I see EuroNCAP is indulging in a spot more pointless tinkering with its star ratings while, as ever, ignoring the elephant in the room.

2007_crash_test All an NCAP test does is measure how a car performs during a certain sort of crash: it takes no account of a car’s ability not to have that crash in the first place.

In other words it measures a car’s secondary, not primary safety. Those who believe prevention is better than cure will remain as baffled by this as me.

Bodies like EuroNCAP must also be held at least partly responsible for the huge rise in car kerb weights in recent years and all the attendant performance, braking, handling, economy and emissions issues that have come with them.

A good EuroNCAP rating is doubtless a fine guide to how a safe a car is in a very specific kind of accident, but it’s just as good at providing marketing departments with sales tools. Safety – or perceived safety – sells, so manufacturers have made their cars heavier so they crash better in EuroNCAP tests and therefore sell better.

Which is fine so far as it goes until you consider that every extra kilogram added is one more kilogram for the car to slow down, or swerve out of danger’s way. And because there is no measure of the effect this weight has on primary or active safety, we have no idea whether, net, the cars are actually safer or not.

When I’ve asked about this, the stock response is that primary safety data is difficult to generate reliably, but I can’t see why EuroNCAP can’t publish something as fundamental and basic as, say, braking distances from 60mph to rest in the dry on a known surface.

If one car took the length of a double decker bus more to stop than a rival, it could have all the airbags in the world and I’d not want to buy it.

 

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