Brussels, Belgium - Euro NCAP has just released the crash test results of 14 new or recently facelifted cars, many of which are relevant to the South African market.
What stands out is that fewer vehicles are achieving the full five star rating and many of those that scored top marks in previous tests are now managing an overall rating of just three stars.
This does not necessarily mean that cars are becoming less safe in the event of an accident, however - just that Euro NCAP is constantly raising the bar.
One factor at play here is that in the last few years pedestrian protection and active safety features - those being the ones that aim to prevent you from having an accident in the first place - play a much bigger role in determining the overall score.
There are many accidents that such features cannot prevent, however, which is why as far as we’re concerned, buyers should always pay particular attention to the adult occupant score - also bearing in mind that a local car could have less airbags than its European equivalent, which would affect the score.
EuroNCAP still lists a separate adult occupant score as one of four factors for each crash test, in addition to the overall score that gets widely publicised at the end.
Many vehicles - particularly in the premium segments - are still managing an overall score of five stars, and the SA-relevant top-scorers from Euro NCAP’s latest round of crash tests are the BMW 6-Series GT and Jaguar F-Pace.
At the lower end of the scale, Toyota’s recently facelifted Yaris also attained the maximum five-star rating.
Its smaller sibling, the Aygo, scored between three and four stars, with the former rating depending on it being fitted with the optional safety pack, which includes emergency auto braking and a lane assistance system.
Both scored a commendable 82 percent for adult occupant protection.
The latest round of testing produced its fair share of three-star cars, including the new-generation Dacia Duster, which will be badged as a Renault when it arrives in South Africa towards the end of 2018.
Like many other vehicles, the Duster lost out largely due to its safety assist score, but it did manage 71 percent for adult occupant protection and the structure was rated as stable.
EuroNCAP also tested the facelifted Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which barely a year ago had attained five stars overall, but in the latest tests it was given just three stars, mainly due to the safety assist factor. Its adult occupant protection score amounted to 72 percent.
The biggest loser of the latest round, however, was the Fiat Punto, which scored five stars 12 years ago, but which has now been demoted to zero stars - the first no-star rating ever by Euro NCAP - due to today’s rules requiring a minimum amount of points in each of the four areas of assessment. The small Fiat, which is no longer sold in South Africa, still managed 51 percent for adult occupant protection.
Of the vehicles that are not immediately relevant to the SA market, Euro NCAP awarded five stars to the Hyundai Kona and between three and five to its Kia Stonic cousin (depending on the optional features fitted). Both have yet to be confirmed for our market.
Kia’s new rear-wheel-driven Stinger scored five stars overall, while the MG ZS, Ford C-Max, DS 3 and Opel Karl all fell into the three-star bracket.
Euro NCAP Secretary General, Michiel van Ratingen, said: “We have seen a lot of good cars in 2017, able to meet Euro NCAP’s 5-star requirements. Superminis like the new Polo, the Fiesta and the Ibiza now come with advanced safety technology as standard, offering the best in crash avoidance and crash protection.
“The fact that older cars cannot compete illustrates the pace at which the vehicle industry is innovating safety and the willingness and ability of competitive manufacturers to meet the highest standards. Those who do not keep their cars up to the latest standards get left behind, as these results clearly show.”