Keyless car crime – what are car manufacturers doing to prevent it?

Cars with keyless entry systems can be stolen far more quickly and easily than those with conventional locks and ignitions, so what are car makers doing to protect them?...

Keyless car crime

Many new and used cars now have keyless entry systems. These provide car owners with the added convenience of being able to open their car’s doors and start its engine without needing to take the key fob out of a handbag or pocket to press the remote control button. 

Car crime is on the increase and cars with keyless entry are being targeted by thieves because, with access to the right technology, they’re far quicker and easier to steal than other cars.

Read more: The safest cars on sale today

Keyless car crime

How does keyless theft work? 

In order to allow the owner to get into the car without using the key fob, keyless entry fobs constantly emit a code, or series of codes, that can be picked up antennae in the car’s bodywork as soon as the key gets close to the car. 

Thieves can use a scanning device to pick up the code from a key fob while it’s inside your home or in your bag even if you’re not near the car – they just need to get within five to six metres of the key. Once captured, this code can be relayed to another device being held close to the car’s door by a second thief.

As soon as they repeat the code, the car thinks the owner is nearby and unlocks the doors. Then if the code is repeated again the second thief will be able to push the car’s starter button and activate the engine. 

Are keyless cars easier to steal? 

Our tests proved that it’s far quicker and easier to steal keyless cars than those with conventional locks and ignitions. Our security experts were able to get into a DS3 Crossback in five seconds and drive it away five seconds later. 

The car’s other security features are rendered useless because the car thinks the owner is gaining access so the alarm doesn’t sound and the immobiliser is deactivated. This makes cars with keyless entry a far more appealing prospect than other models, which on average take 2min 30sec to steal. It also takes less effort to get into a car with keyless entry, with no need to pick the door lock or break the steering column casing to get to the ignition system. 

Keyless car crime

What are car makers doing about keyless theft? 

Some car makers have introduced new security measures to combat the theft of cars with keyless entry systems. Manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Ford and Mercedes, have introduced motion sensor technology to some or all of their cars’ key fobs. This detects when a key hasn’t moved for a specified time and deactivates it so that it no longer emits a code. As soon as the key is moved it emits a code again.

Jaguar Land Rover has taken a different approach, fitting some of its models with ultra-wide band radio technology that transmits over a wide range of frequencies at once so thieves can’t pick up the signal. 

Tesla has also introduced its own security upgrade to new and many secondhand cars. A software update adds a PIN number to the infotainment system, which has to be entered to allow the car to be driven.

Keyless car crime

How do I protect my keyless car from theft? 

There are a number of measures you can take to protect your car including buying a Faraday bag and keeping the key in it whenever the car isn’t being used. 

Many car makers have keyless systems that can be deactivated either by the car owner or by a dealership. Our round-up of keyless car technology will let you know which models have keyless entry as standard and if it can be disabled.

The makes and models with keyless entry and if it can be deactivated

Alfa Romeo / Fiat / Jeep

Higher-end trim levels on some Alfa Romeo models have keyless entry as standard, including the Stelvio Milano and Giulia Veloce as part of the Convenience pack. It is also available on some Fiat and Jeep models. We do not believe any systems have motion sensor technology. If you buy a car with keyless entry and are concerned about security, we recommend keeping the key in a Faraday-type pouch and asking your dealer if it can be disabled. 

Audi / Skoda / Seat / Volkswagen (Volkswagen Group)

Although keyless start is standard on many Audi models, keyless entry is an option, as part of the Comfort and Sound pack on some models including the A6 Allroad,  TT RS and E-tron. Advanced Key fobs are fitted with motion sensor technology, which cuts in if the key hasn’t moved for 15 minutes; there is no means of activating it immediately, though. The system can be deactivated by the owner/dealer on certain models.  

The Volkswagen Group has started to introduce key fobs with motion sensor technology to Volkswagen models, with the Passat the first to get it as an optional extra on SE and SEL trim levels and standard on R-Line trim level upwards.

A Volkswagen Group spokesperson stated: “The Volkswagen Group takes the illegal use of radio path lengthening systems very seriously. We are continually working on improving our security measures in order to hinder or prevent such manipulation, and are in close contact with the authorities on this matter.

