What do Euro NCAP safety tests involve?

With all of the cafuffle with the US car recalls over the past twelve months, a lot more people are beginning to consider the safety of their vehicle as more important than they might have done in the past. However, finding the right car for you whilst understanding how safe it is can be a little confusing, even with the comprehensive Euro NCAP tests and their star ratings helping us out.

Going a step further and explaining them this week was CarBuyer, which offered some excellent points on how to read the ratings to get a feel for how safe a car might be, as well as breaking down some of the different tests that the organisation uses in order to see just how safe these cars are. As you might expect, they are pretty comprehensive.

The first and foremost important test that Euro NCAP puts every car through is the frontal impact one. This involves driving the car at a set 40 miles per hour into a solid barrier, with the brunt of the impact affecting 40 per cent of the vehicle’s front end. During the crash, slow motion camera footage and internal sensors allow the organisations to look into how the manikins respond to the impact and how well protected they are by safety features like airbags, seatbelts and crumple zones.

Euro NCAP tests are also put on Youtube for anyone to watch

Of course not all crashes occur head on, which is why Euro NCAP also performs side on tests. In those instances the car is slammed into another car and into a pole, to see how different side-on impacts might affect passengers, children in car seats and the driver.

However it’s not just the vehicles’ occupants that the safety watchdog wants to protect, but pedestrians too. Those that fling them clear of potential danger during an accident, or have any impact cushioned slightly are much more likely to receive a higher safety rating. This could become particularly important in years to come with autonomous vehicles, as people may be concerned about those sorts of cars’ ability to detect and avoid injuring pedestrians and cyclists.

Other factors include testing for certain child safety within the car, as well as stability control systems and autonomous emergency braking, all of which come into play in helping improve the vehicle’s rating.

To come up with a score at the end of all the testing, Euro NCAP brings together all of its different results and provides a comprehensive document that breaks down the potential for injury to different parts of the driver and passenger bodies, as well as pedestrian protection, child coverage and how well the car stood up to very specific stresses. That is a lot of information to impart to car buyers though, so it’s usually boiled down to a basic star rating. Those with decent coverage but not perfect, will net a four star, but it’s only a very few that are given a full five star thumbs up from the organisation.

Elsewhere in the world, like Australia, it can be even tougher, so five star cars’ safety ratings can also differ depending on where in the world you buy them.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

    All author posts