Naturally, drivers will be concerned about their safety and the safety of their passengers while on the road. So it’s no surprise that cars are being built with more safety features than ever before. But how can you tell which car is more safe than another?

One way to do this is to look at the Euro New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) crash test scores.

Euro NCAP puts cars through their paces to help drivers determine which vehicles provide the best protection in a collision.

How are cars graded?

Cars are awarded an overall safety rating, based on four different categories:

  1. Adult occupant protection: covers the driver and front passenger. The vehicle is assessed on a range of frontal impact, side impact and whiplash tests, to get an idea of just how much protection is provided for those sitting at the front of the car.
  2. Child occupant protection: determines how well child restraint systems work through frontal and side impact tests, how well the vehicle can accommodate child restraints of different sizes and designs, and also whether it provides features like ISOFIX anchorages on various seating positions.
  3. Vulnerable road user protection: considers the potential impact on cyclists and pedestrians that a car may collide with. Vehicles with an autonomous emergency braking system score well in this category.
  4. Safety assist: examines what technology the car has to support safe driving and helps motorists to avoid accidents and reduce the impact of any accidents.

What do the ratings mean?

Cars are awarded a rating out of five stars in the Euro NCAP tests:

Five stars ‒ overall good performance in crash protection, well equipped with robust crash avoidance technology.

Four stars ‒ overall good performance in crash protection, additional crash avoidance technology may be present.

Three stars ‒ average to good occupant protection, but lacking crash avoidance technology.

Two stars ‒ nominal crash protection, but lacking crash avoidance technology.

One star ‒ marginal crash protection.

Which ratings matter?

It’s a good idea to pay close attention to what year the test was carried out. The tests are updated regularly, with new checks added and star levels adjusted.

As a result, the latest star rating is the most relevant so it should be the one you refer to when determining how safe the vehicle really is.

It’s also worth noting that some cars have two different star ratings. One rating is based on a car fitted with safety equipment, which is standard on each variant sold throughout the EU. The second rating is based on a car with an additional safety pack, which may be sold as an add-on option. Drivers can then judge for themselves just how much additional protection is offered, and whether it’s worth paying extra.

Are all cars tested?

With so many different models launched every year, Euro NCAP says it is unable to test every different version.

As a result, it tests a selection of some of the most popular and interesting models on the market.

How safe is my car?

You can use the Euro NCAP website to search for individual car makes and models to get an idea of their safety rating.

The results will not only detail the overall star rating, but also give a percentage score for how well it performed in the four separate testing categories.

For example, the Kia Ceed scored an overall rating of four stars. But this was made up of an 88% score in the adult protection category, 85% in the child protection category, 52% in the vulnerable road user category and 68% in the star assist category.

You can download a copy of the report on the particular model, and even watch videos of the crash testing.

Euro NCAP also presents a list of the ‘best in class’ at the end of each year, breaking down the top safety performers in divisions such as large off-road, small family car and hybrid & electric.

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Advanced rewards

Alongside the star ratings, Euro NCAP provides an ‘advanced reward’ system. This looks at the advanced safety technology included on some vehicles, which have a scientifically proven safety benefit to drivers, but that are not yet considered in the main star rating.

So, when looking up how a car has performed, it’s worth checking to see if any of the available tech has also received an advanced reward.  Features like the Fiat City Brake Control and Opel’s Side Blank Spot Alert have received this Euro NCAP reward in the past.

Go to Solved to read more about driving, the rules of the road and road safety.