Volkswagen up! loses two NCAP stars as VW removes auto-braking function

Latest crash-test results see Euro NCAP dock stars in up!’s retest, as assessors criticise VW for removing AEB from its options list

The Volkwsagen up! city car has scored three stars in the latest round of Euro NCAP crash test results, down from the maximum five stars it was awarded when first assessed in 2011. While Euro NCAP tested the electric e-up!, the new score also applies to the facelifted petrol-powered up! due in the new year, as well as the mechanically identical SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo.

Much of the blame for the two-star loss lies with the up!’s reduced safety assist score, and changing crash-test criteria. In 2011 the up! scored 86 per cent for safety assist technology, partly thanks to its seatbelt reminder and electronic stability control systems. In 2019 it was awarded just 55 per cent in the safety assist category.

Safest cars on sale in the UK

NCAP’s crash safety experts criticised Volkswagen’s decision to remove autonomous emergency braking (AEB) from the up!’s options list, although lane keep assist - a feature that was not previously available - is now fitted as standard.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham, said: “the withdrawal of its City AEB system is a major shortcoming, not least because consumers will be considering it as an affordable electric city-car option. The lack of an AEB system to avoid or mitigate collisions in a city-driving environment is therefore a significant omission.” 

Avery added that while the up! “still offers a respectable level of passive safety”, its overall score was “disappointing.”

What is Euro NCAP?

Commenting on the up!’s Euro NCAP downgrade, a spokesperson from Volkswagen said: “The up! was reassessed this year and achieved three stars, as we hoped it would. Excellent passenger protection and Lane Assist installed as standard – as well as curtain and side airbags – make it one of the safest vehicles in its class. Due to the fact that the test conditions have become significantly tougher in recent years, three stars can be considered a very good rating.”

Autonomous emergency braking works by scanning the road ahead for obstacles, first warning the driver before braking automatically they take no action to avoid a potential collision. 

This latest retest is not the first time modern safety assessments have been applied to older cars. In 2017, the Fiat Punto was awarded zero stars during its retest, and was removed from sale by its maker shortly afterwards. 

And earlier this month, the Volkwsagen Sharan was awarded four stars during its NCAP tests despite its rear door detaching during impact - an eventuality Volkwsagen said it had never seen demonstrated in real-world accident data.

Life for city cars looks tough under current and future regulations. As well as crash test criteria that are difficult for smaller cars to meet, unintended consequences linked to European Union carbon dioxide targets could see city cars die out altogether

This latest round of Euro NCAP tests did see some good news for Volkswagen, with the new Mk8 Golf awarded five stars. The Audi Q8, Ford Puma, MG HS, MG ZS EVNissan Juke and Ford Puma were also given five stars.

Click here to read our review of the new all-electric Volkswagen e-up!...


Best small cars to buy 2021
Best small cars - header
Best cars & vans

Best small cars to buy 2021

Small cars come in all kinds of shapes, if not sizes. Here we highlight the best new small cars on sale
7 Jan 2021
City Car of the Year 2020: Volkswagen up!
Volkswagen up

City Car of the Year 2020: Volkswagen up!

The Volkswagen up! is the 2020 Auto Express City Car of the Year, with the Hyundai i10 and SEAT Mii Electric commended
13 Oct 2020
Volkswagen up! review
Volkswagen up! - front
Volkswagen up

Volkswagen up! review

The Volkswagen up! is a sensible city car that offers practicality, style and plenty of fun
6 Oct 2020

Most Popular

'Nissan has been quietly building an advantage over electric car rivals'
Opinion Nissan EV

'Nissan has been quietly building an advantage over electric car rivals'

Steve Fowler thinks Nissan is in a great position to build on the Leaf's success
8 Apr 2021
New Citroen C5 X flagship crossover set to offer ‘ultimate comfort’
Citroen C5 X - front
Citroen C5

New Citroen C5 X flagship crossover set to offer ‘ultimate comfort’

The new flagship Citroen C5 X will arrive with petrol and plug-in hybrid power, and looks set to cost from around £27,000 when it arrives in the UK in…
12 Apr 2021
New 2021 Skoda Kodiaq facelift brings tougher looks and new vRS
Skoda Kodiaq facelift - front
Skoda Kodiaq

New 2021 Skoda Kodiaq facelift brings tougher looks and new vRS

The updated Skoda Kodiaq SUV gets design tweaks with a more imposing front end, while the hot Kodiaq vRS gets Golf GTI power
13 Apr 2021