According to the WHO, over 170,000 Europeans die in motor vehicle accidents each year, and a further 5 million are injured. Clearly, improved vehicle safety is essential to improve road transport safety. Moreover, safety has become a powerful factor in new car sales. The European New Car Assessment Program (Euro-NCAP) [a consortium of agencies which includes: Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e V (ADAC), Alliance Internationale de Tourisme (AIT), Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Bau- und Wohnungswesen, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR), Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, European Commission (EU), Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Generalitat de Catalunya, International Consumer Research and Testing, Ministère de l'Equipement, and the Swedish National Road Administration], publish tests that provide consumers with accurate information based on in-depth research about the safety performance of individual car models in frontal and side collisions.
From October 1998, all new car models sold in the European Union must meet tough new test standards. The new standards replace a single full-width frontal impact test that dates back to 1974 (a head-on crash into a concrete block at 50km/h). The first Euro-NCAP report was published in February of 1997.
Offset Frontal Impact - In the frontal offset (as opposed to full frontal) impact test, a moving vehicle with dummies in the driver's and the front passenger seat hits an offset deformable barrier at 64 km/h (40 mph), in order to evaluate the impact on the head, chest, and legs - and (in contrast to the 1974 testing protocol) also to assess damage to the vehicle. This test represents a typical head-on collision of two vehicles of the same weight, travelling at 64 km/h (40 mph). Because only part of the vehicle body sustains the impact, the impact on the dummy is less than in full-frontal collisions, but there is greater vehicle body deformation, making it suitable for the evaluation of the injury caused by intrusion to occupants.
Key To Frontal Impact Ratings
In the offset frontal impact test, instead of hitting a solid block head-on, the test car crashes into a deformable structure (a crushable aluminum face), resembling the most important characteristics of the other car's front. Other cars do not behave like solid objects when hit: they 'give' at the front, hence the aluminium honeycomb block used in the test. The impact across 40 per cent of the test car's front represents a crash with a car of equivalent size and weight. Frontal car-to-car crashes are by far the most common sort of accident, and usually involve a collision across only part of the car's width. The offset test is always on the driver's side where there is more risk of injury from the steering wheel and pedals. This is essential in ensuring that a car's front is designed to absorb the impact's energy in a realistic way. This sort of test is actually tougher for a car to do well in than one involving a full-on collision with a solid block. The Euro-NCAP test is carried out at 64km/h (40mph).
Although similar to the American IIHS testing regimen, there is considerable variation between IIHS and the Euro-NCAP chest compression criteria. In particular, more lenient standards in the US for chest compression resulted in discrepancies between IIHS and Euro-NCAP ratings. This has led to some vehicles receiving a markedly different rating under Euro-NCAP compared with IIHS or previous Australian-NCAP procedures. This can undermine the credibility of the programs in the eyes of consumers - a point not lost on some NCAP-sceptical motoring journalists.
Side Impact - Side impacts rank behind only frontal crashes as the cause of front-seat occupant fatalities, accounting for 33% of all fatalities in any given year. It is estimated that at least 50% of those fatalites are a direct result of head injuries. Euro-NCAP crash tests demonstrate the potential benefits of side airbags with head protection in side impact crashes.
Key To Side Impact Ratings
Side impacts are less frequent than frontal collisions but their consequences are often more serious. In the Euro-NCAP side impact test, a stationary vehicle with dummies seated in the driver's and front passenger's seat is rammed by a moving trolley (with a crushable aluminum face) going 50 km/h (30 mph) directly centered on the driver's seating postition.
There is a new provision in the Euro-NCAP protocol for a side impact pole test to be conducted at the manufacturer's expense. This only applies where a maximum head score is achieved in the side impact barrier test and a "head protecting" side airbag is provided. Until all vehicles are pole tested, we will not add this test to Crashtest.com's ratings. (See European NCAP Star Ratings, below.)
Pedestrian Protection - Under guidelines established by the EEVS, Euro-NCAP has begun a testing program geared towards protecting pedestrians as well as vehicle occupants. Pedestrians are much more vulnerable than car occupants when a crash occurs. Euro NCAP's pedestrian evaluation tests the most hazardous areas of each model. This is done by firing dummy parts at those areas, simulating 40kph (25mph) accidents involving adults and children. A simulated leg is impacted against the bumper, an upper leg against the front edge of the bonnet, and dummy heads, both child- and adult-sized, at points on the bonnet. Each of the heads are tested at six different locations and each limb at three, making 18 impacts in all. Measuring devices inside the dummy parts record the severity of impact, and the results are used to rate each car.
No cars yet tested have provided sufficient protection to meet all of the requirements of the proposed legislation. However Euro NCAP provides an incentive for manufacturers to do more to protect pedestrians. Currently a median is taken allowing each car's performance to be described as better or worse than average. No legislation setting out minimum requirements for pedestrian safety currently exists, but the proposed requirements could eventually become law. Because the requirements are only in the proposal stage and Euro-NCAP is the only agency participating in these tests, Crashtest.com does not include the results in our ratings. Interested parties can click on a specific vehicle's hyperlink to see how they faired in pedestrian testing (providing they were tested).
European NCAP Star Ratings
Upon publication of their first 1997 Mini Car test results, the Euro-NCAP decided to adopt the star rating system used by the US NHTSA. Fortunately they instituted a new testing regimen that utilized a 4-category (Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor) rating system developed by the European Enhanced Vehicle Safety Committee (similar to the US IIHS), instead of the NHTSA's antiquated testing system. The EEVS criteria measures damage to the vehicle in addition to the impact on the dummy. (In contrast, current NHTSA tests do not take into account vehicle body deformation and intrusion, which can add substantially to injuries sustained by vehicle occupants.)
Until recently the highest-rated Euro-NCAP tested vehicles could only get a 4-star rating. There is now an additional side-impact pole test that can be conducted at the manufacturer's expense. If a vehicle passes the pole test, a 5th star is shown in the Euro-NCAP overall rating. Until the NHTSA adopts a more modern testing regimen, the Euro-NCAP tests are not directly comparable to the US NCAP/NHTSA tests. So, a 4 or 5 star Euro-NCAP result has little correlation to a 4 or 5 star US-NCAP result.
New car buyers can use the star ratings to compare
at a glance how cars on their shopping list fared. But, because the combined star rating reflects both front and
side-impact safety, serious flaws can be masked when a car does well in, say, the frontal test, and badly in the
side impact test.
The formula for calculating the EuroNCAP ratings
are as follows: The results of the offset and side impact crash tests are evaluated. Each
of four body regions is assigned a score out of a maximum of 4 points. For example, a HIC of 1000, which is poor,
would result a head score of zero but a good HIC of 600 would earn 4 points. Where more than one injury measurement
applies for the body region then the lowest value is used - this includes the passenger scores in the case of the
offset crash test.
To avoid any further confusion, Crashtest.com has decided to use the Euro-NCAP percentage-based scores to rate the Euro-NCAP tested vehicles, instead of the confusing star system. In addition to giving a seperate score for the frontal offset and side impact tests, (not available in a single star rating), the test results of more European and American vehicles can be directly compared to each other using our similar rating system. Until the international testing agencies agree on a single way of representing their data, we'll stick to this system for the EuroNCAP. It's not perfect, but we feel it's less confusing than the rating method currently in place.