What are the safest cars you can buy?

Looks and performance can be 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.

Looks and performance can be 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.

Julie Daniels
Motor insurance expert
7
minute read
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Last Updated 5 OCTOBER 2022

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 Euro NCAP rating – that’s 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 does Euro NCAP test for?

Euro NCAP bases its ratings on safety in four key areas:

  • Adult occupant – how well fully-grown passengers and drivers are protected in a collision.
  • Child occupant – how well children are protected in a collision.
  • Vulnerable road user – how well the car protects cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians if it hits them.
  • Safety assist – what safety technology is fitted, for example, lane-keeping assistance and autonomous emergency braking, and how well it performs.

Those four scores are used to determine a car’s overall rating. This is conveyed as between one and five stars, with cars awarded five stars having the best crash protection.

How have Euro NCAP tests changed?

Tests are updated regularly to address the latest safety concerns and innovations in car tech.

In 2003 Euro NCAP began assessing child seat safety, while in 2011 cars’ stability control systems started to be tested and in 2020 a raft of changes were introduced.

These included replicating head-on collisions, which are responsible for more deaths and serious injuries than any other type of accident. Testers also started 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.

Which is the safest car to drive in 2022?

These are the top ten models that most impressed Euro NCAP’s team of testers (correct as of August 2022):

Lexus NX

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 91%
Child occupant: 87%
Vulnerable road users: 83%
Safety assist: 91%

A car you can depend on, the Lexus NX scored well in every category in the latest NCAP tests, making it the top performer overall. This mid-size family SUV particularly impressed in the safety assist category with a score of 91%, one of the highest ever recorded.

It boasts great safety tech, including a pre-collision system that can detect pedestrians and motorcycles in its path.

Mercedes C-Class

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 93%
Child occupant: 89%
Vulnerable road users: 80%
Safety assist: 82%

A long-time frontrunner in vehicle safety and development, Mercedes has delivered once again with its luxury C-Class.

This stylish saloon car comes with seven airbags as standard and can detect when the driver is feeling drowsy. It also has an ‘active bonnet’, which can sense when a pedestrian is about to be struck and raise itself to soften the blow.

In NCAP testing, the C-Class achieved maximum points in the side-pole impact assessment, which replicates hitting a tree or similar object.

Volvo C40 Recharge

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 92%
Child occupant: 89%
Vulnerable road users: 70%
Safety assist: 89%

Volvo has a reputation for being one of the most dependable car-makers around. So it’s perhaps no surprise to see the Recharge high up in the list of safest cars.

The Swedish brand’s first all-electric SUV stood out in both the adult and child occupant areas, and also had one of the top scores for the protection offered by its safety systems. It wasn’t quite so good at protecting vulnerable road users in potential crash scenarios, though.

Cupra Born

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 93%
Child occupant: 89%
Vulnerable road users: 73%
Safety assist: 80%

With a strong crash-test rating and an impressive raft of safety measures, this sporty family hatchback has made its mark in the rankings.

The pure electric Cupra Born scored maximum points in the side-barrier impact test and the head restraints were found to offer good whiplash protection.

Standard safety features include autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection, plus an e-call system that alerts the emergency services in a bad crash.

Volkswagen Multivan

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 90%
Child occupant: 89%
Vulnerable road users: 69%
Safety assist: 87%

An upmarket successor to the ageing Caravelle people carrier, the VW Multivan comes with seven seats and a practical interior full of impressive onboard tech.

Regarding crash protection, it achieved high scores in both the adult and child categories, and impressed testers with its lane-keeping and autonomous emergency braking systems.

Kia EV6

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 90%
Child occupant: 86%
Vulnerable road users: 64%
Safety assist: 87%

With a striking design, the Kia EV6 is one of the boldest electric cars currently on the market. Similarly notable is its performance in crash tests, winning praise for its occupant protection features and safety assistance kit.

Granted, the vulnerable road user score could be better. But that’s largely because it doesn’t come with an active bonnet feature like comparable cars. That said, it’s still one of the best NCAP performers overall.

Volkswagen Taigo

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 94%
Child occupant: 84%
Vulnerable road users: 71%
Safety assist: 70%

The VW Taigo is a compact coupe-like SUV, with meticulously designed crumple zones that absorb the impact of a collision instead of the people in the car feeling the full force. It’s also fitted with autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance.

It scored highly for adult and child occupants, making it one of the safest compact family SUVs available.

Volkswagen Polo

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 94%
Child occupant: 80%
Vulnerable road users: 70%
Safety assist: 70%

Another highly rated Volkswagen is the revamped Polo supermini, proving that small cars can be just as big on crash protection as those built with more metal. In fact, it actually scores slightly higher in the adult occupation category than the larger Mercedes C-Class.

It also scored maximum points in the side-pole and side barrier impact tests, while both the front and rear seats provide good whiplash protection. A great all-rounder.

Renault Megane E-Tech

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 85%
Child occupant: 88%
Vulnerable road users: 65%
Safety assist: 79%

An all-electric family hatchback, the Renault Megane E-Tech brings the famous Megane brand bang up to date.

One of its predecessors, the Renault Laguna, was the first car ever to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP rating, back in 2001 – and the E-Tech builds on that tradition. It scored maximum points in the side barrier impact assessment, although it wasn’t the best at protecting vulnerable road users.

Kia Sportage

Overall rating: 5 stars
Adult occupant: 87%
Child occupant: 86%
Vulnerable road users: 66%
Safety assist: 72%

As the Kia Sportage is one of the most popular family SUVs, you’d like to think it’s safe on the roads. The good news is that its fifth-generation model was awarded top marks by Euro NCAP.

The Sportage shares its foundations and safety tech with the Tucson – manufactured by parent company Hyundai – so its scores were based on that car’s crash test results (a common practice in car assessments). Rest assured that the NCAP experts also performed additional tests on the Sportage where necessary.

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