Keyless Access is a convenience feature that is actively sought by our customers. We continuously and very closely observe how vehicle thieves work and discuss this topic with police authorities and the insurance industry. Our locking and opening systems have been tested and approved in accordance with legal requirements.

Please understand that we are unable to comment on the technical aspects of theft prevention measures because such information could be used by third parties to the detriment of our customers.”

BMW / Mini

Keyless car crime

The Comfort Access feature, which provides a digital key fob with keyless entry, is standard on many trim levels of BMW models including the new 1 Series, the X3 and the X6. In addition, motion sensor technology was introduced to all key fobs in 2018, so all cars produced since then will be less vulnerable to theft.

The motion sensor key shuts down if it's not used for a set time (we believe this is two minutes). We believe the motion sensor technology can also be activated immediately by pressing a button on the key fob. 

Owners of some older BMW and Mini models can pay to upgrade their keys to ones with motion sensor technology; the price of this differs between models. 

A spokesman commented: “Every single case we are aware of where a relay attack method has been used is when the key is left unattended and not in a pocket – hence our approach to the solution.” 

Citroën / DS / Peugeot (PSA Group)

The range-topping DS 3 Crossback Ultra Prestige trim level comes with keyless access as standard, and it's also on Prestige and Ultra Prestige versions of the DS 7 Crossback. It is also standard on certain trim levels of many Citroen and Peugeot models. 

The system doesn’t have motion sensor technology to prevent theft, but it can be deactivated and if owners would like extra reassurance PSA Group recommends they contact an authorised dealer. 

Keyless car crime

A PSA Group spokesperson said: “Vehicle security is an issue that Groupe PSA takes very seriously. Groupe PSA considers the subject of ‘Relay Attack’ with the same importance it gives to any tools that facilitate vehicle theft. Groupe PSA created a dedicated division in order to analyse and treat potential or proven weaknesses of vehicle security, including to monitor statistics and internet activity. Groupe PSA works closely with the Police and regulatory authorities in order to analyse theft methods.

“On these latest vehicles, keyless entry functions can be deactivated. If a customer would like extra assurance, they should contact their authorised retailer for assistance.”


The following Ford models come with keyless entry as standard: 

  • Ford Fiesta (from Titanium X trim upwards)
  • Ford Focus (from Titanium)
  • Ford Kuga (all trim levels)
  • Ford Puma (all trim levels)
  • Ford Mondeo (from Titanium)
  • Ford Mustang as standard from 2.3
  • Ford Mustang Mach-E (all trim levels)
  • Ford S-Max (from Titanium)
  • Ford Galaxy (from Titanium)
  • Ford Edge (from Titanium)

Ford made motion sensor key fobs standard on all new Fiestas and Focus models from May 2019, and made them standard on the Kuga and Puma from March 2021. It says it is rolling out the technology across its model range. 

Keyless car crime

The technology is also available for some older cars. Owners of all current-generation Fiesta (from 2017) and Focus (from 2018) models can upgrade their keys to ones with motion sensor fobs. This costs from £65 per key for the Fiesta, and £72 for the Focus, plus 0.9 hours labour to programme and test the replacement keys.  

It is possible for owners to disable the keyless system on their car’s instrument cluster, using the toggle switches on the steering wheel to navigate to vehicle settings. 


All Honda models except entry-level SE trim levels have keyless entry. We do not believe the key fobs have motion sensor technology. Owners who are concerned about security should keep the keys in a secure Faraday pouch and contact their dealer to ask if the system can be deactivated.

A spokesperson stated: “Safety and security of our products and technologies is a foremost priority for Honda. Overall, Honda takes the safety and security of electrical control systems extremely seriously and as such, we will continuously work to improve and upgrade the system to further ensure customer confidence in Honda products.”


Hyundai declined to comment on car security and keyless entry systems. Some Hyundai models have Smart Key keyless entry systems as standard. We believe their fobs don’t have motion sensor technology; owners who are concerned about security should keep the keys in a secure Faraday pouch and contact their dealer to ask if the system can be deactivated. 

