Euro NCAP has said the increasing popularity of SUVs presents a "safety concern" and that its own safety rules aren't to blame for the increasing size and weight of modern cars.
The Belgium-based safety organisation has published safety ratings for 11 new cars in its final round of testing for 2023, seven of which were SUVs: the Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV, Kia EV9, Vinfast VF8, Xpeng G9, BYD Tang, BYD Seal-U and the Honda ZR-V. It also tested the BMW 5 Series, Volkswagen ID 7, Smart #3 and Hyundai Kona Electric, the latter two of which are crossovers.
The majority of the SUVs tested were awarded five stars, but Euro NCAP suggested the trend towards "heavier, more powerful, and taller cars" risks the safety of other drivers and said they're more damaging to the environment than smaller, lighter cars.
Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen said: "For years, Euro NCAP was accused of pushing up the weight of cars. It was thought that additional safety features meant extra mass. That was never really the case, and the increase in vehicle weight we see nowadays is certainly not safety-related. It's down to consumer preference for larger vehicles and to electrification, with ever bigger batteries being used to quell consumers’ range anxiety."
Van Ratingen later went on to explain how this trend "helps neither safety nor the environment", with safety concerns emerging from a collision scenario or when "vulnerable road users" are involved.
Despite the concerns, the latest crop of SUVs performed well in NCAP’s tests. The top-ranking Mercedes EQE SUV scored well for its safety assistance technology but was let down by its central airbag system. The larger Kia EV9 was awarded five stars due to its coverage of child safety equipment.
Also achieving the target result was the Smart #3, however it was noted that both passengers in the front seats made contact during a crash and the car wasn't equipped with child presence detection - a system that triggers a warning to the driver if a child has been left unbuckled in their seat.
Another crossover on test was the second-generation Hyundai Kona Electric, which Euro NCAP said was a "real disappointment" and "lucky to avoid three stars". Its crash avoidance and driver assistance systems were lacking and didn't represent enough of an improvement over the previous Kona.
Also falling short of the five-star mark was the Honda ZR-V. Despite being the lightest car on test, at 1589kg, it scored four stars.
Cars from both China and – for the first time – Vietnam also featured. The BYD Tang, BYD Seal-U, and Xpeng G9 were awarded five stars, with the G9 lacking only in pedestrian head protection and abdominal protection for smaller occupants.