What are the safest cars you can buy?

Sure, looks and performance are important. But if you’re buying a new car, you’ll also want to consider its safety credentials. Here’s our guide to the safest cars you can buy right now.

Sure, looks and performance are important. But if you’re buying a new car, you’ll also want to consider its safety credentials. Here’s our guide to the safest cars you can buy right now.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
4
minute read
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Posted 15 JULY 2021

How do I know which car is safest to drive?

One way is to look at your car’s safety and security features. Another is to check out its European NCAP rating – that is, the European New Car Assessment Programme. This government-backed body, based in Belgium, crash-tests new cars to see how they perform from a safety perspective. So a car’s Euro NCAP score is a great way of judging how safe it will be on the road.

What do Euro NCAP test for?

Euro NCAP bases its ratings on safety for:

  • The driver and passengers
  • Child passengers
  • Pedestrian protection
  • Safety-assist technology, such as driver assistance and crash-avoidance technology

How have Euro NCAP tests changed?

Tests are updated every two years to address the latest safety concerns.

In 2020, cars were driven at 50km/h (31mph) into a 1,400kg trolley also travelling at 50km/h (31mph) for the first time. The idea was to replicate head-on collisions, which are responsible for more deaths and serious injuries than any other type of accident.

Other new changes include measuring driver protection in side-on collisions when vehicles are hit on the passenger side.

Do safety tests measure automated driving tech?

Lane-keeping technology, automated braking systems and other safety-assist technologies are tested as part of Euro NCAP tests. In 2020, the safety experts launched a new grading system to help drivers better understand the smart features in their cars.

Gradings start at ‘Entry’ and work upwards through ‘Moderate, ‘Good’ and ‘Very Good’.

‘Entry’ graded cars usually offer basic adaptive cruise control (ACC), while higher graded cars provide lane centring technology that works in a wide range of driving situations. ‘Very Good’ cars offer ACC and lane centring technology alongside the best performing safety back-up systems.

How many cars does Euro NCAP test?

The pandemic year saw Euro NCAP tests reduced dramatically. Only 23 safety ratings were released in 2020, (compared to 55 cars in 2019), and only 11 new car models were tested.

Which car is the safest to drive?

These are the top ten models that most impressed Euro NCAP’s team of testers (correct as of 5 May 2021):  

Polestar 2

The pure-electric Polestar 2 outperformed all the cars tested in 2021. A high-flyer in the adult occupant department, the Executive vehicle protects drivers and their passengers with centre and inner-side airbags. 

The Swedish manufacturers have even developed a unique engine sound to help pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists detect the vehicle while on the move.  

VW ID.4

This Small Off-Road vehicle is equipped with Volkswagen’s unique local hazard-warning technology. The system uses short-range communication to give drivers advanced warnings about problems with other cars on the road.   

The all-electric SUV features Isofix passenger and rear seats and scored maximum points for protecting occupants during side barrier and side pole tests.

Skoda ENYAQ iV

Skoda’s Large Off-Road vehicle scored an impressive 94% for adult-occupant safety. Its side head, side chest and centre airbags combine to keep drivers and passengers well protected. 

A comfortable ride for tall the family, the battery-powered SUV features a panoramic sunroof and a unique 130-light ‘Crystal Face’ for illuminating the road. 

VW ID.3

The VW ID.3 was top of the class in 2020, achieving the highest scores for child occupant safety and safety assist features of any car tested last year. This sleek Small Family Car features side-head airbags and side-chest airbags that performed well in the new lateral crash protection tests. 

The pure electric vehicle uses electric e-sound, VW’s branded electric car sound when accelerating and decelerating, and even greets drivers with a welcome light beside the doors as you approach the car.   

SEAT Leon

The Leon recorded the highest score of all 2020’s cars in the ‘adult occupant protection’ department. It’s no surprise given its centre airbag, which offered good protection between drivers and passengers in side-on collisions.

The Small Family Car’s smart multi-collision braking system applies the brakes automatically to prevent secondary impacts too. Perhaps its most exciting safety feature is the advanced e-Call system, which automatically messages emergency services with your location in the event of an accident.

Land Rover Defender

The tough 4x4 received the highest star rating possible in 2020, one of only two Large Off-Road vehicles to do so.

The classic 5-door SUV has been brought into the modern age with the help of Driver Drowsiness Detection, which notifies drivers when their performance starts to slump.

Honda Jazz

Another Small Family Car with a five-star Euro NCAP rating. The experts found that the Jazz offers good protection in front and rear seats against whiplash injury and autonomous emergency braking is fitted as standard.

The Jazz turned Hybrid in 2020 and the combination of fuel and battery power gives an impressive 540-mile range with a single refuel.

Isuzu D-MAX

The D-MAX is 2020’s only Pick-up to be awarded five stars. The robust vehicle scored maximum points in the side pole impact test and scored well protecting all critical body areas in a side barrier collision.

Isuzu’s durable vehicle was also given the 2021 Pick-up of the year award by 4x4 magazine, where it scored highly for its running costs, fuel efficiency and capability. The tough off-roader has a 3.5 tonne towing capacity and meets Euro 6 standards without the need for AdBlue. The true professional’s pick-up.

Toyota Yaris

Thanks to its driver monitoring system, the Yaris can detect when drivers are sleepy. The safety feature notifies drivers when their driving is impaired through clever camera and steering wheel data.

If you’re unsure about speed limits on unfamiliar roads, the Small Family Car’s speed assistance system will detect local speeds and let the driver set a speed limiter.

Kia Sorento

A Large Off-Road vehicle awarded five stars by Euro NCAP. The SUV’s central airbag performed well in tests, providing good protection for drivers and passengers in the front seats. There’s also a smart e-Call system which automatically alerts emergency services with the car’s location if there’s an accident. 

The self-charging hybrid is fitted with a reversing camera system and LED headlights among other slick extras. A panoramic sun-roof and wireless phone charging capabilities make it a natural choice for family road trips.

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