Jaguar / Land Rover

Taking a different approach to car security, Jaguar Land Rover has introduced ultra-wide band radio technology to some models including the Discovery and latest Discovery Sport. This transmits over a wide range of frequencies at once to prevent thieves from being able to isolate the signal. 

A spokesman said: "As an industry-wide issue, Land Rover takes vehicle security very seriously and has a dedicated team working on staying one step ahead of criminals. Land Rover is in the process of rolling out updates to our vehicles protecting them against emerging threats and has been cited by the ADAC and Which? as one of the first manufacturers to protect against relay attack. 

"In addition, all our vehicles are available with InControl tracking devices which have delivered a more than 80% success of recovery. Land Rover remains fully committed to investing in vehicle security while giving customers the option of keyless entry systems."


The following Kia models have keyless entry as standard. 

  • Kia Picanto X-Line S and GT-Line S
  • Kia Rio GT-Line S
  • Kia Stonic 4
  • Kia Ceed First Edition, GT-Line, GT-Line S and GT
  • Kia Ceed SW First Edition
  • Kia Proceed GT-Line, GT-Line S and GT
  • Kia Niro and e-Niro 4
  • Kia Optima Sportswagon GT-Line S, GT and GT S
  • Kia Optima Sportswagon PHEV and PHEV Plus 
  • Kia Stinger GT-Line, GT-Line S, GT and GT S
  • Kia Sportage 4, GT-Line, GT-Line S, GT and GT S
  • Kia Sorento KX-3, GT-Line and GT-Line S

Although Kia hasn’t introduced motion sensor or other additional security to its keyless entry cars yet, we were told it is working on additional security measures. In the meantime, in July 2019 it introduced the KiaSafe case, a container that works in the same way as a Faraday bag to prevent criminals from capturing the code emitted by the key fob. This is provided free with every new Kia model sold, and can be bought as an aftermarket item for £9.99. 

Keyless car crime

David Hart, Customer Experience Manager at Kia Motors UK commented on the ingenuity that thieves can use to steal cars “The security of our customers’ vehicles comes second only to safety and we are as concerned about the hacking of keyless entry systems as customers, the police and the insurance industry. 

“Whilst our current keyless entry systems do not have UWB or “sleep” buttons our engineers are developing additional levels of protection for future vehicles and these will be applied as soon as is feasible given production schedules and new model introductions. 

“We encourage owners to adopt protection behaviours as advised by the Police – such as not leaving keyless entry fobs in the front door lock of their home or close to windows – and to use the KiaSafe to ensure their key fobs are rendered safe from hacking” added Hart. 

Lexus / Toyota

Most Toyota and Lexus models have a keyless entry system called Smart Entry as standard. We do not believe the key fobs have motion sensor technology, but the software can be deactivated by the owner on all models except the Aygo and RAV4 – these can be turned off by a dealer.  


The following Mazda models have Smart Keyless Entry as standard: 

  • Mazda 2 Sport Nav + and GT Sport Nav +
  • Mazda 3 SE-L Lux, Sport Lux, GT Sport and GT Sport Tech
  • Mazda 6 Sport Nav + and GT Sport Nav +
  • Mazda CX-3 Sport Nav + and GT Sport Nav +
  • Mazda CX-5 Sport Nav + and GT Sport Nav +
  • Mazda MX-5 Sport Nav +, GT Sport Nav + and 30th Anniversary Edition

The keyless entry system on the new Mazda 3 can be disabled by the driver on the key fob, the systems on other models can be switched off by a dealer; there is no charge for having this done. 


Many Mercedes models have keyless entry as standard. All the latest generation Keyless-Go fobs (since summer 2018) have a built-in motion sensor, which turns them off if they’re not moved for two minutes. They can also be deactivated immediately by pressing a button on the fob. 

Keyless car crime

A spokesman for Mercedes said: “All our Keyless-Go keys can be switched off by pressing the locking button on the key twice and the latest generation of Keyless-Go keys are equipped with a built-in motion sensor. This means that if the key is motionless – for example, in a drawer or on a hook – after two minutes, no Keyless-Go signals are sent out and the signals from the key cannot be hijacked.”


