Buying a new car for your new or growing family? Generally safety of your little bundle of joy comes first. In this article we explore the EURO NCAP rating system to give you some tips on how this can be helpful in finding the safest car for you. Be sure to check out our other article on ISOFIX car seats and bases, which is another factor you should account for when choosing a family car.

The EURO NCAP rating was introduced to provide a structured and objective testing process of the safety of new vehicles. The tests cover four main areas:

  • Adult occupants (adults seated in the front two seats);
  • Child occupant (for children aged 1.5, 3, 6 and 10 years)
  • Pedestrian safety
  • Safety Assist Technology

When considering a family car, the EURO NCAP Child occupant and Safety Assist Technology ratings can be quite helpful.

A little more background on the tests quickly:

euro-ncap-baby-crash-test-dummy

A EURO NCAP baby crash test dummy fitted with all the measuring devices required to rate the impact of a crash on the little one

A set of tests is done to rate each area. All of these make up the overall score. The tests are designed to simulate real world scenarios that would put drivers and passengers in danger and assess the vehicles ability to protect those inside the vehicle. The tests use dummies fitted with measuring devices that pick up things like speed and force transferred to the passengers. These standardised tests are only simulations and cannot account for all possible variables in real-life accidents. However, they do represent a standardised battery of tests that allow us, the buyers, to more objectively compare the safety of the cars we are considering buying relative to one another.

EURO NCAP introduced the star rating system to make the ratings easier to read. On the star ratings:

  • Generally the higher the rating the better. The rating goes up to 5 stars
  • A low rating doesn’t mean a car is “unsafe”, it just means that it is less safer than other cars in its segment
  • Cars get an overall rating which is made up of its ratings in the underlying four main crash test areas

Overall, the EURO NCAP star ratings mean (taken directly from the EURO NCAP website):

5 stars safety: Overall good performance in crash protection. Well equipped with robust crash avoidance technology
4 stars safety: Overall good performance in crash protection; additional crash avoidance technology may be present
3 stars safety: Average to good occupant protection but lacking crash avoidance technology
2 stars safety: Nominal crash protection but lacking crash avoidance technology
1 star safety: Marginal crash protection

Sometimes cars have two different EURO NCAP star ratings… huh???

Cars are tested with their standard safety equipment. Where there is an option of a “Safety pack” as an optional extra, the cars are then also tested with the safety pack so you can also see how effective the safety pack is (versus stadnard kit and versus rivals in the segment).

So, what do the results look like and what is useful for me?

The online results and downloadable pdf’s are really easy to read. You can see below, an example of the EURO NCAP online rating report with the “click-down” on the Child Occupant protection rating. This can be found and a full pdf downloaded at www.euroncap.com.

Euro NCAP rating score card example Renault Kadjar

You can see the overall rating for the car, the ratings for each main test area and then the “click-down” let’s you see how the car faired in the tests particular to children and car-seats. For those of you who are interested, here is a little more information on the kinds of tests that are conducted to rate the performance above.

  1. Child occupant: tests are conducted to simulate front and side impact and then they measure the protection offered by the child restraint systems. Tests are also done to see how easily the vehicle can accommodate restraint systems of different types and sizes as well as the provision of ISOFIX and its labelling. Remember, not all cars are fitted with ISOFIX technology.

All these tests are done inline with the required specifications from the manufacturer of the correct child restraint systems and configurations to use with their vehicle.

So what do they look for in terms of effect on my baby?

From the EURO NCAP website, the assessment looks at:

“Head movement, neck loads and chest accelerations are the main dummy criteria measured during the tests. The vehicle will be rewarded if test criteria remain low and if neither dummy was ejected from its seat or made any hard contact with the vehicle interior during the crash. This ensures that the child remains correctly restrained during the crash event.”

As mentioned, EURO NCAP rates how easily the correct child restrain system can be installed in the car:

“A selection of popular child restraints is installed to assess trouble free installation. The selected seats have been demonstrated to provide good protection in independent tests. Seat belt length, belt buckle location, ISOFIX anchorage accessibility and CRS stability are typical vehicle characteristics verified. Euro NCAP also encourage rearward facing transport of toddlers and checks if vehicles are able to accommodate such seats.”

Obviously these tests are very scientifically constructed and controlled. You can find a wealth of general and technical information on the tests on the EURO NCAP website.

The other area of interest to parents would also be the “Safety Assist Technology” section. This pretty much looks at what fancy safety technology is added to the car to help you avoid accidents. Remember, sometimes cars are rated as standard and then with the fancy safety stuff if it is an optional extra. When looking at cars for your family, be sure to check what safety features come standard and which are optional.

  1. Safety assist technology: This rating considers the technology that assists the driver in both driving safely and managing situations where the vehicle is in danger of losing control. The kinds of technology considered includes:
    • Electronic Stability Control to assist the car in detecting potential loss of control / skidding and helping the vehicle maintain traction so the driver can retain control;
    • Seatbelt reminders to make sure everybody in the vehicle is properly buckled up;
    • Speed assistance to make sure the driver stays aware of the speed limit and adheres to it;
    • Autonomous Emergency Braking in inter-urban travel and lane support (lane departure warnings) – wow, technical! Autonomous Emergency Braking is a system that picks up cars in front of you. If the car in front of you gets too close too quickly, the car will automatically start applying the brakes to avoid an accident. Lane departure warning is a system that tracks the lines on the road and if you drift out of your lane with indicating, it will warn you.

As you can see, the EURO NCAP star ratings are a very helpful way to get a rich understanding of the safety characteristics of the car you are considering and how it stacks up against other cars in its segment. We are sure you will have found our overviews of the Child and Tech sections helpful. For the real scientists out there, here is some information on the other 2 test areas, namely Adult Occupant and Pedestrian.

EURO NCAP side impact test schematic

EURO NCAP side impact test schematic

  1. Adult occupant: covers front and side impact tests and whiplash tests and the effect on adult occupants in the driver and front passenger seat. This rating also considers Autonomous Braking Technology (AEB) that protects against bumper-bashing in a city traffic context (they place more weight on Autonomous Braking Tech that avoids a collision and less or no weight on early warning alarms that require human intervention as this relies on human reaction time)
  1. Pedestrian safety: These tests consider the impact of the front-end structure of the car (such as bumper, grill, bonnet and windshield) on a collision with a pedestrian; and injuries ranging from head to lower leg. The test also considers and rewards vehicles with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) technology that picks up pedestrians

 

Obviously these tests are very scientifically constructed and controlled. You can find a wealth of general and technical information on the tests on the EURO NCAP website.

 

 

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