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This page is intended to give more details and to demystify the SVA test. At first I thought, "why bother with an SVA test? I'll bring my car in through Amsterdam or Dublin.", then I started to think about why the SVA test is in place, and weighed up the arguments for and against. It didn't take me long to come down on the side of SVA, purely on the safety aspects. For the sake of just under 200, I'm having experts ensuring that my vehicle meets all the safety requirements that are required on all European cars; a small price to pay. So if you're looking to buy an Estima from a UK dealer, and he either says or intimates that the vehicles come via Ireland etc. just think that all he is doing is making use of a loophole in the regulations to save himself a little bit extra. The good news is that this loophole is set to end in 2001.


On 1 May, 1998 a limited rather than full implementation of SVA commenced. Rather than unlimited SVA Imports the DoT decided that there could only be 50 units of any one model imported in any one year. Applications, and the 165 fee, were forwarded to the Vehicle Inspectorate and, if that model of car has not 'used up' it's 50 unit allocation, then authority was given to import that model within a reasonable time period. The car was then modified to meet SVA criteria and tested.

SVA does not apply to vehicles over 10 years old. An announcement in May 1999 confirmed that unlimited SVA imports will be allowed in 2001 and the 50 unit per year limit will be increased to 1000 vehicles in each month from March 2000. On 1st August 2000 all limits were removed by the government.

To enable cars to be registered at the Local Vehicle Licensing Office, if not Personal Imports, they must first pass the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) test.

The test is expected to take 3–4 hours per car and you, or your representative would have to be present during this time. As there is currently a large demand for Test Appointments an application for a particular testing station and time/day should be made at the earliest possible date.

If the car is 3 years or more old, then the vehicle will also have to undergo a MOT test.

Once the SVA and MOT (if required) have been passed, the car can then be registered at the local Vehicle Registration Office. The paperwork required would be the SVA Pass Certificate and MOT (where applicable), the certified English translation of the Japanese De-Registration Document, the Customs Cleared C&E386 Form, a completed V55/5 Form and a valid current Insurance Certificate. The cost at the VRO is for the Road Fund Licence and 25 first Registration Fee. A Registration Number is then issued (unless you are transferring a "cherished" registration number) and a set of Number Plates can be made up and fitted to the car.


Although the SVA requirements may look massively complicated, under many circumstances a car may pass the SVA Test with the minimum of modification e.g. protruding/detachable control knobs/switches if no airbag fitted, fog light and switch missing, lens colours and headlamp markings, tyre markings, no. plate edge, fuel filler diameter and miles per hour speedometer. New switches (possibly), fog light, lenses (possibly), tyres (possibly), rubber strips and fuel filler insert and speedometer recalibration/renewal would vary in cost depending on the make/model of car and a likely cost could be between 120–500.

The SVA Test must be pre-paid and can take several hours and you or your representative must be present at the correct location and time to assist the examiner with their questions and to operate the controls of the vehicle. A vehicle must be clean and in full working order.

The following is a summary of the SVA Inspection Manual and should under no circumstances be relied upon as a definitive guideline to the Test. The views expressed are an indication only and you should obtain your own Inspection Manual and satisfy yourself as to the exact requirements and procedures of the SVA Test by directing questions to the Vehicle Inspectorate. The indications given below are for normal production Motor Cars.


A Steering Wheel lock fitted by the manufacturer, which releases when the ignition key is turned. Not expected to require any modification except on brand new cars.


Fan assisted defroster/demister to clear windscreen. Also related to windscreen angle (Japanese Standard 11-4-33). Not expected to require any modification.


Correctly operating windscreen washers/wipers of sufficient speed. Also related to washer capacity and pressure. Not expected to require any modification.


Secure and adequate seat anchorage points. Seat and back adjustment control easily accessible from outside the vehicle when the door is open, and lockable in all positions (Japanese Standard 11-4-8). Not expected to require any modification except possibly for ‘after market’ fitted seats.


Sufficient number and strength of anchorage points for each belt for each seating position (Japanese Standard 11-4-10). Belt and lock strength, type and construction with appropriate Approval Mark (BS or E or e) or equivalent characteristics. Also related to correct operation of inertia reel system, sharp edges, bolts, welds and upper fixing location. Not expected to require any modification except possibly for ‘after market’ fitted seats.


Sharp edges, size and fitment of switches, control knobs, fittings and other design features, within a head impact zone of a designated seating position, including instrument panel (Japanese Standard 11-4-6), fascia areas, seat backs (Japanese Standard 11-4-9) and frames, hand brake control, gear lever, shelves, sun visors (Japanese Standard 11-4-7), roof lining etc.. Some cars not fitted with airbags may fail on the size of control knobs and/or switches that protrude more than 9.5 mm and/or that may detach or retract too easily. These may be able to be replaced with the switches and/or control knobs from the same UK Model.


