It’s an important question… but one without a simple answer. The reality is, travelling in any vehicle automatically poses some level of risk to its occupants in the event of an accident or collision. You are sharing a road with other drivers, all of whom – like yourself – are controlling heavy cars capable of high speeds, meaning you cannot possibly be 100% protected, regardless of how careful you consider yourself…
BUT you can feel safe in the knowledge that there are measures in place to assess the safety of a vehicle before it goes to market – and those specific ratings are available to help you make your choice of vehicle on this basis.
Enter Euro NCAP…
What is the Euro NCAP rating?
Euro NCAP – the European new car assessment programme – was established in 1997 and is composed of seven European Governments as well as motoring and consumer organisations in every European country.
Each NCAP uses six types of car crash tests and assess a car in each of these for four key areas: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, pedestrian protection and safety assistance, with the last of those categories covering technology such as AEB and lane-departure warning. Those four categories are assigned a percentage score and, taken in conjunction, dictate how many stars (out of five) the car is assigned.
This rating comprehensively assesses the way the car is built and how it is likely to behave in a collision.
Car crash tests explained
The six main kinds of NCAP car crash tests are as follows:
Designed to simulate the most common type of road crash (one car striking another of similar mass, head-on) usually resulting in serious or fatal injury. A car travels at 40mph and strikes a deformable barrier that is offset to the driver’s side. Readings are taken from dummies in the front two seats to examine the protection of head, chest and limbs.
Car to car side
Whilst not a true simulation of a ‘T-Bone’ impact typically experienced at junctions, it gives a good idea of the level of protection provided from intrusion into the driver’s side. A mobile deformable barrier strikes the driver’s door at 31mph while the car is stationary.
According to Euro NCAP, in Europe, nearly a quarter of all serious-to-fatal accidents happen as a result of side-impact collisions. During the test, the car is thrust sideways at 18mph into a fixed pole. Curtain or side impact airbags assist in protecting head and upper torso.
designed to account for the following kinds of impact; frontal, car to car side, pole side, child and pedestrian and safety assist. Car safety has come on in leaps and bounds since the days of wooden steering wheels, bench seating and lap belts. Car makers have embraced the notion of advanced vehicle safety by working with the European new car assessment programme
So, what are the safest cars?
Reassuringly, most modern cars are now manufactured to incorporate safety systems designed to protect us in the event of a collision. Some of these – such as electronic stability programmes (ESP), ISOFIX child-seat mounts and anti-lock brakes (ABS) – are a legal requirement. Other protective feature such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane-departure warning systems – are not mandatory, however, they are becoming increasingly common.
Euro NCAP tests mean that all car models can be thoroughly measured in terms of safety they are in the event of a collision. According to Carbuyer, these are the top three safest vehicles of 2016 in accordance with the results:
- Alfa Romeo Giulia saloon
With a 98% result in the adult occupant rating, this car scored the highest of any car tested by Euro NCAP in both 2015 and 2016. Also praised for its side-impact protection and whiplash-minimising seats, the Giulia
- Volkswagen Tiguan SUV
For the family-friendly buyer, this may be the option you’re looking for. The Tiguan has a 96% adult occupant score and an 84% child occupant score, which are strong credentials to a buyer looking for something safe to ferry the little ones around. Testers were impressed by the car’s performance in both frontal and side impact tests,
- Mercedes E-Class saloon
The E-Class is one of the safest cars on our list thanks to a 95% adult occupant protection score, but its construction and safety technology also make it a hugely impressive all-rounder. This model actually scored better for child occupant protection than both the Tiguan and the Giulia with a score of 90%, making it a good option to consider for transporting infants.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that travelling on the roads will always carry risks, whether these can be attributed to weather conditions, the vehicle you drive or the efforts you take to ensure that your vehicle is well maintained. But you can, however, use careful research to ascertain which cars are best suited to your requirements with regards to safety, and Euro NCAP is a great place to start.