2021 What Car? Safety Award - which is the safest new car?

In a year where the biggest changes were made to crash testing in 23 years, we reveal the model that came out on top...

The 2021 What Car? Safety Award, judged in partnership with Thatcham Research, has been won by the Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback, the first in its new line-up of pure electric vehicles (EVs). 

Volkswagen has been praised for the effort it’s made to ensure that the ID.3 is very safe structurally and kitted out with the latest active safety technology as standard. 

Volkswagen ID.3 2021 wide cornering

The ID.3 scored the maximum five-star rating from Euro NCAP for its safety credentials, an impressive feat in a year where testing was made tougher than ever. Among changes to the crash tests, a mobile progressive deformable barrier (MPDB) has replaced the static barrier in the offset head-on collision test. The crash test car and barrier both travel towards each other at 31mph and the impact is examined to judge how much damage a car causes to another vehicle and its occupants during the collision. 

With 30% of those killed in side-on crashes on the opposite side from the impact, the tests now also measure the impact on those on the far side of the car. 

The ID.3 was the highest scoring car of 2020, gaining 89% for child occupant protection and 87% for adult occupant protection in crash tests, aided by the inclusion of a front centre airbag that prevents people from hitting their head against each other in a side crash. 

2021 Safety Award VW ID.3

The new Volkswagen also performed well in tests of its active safety systems, which aim to prevent collisions occurring in the first place. As standard, it has an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system that is capable of averting collisions in a range of situations, including when the ID.3 is approaching other cars or turning across the path of an oncoming vehicle. It also helps drivers to avoid cyclists and pedestrians, both to the side and in front of the car. 

Matthew Avery, director of research with Thatcham Research, which conducts safety testing for Euro NCAP in the UK, commented: “It's particularly rewarding to see such a strong performing all-electric car from a mainstream manufacturer. As part of the growing ID family, with the ID.4 just around the corner, this is a car that represents the brand’s motoring future and will therefore be a popular vehicle on our roads.

“Volkswagen deserves praise for prioritising safety with its first fully-electric car. That bodes very well for the future of road safety.”

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Next: Read about more Car of the Year 2021 winners >>