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The external noise emitted by passenger cars has been controlled since 1929 when the Motor Cars (Excessive Noise) regulations were introduced. New cars are now required to meet Europe-wide noise limits. These have been progressively reduced from 82 decibels (dB (A)) in 1978 to the current limit of 74 dB (A) established in 1996. This means it would take 7 new vehicles to make the same amount of noise as one vehicle that just meets the pre-1978 limits. Information on the level of noise recorded for new models of cars at their type approval test is also listed in the data table.

When looking at this information please note that off-road vehicles are allowed to be 1dB (A) louder, as are direct-injection diesels. These allowances are cumulative, so the limit for an off-road vehicle with a direct injection diesel engine is 76 dB (A).

The noise levels quoted above are the maximum levels that are permitted for new vehicle types. Many vehicles produce lower levels of noise, and it is illegal to modify the exhaust system of a vehicle to make it noisier than the level recorded for that model at type approval.

A new EU regulation is being introduced  from July 2016, Regulation (EU) No 540/2014, which will phase in tighter noise limits over 10 years, together with a revised, more representative  test procedure. By 2026 the limit for most new passenger cars will be 68 dB(A).


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