HT ignition system may need to be fitted with radio interference suppression. Not expected to require any modification.


Viewable area safety glass may need to have acceptable markings (Japanese Standard 11-4-21). Any tinted glass not behind the driver must have a light transmission greater than 70%. Not expected to require any modification except for heavily tinted windows.


Headlamps (dipped/main beam), indicators and side repeaters (including flash speed), side lights, stop/rear lights, no. plate lamps, reversing lamps, hazard warning and fog lights and reflectors are checked for operation, lens colour, brightness, position, angles of visibility and BS or E or e markings etc.. Some cars may not have an approved mark or may have incorrect lens colours e.g. combined indicator/side light lenses may be all amber in colour and would need to be changed to a combination amber/white lens available from a UK Model. The car would need a fog light to be fitted and the interior switch must be viewable when lit up by the driver in the normal seated driving position. It may be better to remove and dispose of any ‘after market’/extra driving/spot lights.


Not normally applicable except for any extra/ancillary lights/lamps fitted to a vehicle.


Checked on dipped beam for alignment and beam shape/area. Lenses must have an approved E or e and arrow mark. Not expected to require modification except on some cars approved marks may not be present and would require replacement from a UK Model.


The field of view, fixing mount, adjustability, sharp edges and reflective surfaces of rear view and offside mirrors are checked. Exterior mirrors must be adjustable from the normal seated driving position i.e. actual ‘Wing’ mirrors may be a problem. Not expected to require any modification.

  • TYRES:

Each tyre must bear approved BS or E or e (as well as size, construction, load and speed) marks although ‘VR’ or ‘ZR’ rated and marked tyres may be acceptable. Tyres on the same axle must be the same and correct for the size of wheel. Tyres may not have an approved mark and, as it would be very difficult to provide proof that a Japanese tyre was as good as a UK/EC tyre, replacement UK approved tyres may have to be fitted that are compatible for that particular model of car. Some Japanese cars do have ‘e’ marked tyres.


Doors (Japanese Standard 11-4-12), bonnet, boot, tailgate, aperture covers etc. must not have sharp edges and should be able to be secured in the fully closed position. Door handles/controls must be easily accessible. Not expected to require any modification.


Handles, bumpers, windscreen wipers, no. plates and surrounds, mascots/emblems, grills, spoilers, wheels, wheel nuts, hub caps, wind/rain deflectors, filler caps, exhaust pipe ends, jacking brackets etc. are all checked for construction, sharp edges and protrusion. Normal Production Vehicles are exempt from some of the checks although some number plate and some ‘pop up’ headlight edges may cause a problem. A rubber strip can be applied to protect sharp edges.


This concerns the steering wheel, steering column (Japanese Standard 11-4-1), airbags and steering rack/box. Not expected to require any modification for standard manufacturer fitted items. There may be a problem with ‘after market’ steering wheels.


Design and construction features, including structure, frame/chassis, mounts, transmission, braking system, wheels, axles, suspension, steering, likely to cause danger to a person inside the vehicle or to other road users. Not expected to require any modification as not normally applicable to normal production cars.


Fitment, construction and security of fuel system components, fuel tank and electrical cables and components. Not normally applicable to normal production cars except for the modification of the internal diameter of the fuel filler radius/neck which should not exceed 23.6mm.


Correct and safe operation of brakes and hand/parking brake. Not expected to require any modification.


Correct and safe operation of brakes (Japanese Standards 11-4-29 & 11-4-24). Not expected to require any modification.


Correct and safe operation of hand/parking brake. Not expected to require any modification.


Correct and safe operation of brakes and hand/parking brake, reservoirs and brake warning lamps, also including ABS warning lamp. Not expected to require any modification.


Roll Tests on brakes and hand/parking brake for brake distribution/ratios, efficiency and operation. Not expected to require any modification.

  • NOISE:

Engine/Exhaust noise must not exceed 101 decibels at the approved measuring point. Not expected to require any modification except possibly for faulty/worn or some ‘after market’ systems.


A visible smoke test is carried out. Cars manufactured prior to 01/08/92 in the approved test must not, at idle, exceed 1200 HC (ppm) or 3.5% CO. Most cars manufactured after 01/08/92 (and all after 01/08/95) must normally pass the approved Catalyst test and not exceed 200 HC (ppm) and 0.3% CO, at fast idle and 0.5% CO, at idle, and have a 0.97–1.03 Lambda rating (Japanese Standard 11-4-20/25/28/33). Not expected to require any modification except for high mileage/worn/faulty engines or for newer cars with faulty/non operational catalytic converters. Care should be taken if a vehicle model is not normally available in the UK. Replacement catalytic converters can be costly and may not be readily available in the UK for all makes/model of car.


