What is Euro NCAP?

  • What does Euro NCAP mean?
  • Find out about crash testing
  • Parkers explains all

Euro NCAP, or the European New Car Assessment Programme, is an organisation that tests the vast majority of new cars for their safety performance. It’s based in Brussels, Belgium and was formed in 1997.

It’s backed by several European governments and the European Union (EU) itself.

How does it work?

The original idea was to assess how cars fared in the event of a collision, so tests were carried out on video using crash dummies and a car given a star rating between one and five for both adult occupant protection and pedestrian protection.

You can see an example early crash test below:

It took until 2001 for a car to score full marks – the Renault Laguna got a perfect five for adult occupant protection.

Fast-forward to 2003 and a new child protection rating was introduced, and by 2007 ESC came under the spotlight, followed a year later by whiplash protection.

A milestone was reached in 2009 when a new rating system was implemented, comprising an overall rating out of five but including scores for adult occupant, child protection, pedestrian protection and advanced driver assistance systems such as stability control.

More advanced kit was introduced to the rating system in 2010, such as automatic SOS calling features and collision mitigation systems like Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-safe.

Autonomous emergency braking was included in 2014 along with lane-keeping assistance and lane-departure warning tech.

Cars with optional safety packs can now qualify for a second score judging them on these features. 

We show all published Euro NCAP scores in the Features section of our full car reviews.

Do I need it?

You do. It’s a direct reflection of how your car will fare in a crash test, and the more recent ratings also include a lot of newer tech.

It’s not the be-all and end-all, though. There are new systems being released all the time that aren’t included in the test but can affect the safety of your car.

Features such as night vision (available on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series) or Matrix LED headlights such as found on higher-spec Audi models like the R8 aren’t included, but do improve a car’s safety.

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The overwhelming majority of mainstream new cars will have been crash tested by Euro NCAP.

Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions.