Top 10 Cars For Safety

By Mark Nichol

It goes without saying that safety is a very important factor in choosing any car. Whether you’re leasing a family SUV or a small hatchback you’ll want to know that it’s going to protect you and your family in the worst case scenario.

It’s a little bit difficult to compare all cars directly because the Euro NCAP test – the industry standard by which cars are measured – is regularly refined to reflect advances in safety. In other words it gets stricter, so a car rated at five stars a few years ago might not necessarily be a five-star car today. For that reason we’ve only looked at cars tested over the last couple of years, but we have tried to show a broad range of car classes.

How Does The NCAP Test Work?

The Euro NCAP test currently scores cars in four categories: Adult Occupant, Child Occupant, Vulnerable Road Users and Safety Assist. The first two relate to how well protected those inside the car are, the third how well the car mitigates injuries to a pedestrian or cyclist, and the fourth considers additional active safety systems that prevent an accident.

The vast majority of today’s cars receive a full five-star score. That’s generally seen as the acceptable standard rather than being exceptional, in the same way you’d want your local kebab shop to have a five-star cleanliness rating. So for our list we’ve taken all four of a car’s individual scores and averaged them out to give an overall percentage. Not very scientific, but it will give you an idea of a car’s general safety performance beyond the star score; every one of the cars in our list is five-star rated.

If you’d like to check out more detailed reports on all the cars on sale today, including their individual safety ratings, go to Euro NCAP’s website.

Land Rover Defender

land-rover-defender-on-road

Year Tested: 2020

Overall Score: 80%

You’d expect a car as MASSIVE as the Land Rover Defender to be safe on a sort of ‘roll on over everything in its wake’ sort of way, and actually it does score relatively poorly in the Vulnerable Road Users category, which is probably no surprise. However, it’s a great family car, scoring 24/24 in the ‘crash performance based on 6- and 10-year-old children’.

Renault Arkana

Year Tested: 2019

Overall Score: 82%

The Renault Arkana is the very definition of a ‘niche’ car – it’s a family crossover SUV but styled with a sloped roof, like a coupe of sorts. Strange but true. Regardless, it’s very safe indeed, scoring an astonishing 96% on the Adult Occupant bit of the Euro NCAP test. Its chassis is extremely strong and it comes with automatic emergency braking as standard.

Honda Jazz

honda-jazz-white

Year Tested: 2020

Overall Score: 82%

Arguably one of the most sensible cars on sale since its inception 20 years ago, a big part of its appeal across four generations has always been safety. The latest model of the Jazz, released in 2020, does well across the board in the Euro NCAP tests including decent adult (87%) and child (83%) crash ratings. More specifically, its automatic emergency braking system is good at detecting cyclists, so if you’re one of those guys and you see a Jazz approaching, fear not.

SEAT Leon

seat-leon-on-road

Year Tested: 2020

Overall Score: 83%

The last Leon was a very safe car, scoring five stars in 2012, and the latest model follows suit. A strong chassis is a given – all the Volkswagen Group cars on this ‘MQB’ chassis score highly, including the VW Golf and Audi A3 – but the Leon does really well in the Safety Assist category too. As standard it comes with lane keeping assistant, a speed limiter, seatbelt reminders and automatic emergency braking.

Toyota Yaris

toyota-yaris

Year Tested: 2020

Overall Score: 83%

The new Toyota Yaris not only turned out to be surprisingly interesting compared to its, let’s be honest, pretty dull predecessor, but also surprisingly safe for a small hatchback. With automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and radar cruise control as standard, it has ‘big car’ safety credentials.

Volkswagen ID.3

volkswagen-id-3-blue

Year Tested: 2020

Overall Score: 84%

Volkswagen’s first ‘new era’ electric car is very safe not because it excels in on particular area – its 87% adult occupant rating is good but not exceptional in this company – but because it doesn’t have a weak category. Unusually, it scores better for child occupants (89%) than it does for adults, which will be good news for those with young kids looking at an ID.3 as their next family car.

Volkswagen T-Cross

vw-t-cross

Year Tested: 2019

Overall Score: 86%

The T-Cross’s most striking score is its adult occupant one: 97%. That’s absolutely remarkable for a small car and is one reason why these tall-riding crossover things are so appealing nowadays. With strong performance across all the safety categories, the spacious T-Cross is a compact crossover that really could work as a family car for those with younger kids.

Polestar 2

Polestar-2

Year Tested: 2021

Overall Score: 87%

Polestar is owned by Volvo and the Polestar 2 borrows heavily from its parent company. It’s based on the XC40’s chassis. So it comes as no surprise that the Polestar performs extremely well in safety terms. Its Safety Assist rating is especially high (86%) because the Polestar 2 comes with loads of active safety kit, including car-to-car monitoring, speed assistance and lane support. It will detect pedestrians and brake automatically if it thinks you’re about to hit one.

BMW 3 Series

model-bmw-3-series-saloon

Year Tested:  2019

Overall Score: 87%

The 3 Series scores so well generally because its occupant scores are exceptional: 97% for adults and 87% for kids. That’s great peace of mind for family buyers, although its Safety Assist score is surprisingly average at 76%, largely because Euro NCAP felt its standard Lane Keeping Assistant system has a poor human-machine interface. Unclear controls, basically.  

Tesla Model 3

tesla-model-3-lockdown

Year Tested: 2019

Overall Score: 88%

Tesla’s focus on technology means it’s no surprise that the Model 3 scores really well on the safety assist front, with a 94% score reflecting a raft of active and passive safety systems; try to forget about all those videos you’ve seen on YouTube of the Autopilot feature failing. But because Tesla still feels a little like a ‘startup’ car company it might surprise you a little more to discover that the chassis is extremely strong, scoring phenomenally across all Euro NCAP’s individual collision tests and culminating in a 96% Adult Occupant score.

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