A visible smoke test is carried out. A test using a smoke meter is carried out and smoke levels should not exceed 2.5m-1 (3m-1 for Turbo Diesel cars)(Japanese Standard 11-4-26). Not expected to require any modification except for high mileage/worn/faulty engines.


A speedometer, or facing plate must be fitted that indicates ‘miles per hour’, in uniform intervals not exceeding 20 mph, up to the maximum design speed of the vehicle and which indicates the speed within the required limits of the actual speed. A UK approved speedometer may have to be fitted from a UK model. It may be wise to have standard wheels/tyres fitted to the car as ‘after market’/non standard wheels/tyres may result in the speedometer accuracy being outside the acceptable limit.


This relates mainly to the Kerb, Gross, Axle weights of the car. Not expected to require any modification as not normally applicable to normal production cars.

The SVA Test Application Form requires information including Axle/Gross Weights and Maximum Road/Engine Speed. When completing the Application Form ensure that these figures are correct as they will relate to various points carried out during the actual test.


Below is the latest DETR news release regarding revised SVA rules, to be introduced this year.

"Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions


News Release 788:
21 December 2000

Boost for consumer choice and car safety, says Lord Macdonald
A package of measures designed to deliver increased competition and choice for
car buyers together with better safety and environmental standards was confirmed
today by Transport Minister Lord Macdonald.

Changes to the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) scheme and associated import
procedures will apply to cars and light goods vehicles not manufactured for the
European market.

The two main changes are:

From 1 February 2001, the rules for vehicles to qualify as "personal imports"
will be tightened to require importers to have lived abroad for at least 12
months and used their vehicles abroad for at least 6 months; and imported
vehicles up to 10 years old which have not been type approved, will be subject
to inspection.

From 1 August 2001, enhanced technical standards for key environmental, safety
and security (anti-theft) items will be applied to most other categories of
imported or commercially traded vehicles. Simplified procedures will apply for
multiple imports of identical vehicles. The current, standard, SVA inspection
will continue for amateur-built vehicles, genuine personal imports as redefined
above, and other categories of vehicles entering service in very low volume.

Commenting on the changes, Lord Macdonald said:

"I am pleased that we are now implementing measures that will improve consumer
choice and ensure high standards of road safety and environmental protection.
They will be of benefit to consumers and dealers alike."

The changes mean that all cars and light goods vehicles that have not been "type
approved" for use in the UK (for example, those built for the south-east Asian
or North American markets) up to 10 years old will be inspected to make sure
they are fit to enter service in the UK.

The majority of these vehicles will have to meet more demanding Enhanced SVA
standards covering key safety and environmental aspects of vehicle design and
construction. However for anyone wishing to import several examples of the same
model, arrangements have been made to minimise the number of tests needed. This
will help independent dealers in particular and so improve consumer choice.

The standard SVA inspection will be applied where, collectively, the vehicles in
the category enter service in very low volume. These include, for example,
amateur-builds, vehicles adapted for use by disabled people and left-hand drive

Notes to Editors
Press Notice 1999-468 outlined the proposed changes to the Single Vehicle
Approval scheme and associated import procedures for cars and light goods
vehicles not type-approved in Europe. PNs 1999-701 and 2000-525 announced early
partial implementation of the package to remove all numerical limits.

Following public consultation, the remaining aspects of the proposal are now
being implemented, with slight changes to reflect practical considerations

The Standard SVA inspection will continue to be conducted at selected Vehicle
Inspectorate HGV test stations.

Enhanced SVA inspections will require compliance with tougher standards - as for
full type approval or similar - for:

Protective steering
Exhaust emissions
Seat belts, anchorages and installation
Noise & silencers
There is no change to the arrangements for importing type-approved vehicles. All
vehicles with a valid manufacturer's Certificate of Conformity for either
European Whole Vehicle Type Approval or British National Type Approval can be
imported from anywhere in the world without further inspection (other than MoT
if 3 or more years old).

Further information is given in the Department's booklets "How to Import a
Vehicle Permanently into Great Britain" (PI5) and "The Single Vehicle Approval
Scheme" (SVA4) which will appear on the Department's web site shortly
( under "Roads, Vehicles & Road Safety" followed by "Vehicles").


Media enquiries 020 7944 3066; Out of hours: 020 7944 5925 or 5945
Public Enquiries Unit 020 7944 3000
Web site

For FULL DETAILS of the new legislation see: