coveted five star safety rating for front and side impact. Only the MG 6, Renault Fluence Z.E. and the Subaru Impreza failed to get the top safety rating. In the 'Large Family Car' sector, five star front and side impact ratings were awarded to all tested cars with the exception of the Geely Emgrand EC7 and the SEAT Exeo.

In 'Executive Cars', Audi's A6, Mercedes' E-class, and BMW's 5 Series all achieved five star front and side impact ratings leaving the Jaguar XF with four stars. Only the BMW and Jaguar got more than sixty per cent for pedestrian protection. In the 'Roadster' sector, every key new model was judged a 'four star' performer in front and side impact tests, with BMW's Z4 standing out from the others with two stars on the pedestrian side.

Fourteen 'Small Off Roaders' have been tested and eleven have achieved five stars in the front and side impact ratings, while the BMW X1 stood out a little more on the pedestrian test. With 'Large Off Roaders', BMW's X5, Mercedes-Benz's M Class, Volvo's XC90 and Volkswagen's Touareg stood out as five star achievers but all but the Volvo and Mercedes-Benz were judged very poor one star achievers when it came to pedestrian impacts.

In the pick-up section the outstanding safety performer is the Ford Ranger with five stars. The Mitsubishi L200 also featured highly with four stars.

Finally MPVs. In the 'Small MPV' section fourteen out of seventeen vehicles tested achieved five stars for front and side impacts. The Hyundai ix20, the Kia Venga, MINI Countryman and the Toyota Verso achieved three stars on the pedestrian test. With 'Large MPV' models, Renault's Espace, Peugeot 807, SEAT Alhambra, Ford Galaxy and S-Max along with the Volkswagen Sharan all got five stars in the front and side impact test but no model got more than two stars in the pedestrian test and most got only one.