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by Matt Brogan

EuroNCAP, the European organisation that assesses the safety of new cars, has introduced a new overall car safety rating. The rating system is a new approach to rating safety performance and will challenge vehicle manufacturers to make all-round safer cars. The first six cars rated to the new standards are now revealed.

Previously, EuroNCAP made three separate ratings available for each vehicle. From now on, EuroNCAP will publish a new overall rating for every vehicle that will cover Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Pedestrian Protection and a new area of assessment: Safety Assist.

Under the new testing regime, vehicles are awarded a single overall score from one to five stars. The assessment incorporates all previous aspects and includes the recently introduced Rear Impact (Whiplash) tests. In addition, the availability of Electronic Safety Program (ESP) and speed limitation devices is considered.

The overall rating is based on the car’s performance in each of the four main areas and the scores are weighted with respect to each other. Over the next three years, stricter requirements will be introduced increasing the emphasis on all-round safety performance and demanding higher levels of achievement in each area.

Of the six cars tested, four achieved EuroNCAP’s maximum award of five stars. The power of the new scheme is already evident as two manufacturers evaded a downgraded result by making ESP optional on all variants.

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EuroNCAP’s top scorers with five star results were the Mazda 6, Mitsubishi Lancer, Toyota Avensis and Toyota iQ. The Citroen C3 Picasso and the Subaru Impreza were both awarded four stars.

Following EuroNCAP’s assessment, Mitsubishi and Subaru both committed to changing their ESP fitment policies for the Lancer and Impreza, as variants without optional ESP were offered in some countries. EuroNCAP’s new rating scheme requires all safety equipment, including ESP, to be standard on 85 per cent of volume sales and at least optionally available on every variant.

Toyota with the Avensis and iQ demonstrated that car size does not stand in the way of all-round safety. The Citroen C3 Picasso is the first of the tested cars that received points for its on-board speed limitation device, a new requirement under EuroNCAP’s rating scheme.

Whilst the outstanding results of this first batch of cars prove they offer the latest in vehicle safety, the underlying scores clearly expose potential for improvement. Most cars tested showed a weak performance in the side impact pole test.

EuroNCAP’s new assessment now considers more critical body regions than the head alone. A good Whiplash result was achieved only by the Toyota Avensis. All cars tested, except the Subaru Impreza, still failed to impress on pedestrian protection.

“We acknowledge that this new rating scheme is more challenging in some areas, but it does offer lead time to manufacturers in others. We call this ‘smart pressure'”, said Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of EuroNCAP.

“We need to raise the bar, but consider the current environment and give carmakers the opportunity to implement the best safety features into their vehicles. These manufacturers have shown that they are meeting all of our early targets. We look forward to seeing where they go next”.

EuroNCAP is well aware that in times of economic crisis priorities are made. EuroNCAP wants to make sure that safety remains a top priority. In 2007, the economic damages generated by traffic accidents were estimated at €200 billion, corresponding to approximately two per cent of the European Union’s Gross National Product.

By ensuring safety design and equipment are introduced through recognition by the new Rating Scheme, this will in turn lessen the financial burden on society and will continue to help relieve the emotional trauma encountered by millions of families across Europe.

EuroNCAP believes not prioritising safety is a false economy and that manufacturers who remain committed to safety will be justly awarded with a good overall rating.

Source: EuroNCAP




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