Unlocking Bharat NCAP: How safe is your car?

India will get its own crash safety star rating for four-wheelers from 1 October to make cars safer than they are today. What is the Bharat New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP), how does it work and how will it benefit consumers and the industry? Mint explains.

What is Bharat NCAP?

It is a new safety assessment programme for passenger vehicles that can seat up to eight people and weigh less than 3.5 tonnes. It will bring India at par with other parts of the world like the US, Europe, Japan, Australia and Latin America that have NCAPs of their own. As part of the programme, cars will be crash-tested and given points which in turn would translate into stars. The safest of the lot will get five stars. Bharat NCAP will bring about more transparency, create awareness among consumers and help buyers choose cars on their safety credentials.

How will the cars be tested?

There will be three types of crash tests — frontal, side and pole-side impact tests. The frontal test would be carried out at 64 kmph while the side and pole-side (when a side hits a pole or a tree) tests would be at 50 kmph and 29 kmph. Scoring would be done for both adult safety for front passengers and child safety at the rear. Out of a maximum 32 points for adult safety, a car would have to score at least 27 for a 5-star rating. For child safety, a 5-star rating would be awarded for those cars that score a minimum 41 out of 49 points. For child safety, points would also be given for restraint systems like ISOFIX anchorages.

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Graphic: Mint

Will all cars come with star ratings from 1 October?

Bharat NCAP will be rolled out from 1 October but it will be voluntary, so cars will only be tested at the request of makers. Currently, all cars in India have to qualify a basic conformity crash test which is more lenient — the frontal crash test, for example, is conducted at 56 kmph. No star ratings are given, so consumers cannot choose on the basis of safety credentials.

What’s the point if it is not mandatory?

Even in developed countries, NCAPs are mostly voluntary. They are aimed at nudging firms to offer more than the basic safety features by sparking competition. For example to achieve at least 3 stars, cars would have to be equipped with electronic stability control and curtain airbags, which are not needed to pass the basic approval tests. Many firms have already started providing these features as standard in anticipation of this, such as the new Hyundai Exter and Kia Carens. Maruti now offers ESC as standard in many of its cars.

How well are Indian cars expected to do?

Global NCAP has been crash-testing Indian cars since 2014 and there’s been marked progress in the last few years. Of the 62 crash tests conducted so far, 20 cars scored 0 stars, but they are all from 5 years ago. Eight cars (all of them less then 3 years old) have scored 5 stars for adults. With centres in Pune, Manesar and Indore now equipped to conduct these tests, it will become easier and cheaper for firms to get their cars tested in India. It should lead to more cars getting tested as companies would look to leverage their star ratings.

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