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Euro NCAP car safety ratings explained

If you’re buying a new car, safety is a top priority, and that’s where the Euro NCAP rating system comes in. We explain what it’s all about.

Euro NCAP safety tests

Euro NCAP safety tests

What is it?

The Euro NCAP stands for the European New Car Assessment Programme, which was introduced 20 years ago to raise safety standards across the automotive industry. This independent test thoroughly assesses the safety of popular vehicles made within the EU.

Does it apply to all vehicles?

No. Every car manufactured in Europe must pass a minimum safety test to go on sale, so if your car doesn’t have a Euro NCAP rating it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dangerous. The Euro NCAP test applies to brand-new cars that have just gone on the market. Euro NCAP can also test cars that are already on sale.

How does the star system work?

The higher the rating, the better. Here’s the official criteria:

5 stars

Overall good performance in crash protection. Well equipped with robust crash avoidance technology.

4 stars

Overall good performance in crash protection and additional crash avoidance technology may be present.

3 stars

Average to good occupant protection but lacking crash avoidance technology.

2 stars

Nominal crash protection but lacking crash avoidance technology.

1 star

Marginal crash protection.

You can find out your car’s Euro NCAP rating here. Please note that the rating system is always evolving and new tests are added regularly, so make sure you check the year of the test for accurate results. The latest star rating is the most relevant.

Does the test affect the design of new cars?

Yes. Manufacturers are constantly responding to the results of the Euro NCAP test by strengthening weak spots and toughening restraints to provide more protection for drivers.

How has the test changed over the years?

Tests are updated to keep pace with new technology, most notably to include AEB (autonomous emergency braking) systems. In 2015, the full width frontal test was also upgraded to address the stiffer structural design of new cars. In 2016 the test changed to reflect safety packs that are sold as extras, with dual ratings for models as standard and with add-on safety equipment.

What does the test involve?

Cars are put through rigorous impact tests using sophisticated crash test dummies full of sensor equipment, which cost £82,000 each to manufacture.

The test is divided into four categories – adult occupant, child occupant, vulnerable road users (such as cyclists and pedestrians) and Safety Assist, which tests the effectiveness of safety technologies.

Adult occupant protection

  • Frontal crash test: The car is driven at 64km/h into a deformable barrier, which represents an oncoming vehicle.

  • Full width test: Dummies representing small adult females are positioned in the front and back seats and the car is driven into a rigid barrier at 50km/h.

  • Side mobile barrier: After front-on collisions, side crashes are the cause of the second highest number of fatalities and serious injuries on the road. A deformable barrier that represents a car is mounted onto a trolley and driven into the side of a stationary vehicle at a right angle at 50km/h.

  • Side pole: This test mimics a collision into a tree or pole at 32km/h to test the car’s ability to protect the driver’s head.

  • Whiplash: Head restraints and seat belts are tested at lower speeds using a crash test dummy on a sled.

  • AEB City: Updated for 2018, autonomous braking systems are tested for efficiency and reaction speeds by driving the vehicle towards the back of a ‘dummy’ target vehicle between 10 and 50 km/h at three different angles.

Child occupant protection

  • CRS performance: Child restraint systems are tested using dummies representing children between 18 months and 3 years old. In 2016 the test changed to include 6- to 10-year-old children on booster seats.

  • Vehicle provisions: The new European standard for child restraints is called i-Size. Euro NCAP rewards vehicles with i-Size-ready seating positions that use ISOFIX points.

  • CRS installation check: This assesses the installation of popular child seats, making sure they’re effective and easy to fit, and that they can be positioned facing to the rear of the vehicle. For more info about child seats, check out the Good Egg Safety Guides.

Best Euro NCAP ratings 2017/8


Kia Rio

Small family car

Citroën C3 Aircross

Large family car

Vauxhall Insignia


Volvo V90

Small MPV

Vauxhall Crossland X

Small off-road 4x4

Volkswagen T-Roc


Toyota C-HR

About the Author

Lucy Sweet