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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
national car test

Revealed: The makes, models and test centres with the highest (and lowest) NCT pass rates

Three of the top four cars are SUVs.

A SELF-STYLED ‘urban SUV’ had the highest pass rate of any leading vehicle that went through the NCT last year. 

An analysis of NCT tests carried out on more than 1.4 million vehicles last year found that 85.42% of the hybrid Toyota C-HR cars inspected passed their initial test.

Cars were tested at 49 NCT centres around Ireland in 2021, with Portlaoise having the highest pass rate at 60.22%.

In contrast, just 38.12% of cars tested in Castlerea last year passed on the first attempt. 15 test centres had pass rates below half, while the overall pass rate was 52.8%.

An analysis of figures recently published by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) found that, of the 200 most popular car models, just four had pass rates of more than 80%.

The Suzuki Vitara had a pass rate of 81.77%, while 80.94% of Renault Kadjars made the grade. The pricier Mercedes Benz CLA – the only car in the top four that is not an SUV – had a pass rate of 80.2%.

On its website Toyota brands the C-HR as “the urban SUV range that answers all the questions of the city”. The Japanese-manufactured car was launched in Ireland in 2016. 

Despite their high NCT performance, Oisín Coghlan, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth believes taxes on SUVs should be increased to discourage sales.

“It is past time to break our addiction to SUVs. In 2021 they accounted for 55% of all new car sales in Ireland and 45% globally,” he said. 

The overall figures show that the model that was most tested in 2021 was the Volkswagen Golf. Of the 71,962 Golfs inspected, just over half (52.95%) passed.

The second most popular model tested was the Ford Focus, but just 47.23% of these 71,723 cars were successful first time.

Of the models which had more than 1,000 cars tested, the Lexus IS200 fared worst with a pass rate of just 27.73%., while the Volkswagen Bora (28.28%) and the Seat Cordoba (29.45%) also had pass rates below 30%.


Unsurprisingly, the age of the car plays a leading role in whether it passes the NCT. For example, the newest Lexus IS200 to be tested last year was registered in 2013, while the newest Cordoba and Bora cars tested were registered in 2010 and 2006 respectively.

Cars with a 2015-reg had a pass rate of 73.2%, compared to just 34.66% success for cars that are ten years older.

A spokesperson for the RSA also pointed to a number of other factors that can affect whether a car passes its NCT

“The mileage that a car has undergone has a marked effect on pass rates, with larger mileage vehicles more prone to failure. This particularly affects some rural locations,” they said. 

They have also seen road conditions as playing a role in NCT performance, with poor driving surfaces leading to problems with a car’s brakes and suspension.

“An estimated one third of customers do not service their cars before testing and the failure rate of these is on average 11% higher than those that have been serviced ahead of the test,” the spokesperson added.

Fail rates

Of 1.4 million cars tested in 2021, just over 665,000 (47.2%) failed their first test.

Lighting and electrical issues was the most common fault and was found in 35% of all failed vehicles. This was followed by steering and suspension problems, found in 32.9% of failed cars.

More than one in four failed cars (25.49%) didn’t pass the ‘side slip’ test, which measures how much a car deviates to the left or right by simulating driving on a straight, flat road without touching the steering wheel.

Of the leading models, Peugeot 206 and 307 cars recorded fail rates of more than 32% when it came to lighting and electrical issues, while 34.99% of Volkswagen Boras and 34.32% of Citroen C5 cars had problems with steering and suspension. 

Anna Cullen of AA Ireland advised motorists to prepare before the NCT.

“Clean the vehicle thoroughly, ensure tyres are at the correct pressure and the right tread depth, check the lights are working properly and make sure the engine is in a fit state to be tested,” she said.  

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