What Is Euro NCAP, And What Does Its Crash Testing Mean For You?

This organization performs important vehicle testing for the UK and several countries on the continent.

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Founded in 1996, the European New Car Assessment Program, or Euro NCAP, crash-tests popular models and evaluates vehicle technologies to help protect and educate consumers—similar to the role played by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the states. The program’s members include several governments and motoring associations. Its standards for safety go beyond the minimum requirements of the law, encouraging automakers to up their game and voluntarily adopt new technologies for the sake of consumers’ welfare.

How Does Euro NCAP Evaluate Vehicles?

Like NHTSA and the IIHS, Euro NCAP performs a number of crash tests to assess safety in an accident. These include front- and side-impact collisions (into rigid and deformable barriers) as well as a dynamic whiplash test. It also evaluates the potential injury incurred by pedestrians when struck.

Further, the organization considers a model’s child restraint system, its post-crash safety (i.e., the ease of occupant rescue and extraction), and its driver-assistance technology, including the presence and effectiveness of automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control systems. How a vehicle stacks up in these tests will determine its Euro NCAP rating, where, like NHTSA scoring, five stars is the best.

Euro NCAP regularly updates its testing and assessment procedures—as well as its rating system—to consider advancements in the field. Because of this, it wouldn’t necessarily be fair to compare the five-star rating of a 2012 model with that of a 2022 car. It’s for this reason that Euro NCAP ratings automatically expire after six years.

Which Vehicles Does Euro NCAP Test?

Euro NCAP doesn’t test every new model that comes to market, nor every variant of a model. Instead, its members elect and sponsor the vehicles they believe are most important or relevant to consumers. Automakers may choose to sponsor a vehicle’s participation in the program, too. The organization generally evaluates the bestselling variant in a model range and its standard safety equipment. Rarely will it consider optional features.

Even with this selection process, Euro NCAP ends up evaluating the bulk of the market. Of the models sold in Europe in 2019, for instance, 92% had a valid rating, and only 3% of new cars remained unrated.

Do Euro NCAP Ratings Have an Impact on US-Market Vehicles?

Euro NCAP ratings apply only to models sold in Europe, but automakers may make design and equipment decisions to achieve top marks in the organization’s various tests. Those decisions may influence how a model looks and/or what features it offers globally.

The organization also regularly consults with NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board about testing procedures.

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Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. There, she covers everything from automotive and business to travel and luxury. She has a passion for 1980s-era Volvo wagons, microcars, and dogs. She is also a World Car Juror.