Euro NCAP Car Safety Tests and Scores Explained

Published Date: 29th Mar 2023

Euro NCAP Ratings Explained

When you're in the market for a new car, there's a lot to consider, including how safe the car is. That's where Euro NCAP comes in. Euro NCAP stands for the European New Car Assessment Programme, and it's an independent body that tests and scores the safety of new cars.

Here is a summary of the Five star Euro NCAP Ratings:

  • 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


Image of a Car Crash TestEuro NCAP is committed to advancing car safety technology and ensuring that all cars on the road are as safe as possible. Their testing programme is rigorous and constantly evolving, with crash-test regimes periodically updated to make sure cars are assessed using the most stringent criteria possible.

One of the key things to understand about Euro NCAP's safety ratings is that they include a dual rating. Cars are tested with and without various high-tech safety features, such as autonomous emergency braking. This means a car may get five stars if it has this feature but drop to four stars for the second rating if it's not standard.

If a car manufacturer wants to get a second optional star rating, they must confirm that they expect the extra safety technology to be fitted on at least 25% of models sold. This ensures buyers can access the latest safety features and decide which car to buy.

Euro NCAP's testing programme also includes a new moving, deformable barrier test that assesses whether larger, heavier cars put occupants of smaller vehicles at significant risk. This is particularly important as SUVs and EVs become more popular, and it ensures that drivers of small hatchbacks and city cars are as well protected as possible.

Euro NCAP also uses a new crash-test dummy called THOR (Test device for Human Occupant Restraint) to represent better how human bodies behave in collisions. This is an important concept known as 'biofidelity,' and it ensures that car safety testing is as accurate as possible.




Finally, Euro NCAP has introduced a new set of safety tests that assess the grades given to a car’s safety assist technology that won’t affect a car’s overall Euro NCAP star rating, partly because many of these systems are optional. Instead, cars will be given a mark based on how well the systems work and how accurately they are marketed to consumers.

Image of a Car going FastHow effectively the systems perform when the driver overrules them by altering the car’s course is assessed, and the tech is given an overall grade of Very good, Good, Moderate, or Entry.

Euro NCAP is an independent organization that crash-tests new cars and provides safety ratings. The ratings are based on a variety of factors, including how well the car protects occupants in a crash, how well it avoids crashes, and how well it protects pedestrians.

Euro NCAP's ratings are important because they help consumers make informed decisions about which car to buy. A car with a higher Euro NCAP rating will likely be safer than one with a lower rating.

Euro NCAP's crash test program is divided into four areas:

  1. Adult Occupant Protection
  2. Child Occupant Protection
  3. Pedestrian Protection
  4. Safety Assist


The Adult Occupant Protection rating is based on crash scenarios that simulate frontal impact (off-set and ‘head-on’), crashing side-on into a moving object and hitting a fixed object like a lamp post or telegraph pole. Whiplash protection and the effectiveness of Autonomous Braking Systems are also factored in.

The Child Occupant Protection rating is based on three factors: the protection provided by child restraint systems in front and side impacts, the ability to accommodate restraints of different sizes and designs, and provisions within the vehicle that facilitate the safe use of child seats. (e.g. ISOFIX child seat anchorages, airbag deactivation systems and clear labelling of such features)

The Pedestrian Protection rating is determined by assessing the risk of head, pelvis and leg injuries from various front-end structures, including the bonnet and windscreen, bonnet edge and bumper. More points are awarded if Autonomous Emergency Braking systems mitigate the injury.

The Safety Assist rating is compiled from the driver assistance technologies Euro NCAP has determined to offer the greatest safety. It monitors the inclusion of everything from seatbelt reminders to adaptive cruise control.




Euro NCAP's ratings are a valuable tool for consumers who are looking for a safe car. However, it's important to remember that they are just one factor to consider when making a decision. Other factors to consider include the car's price, fuel efficiency, and features.

Euro NCAP Testing Evolution timeline:

Comparing Euro NCAP Test Scores: 

The Euro NCAP crash tests are regularly updated to ensure they remain relevant and provide the most valuable information to consumers. However, this can create challenges when comparing scores across different Euro NCAP test regimes.

It's important to note that existing Euro NCAP crash test scores are valid for the entire lifespan of a vehicle. Although newer versions of a car may undergo re-testing, the scores for older models do not change when a new star rating is awarded.

To compare Euro NCAP test scores, you can start by looking at the overall star rating for each model. However, you can also compare the percentage scores for each of the four main test categories for a more detailed analysis. The Euro NCAP website provides a breakdown of how these category results are determined and videos of the crash tests themselves.

While comparing Euro NCAP test scores, it's important to keep in mind that factors such as vehicle size and weight can impact the results. Additionally, the availability of certain safety features may differ between models and affect their scores. Considering these factors, you can make more informed decisions when comparing Euro NCAP test scores.

When to Avoid Comparing Euro NCAP ratings

The Euro NCAP crash tests have undergone several changes over time, making it difficult to directly compare scores for cars that have undergone different versions of the tests. For example, a model tested before the 2009 rule shake-up could have scored five stars based solely on its performance in the impact tests. However, if the same model was tested under the new rules a month later, it may have scored only four stars if it lacked Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

Similarly, comparing scores for cars tested before late 2020, when the latest round of assessments was rolled out, may not provide a fair comparison. The new rules are more stringent, penalizing heavy cars that cause damage to smaller vehicles in collisions and enforcing stricter Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) assessments.




While comparing scores for cars tested under the same assessments and in the same class is valid, it's important to remember that high scores achieved on earlier versions of the test may not be replicated if the same model were re-tested today. More information on changes to the test can be found on the Euro NCAP website, where the organization highlights the regime under which each car was assessed.

Do not compare Euro NCAP scores if the cars were tested under different versions of the tests. For example, a car tested before the 2009 rule shake-up could have scored five stars purely on the basis of good scores in the impact tests. If the same model had been tested under the new rules a month later, it might have scored only four stars because it didn't feature Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

Do not compare Euro NCAP scores if the cars are in different classes. For example, a five-star rated supermini might not be as safe as a five-star rated SUV.

The Euro NCAP test is a valuable tool for consumers, but it is important to understand its limitations. By comparing cars that were tested under the same conditions, you can get a better idea of their relative safety.


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UK Car Discount can help you find a brand new vehicle with a Five Star Euro NCAP Rating that best meets your needs if you're in the market for a new car. Our team of experts can advise you in detail on your chosen vehicle's safety features and security considerations so that you can make an informed decision. Contact us today om 0161 946 3500 to learn more about how we can help you buy your next car.