What goes into a Euro NCAP safety test?

What’s a Euro NCAP safety test when it’s at home? And why do drivers need to know? Well, as a parent, I’m glad I looked into it. So I thought I’d share my findings on why safety ratings are especially important for family cars, and which models perform well, to help you if you’re looking for a new car.

Annual ratings

Every year, Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) ranks the latest cars using the sum of the results from the four tests they conduct. Up to five stars are awarded based on a variety of crash tests in different types of impact. The tests are entirely voluntary but most manufacturers build extra safety features in, partly because these stats are important to buyers who want the safest drive (and who doesn’t?).

NCAP are clear that their tests are based not on the legal minimum, but on current best practice. See the list below of what’s tested and which models are some of the safest family cars based on NCAP scores.

Adult Occupant test

This score is made up of tests on:

  • Frontal impact at 40mph, higher than the 35mph required by law, to mimic a crash with a similar car
  • Side impact at 31 mph and side impact pole test at 20 mph
  • Whiplash.

Child Occupant test

There are three aspects to this assessment:

  • protection within child seats in the frontal and side impact tests
  • how well the vehicle can fit in a variety of child seats
  • what provisions are made for safely transporting children.

Pedestrian test

In the last few years, more of NCAP’s overall score has included protection for pedestrians. Euro NCAP wanted to focus car manufacturers on the safety of people on the outside, as well as on the inside of the car. Tests are carried out on estimated damage to pedestrians at 25 mph from the following areas:

  • bonnet and its leading edge
  • windshield
  • bumper

Safety Assist test

This scores technologies in the car that support safe driving, helping to reduce accidents and injuries. The tests focus on performance during normal driving and in accident conditions.

Particularly safe family cars

There was quite a wide range of scores for each of the four tests so I picked from amongst the best scorers.

A friend of mine with a Fiat 500X was really pleased to know hers was one of them! The protection offered to children placed in rear-facing seats was amongst the highest of all cars tested in the last two years. It actually scored maximum points in tests for protecting the 18-month-old dummy and almost that for the 3-year-old dummy. Both stayed within their car seats in the side impact test, which means children are less likely to bang their noddles inside the car in the event of a crash. The front passenger airbag can be turned off so my friend can put the rear facing child seat there sometimes if she needs to. And when she goes out with her sister and her kids, she has no trouble properly installing car seats designed for use in the Espace.

Dan’s mate’s Kia Sorento was amongst the highest scoring of all tested cars in the last two years for adult protection – good for the knees and femurs of both driver and passenger. Tests also showed that people of different sizes and seating positions would be similarly protected. It even scored maximum points in the more severe ‘side pole test’ and there was also good whiplash protection in a crash with impact from the rear. This protection included people sitting in the third row.

The Sorento also scored pretty well in the Safety Assist tests. There’s a seatbelt reminder for all passengers and it gained extra points for its optional extra lane departure warning system. Dan’s mate found he gets into fewer scrapes now and I think that could be due to the speed assistance system, which informs the driver of his or her speed, enabling them to set the speed limiter appropriately.

And what of the pedestrian, I hear you cry? Well, my brother, a doctor, chose the Ford S Max partly for its ability to protect those outside the car. He had the optional autonomous emergency braking system fitted because it recognises not only cars, but pedestrians too. NCAP will start to test that from 2016. Testing of the bumper and bonnet, meanwhile, showed that pedestrians would be well protected in the event of a crash.

Help and advice

Why not drop into your local Perrys dealership and quiz their friendly sales guys about these safety features? They’re always happy to help. And if you decide you want to take a test drive, bring the kids with you (and their car seats too if they need them) and Perrys will be glad to help you test your chosen car for kid safety.