New safety rating set to confuse

  • Euro NCAP announces plans to change its safety rating system
  • New system could cause confusion for car buyers
  • Latest changes will take new safety tech into account

From February 2009, cars will be awarded an overall score out of five stars, based on the outcome of safety tests for the protection of adult occupants, child occupants and pedestrians, plus a new category called safety assist.

The new test takes into account the safety technology fitted to the car, and any range that doesn't come with Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) on the majority of its models will not be able to score the maximum five stars.

However, the new ratings system isn't retrospective and will not apply to cars that have already been classified. Existing five-star cars will not be changed - even if they fail to qualify for top marks under the new criteria.

This means that drivers are now faced with more than one safety rating system to decipher when buying their next car.

David Ross, Parker’s Road Tester, said: “While the NCAP rating changes should increase new car safety, it simply means more confusion for buyers. A five-star rated car that was tested under the old system may not be as safe as a five-star car tested under the new rules.

“Euro NCAP should have applied the new testing criteria to previous results, giving buyers reliable ratings on both newer and older cars. In moving the goalposts the safety organisation will merely cause uncertainty among car buyers as to the consistency of the ratings.”

However Euro NCAP believe that the change will  give people the “simplest and clearest advice on overall safety.”

Defending the changes, Euro NCAP said: “We believe that consumers understand that technology including safety technology is always evolving. The five stars achieved three years ago were five stars in relation to their year of test.

“Our ratings are always time related, just as if you are buying a washing machine – you realise that if you buy one today it will be better than two years ago.”