A spokesperson from Mitsubishi told us that keyless operation is standard across the Mitsubishi car range. "The various keyless operation systems can be turned off on any keyless operation-equipped Mitsubishi vehicle, removing the risk of any potential theft using a relay device.

"The keyless entry and keyless start can be individually disabled or both can be switched off. The vehicles revert to remote control central locking and can only be started when the key is in a specific location in the vehicle, making them impossible to steal using a relay device. Mitsubishi customers can visit their local Mitsubishi dealership who will be happy to assist them with this."


Some Nissan models have keyless entry as standard, we do not believe there is motion sensor technology in the key fobs. 

A Nissan spokesperson stated: “There are precautions that customers can take to prevent the doors from unlocking in the event of a relay attack. These include placing keys in a Faraday pouch to block the attack signal, or deactivating the car’s keyless (i-Key) function, which can be done through the instrument panel settings on the vast majority of Nissan vehicles currently on sale.”


Keyless entry/comfort access is only standard on Panamera Turbo models and above. On all other models it is an option.

The system fitted to the 911, Cayenne and Panamera can be deactivated completely through the Porsche Communication Management system inside the car.

In addition, all new models have a motion sensor in the key that deactivates the radio signal of the key when it is not in motion, and the key can be deactivated manually after each locking via the key on all models.

Renault / Dacia

2019 Dacia Duster

All Renault models in the UK come with a keycard and offer keyless entry. This can be switched off by the owner via an on-screen option on all vehicles, and Customer Relations are able to help customers do this if required.

Among Dacia models, only the top-spec Duster Prestige model has a keyless entry system. 


All current Subaru models, excluding the Forester XE, have keyless entry. Additionally, on all new models with push-button start systems, the owner can set the remote key to “sleep” mode by pressing two buttons on the key fob. The internal receiver in the car can also be turned off to make starting impossible until the key is in contact with the start button.

All Subaru cars (exception the 2008 Subaru Justy) sold by Subaru UK Ltd since 1999 are fitted with a Scorpion Category one alarm system, which incorporates a keypad within the vehicle. This can be used by the owner to programme the system on leaving the vehicle in order that a four-digit security code must be entered before the vehicle will start even if the keys are present. 


Some Suzuki trim levels include keyless entry as standard and we believe that the key fobs don't have motion sensors or other additional security. 

A Sukizi spokesperson stated: "Suzuki acknowledges the susceptibility of keyless entry systems when placed under a relay attack device. For models with the system fitted as standard, it is possible for an authorised Suzuki dealer to disable the keyless entry. This is listed in the owners' handbook.

"Suzuki is fully aware of new regulation announced in March by Thatcham and will work towards this inline with the 2021 deadline."


Tesla Model 3 front right tracking shot

All current Tesla models have passive entry, which can be turned on and off by the owner. In addition, a security upgrade called Pin to Drive was provided for all recent Tesla owners via an over-the-air update in 2018. This allows the car owner to set a secure four-digit code that must be entered on the infotainment screen every time they get into the car to allow it to be driven. 


Keyless entry technology has been removed from the standard equipment list of virtually all new Vauxhall models; the only car with it is the Grandland X Ultimate. Owners of older cars with keyless entry should take precautionary measures, such as keeping the keys in a Faraday bag. 


The following models have keyless entry as standard: 

  • Volvo S60 
  • Volvo V60 R-Design Plus, Inscription Plus, Cross Country Plus and Polestar Engineered
  • Volvo XC60 Momentum Pro, R-Design Pro, Inscription Pro and Polestar Engineered
  • Volvo S90
  • Volvo V90
  • Volvo XC90  

The keyless entry functionality of the key can be deactivated by a Volvo retailer.

A Volvo spokesperson stated: “Volvo Cars uses industry-standard technology with its keyless systems and applies advanced encryptions to limit any remaining risks. 

“New cars are more secure than they have ever been, but we will continue working to improve and enhance our vehicles in line with the latest technological developments. To that end, we are introducing new technology to keys of new Volvos later this year to enhance the car safety system significantly and further reduce the risk for our customers.”

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