2022 What Car? safety award contenders revealed

These five new car models are going head-to-head for the 2022 What Car? Safety Award – and all of them promise to bring big benefits and make driving safer...

Mercedes EQS crash test

The new car models that are in contention to win the 2022 What Car? Safety Award, held in association with Thatcham Research, have been revealed. 

The winner of the Safety Award will be named on 20 January as part of our annual Car of the Year Awards event. The five models in contention range from a small SUV to a luxury saloon, and include cars with electric and hybrid motors as well as those with conventional engines.

The panel of expert judges were looking for the safest vehicles that were also affordable enough to bring safety benefits to a wide audience. Of particular importance were robust active crash-avoidance systems and passive safety features that are fitted as standard across each car's model range.

Announcing the contenders alongside What Car?, Thatcham Research's Chief Research Strategy Officer Matthew Avery said: “It is fantastic to see car makers continuing to prioritise safety, with all but four vehicles tested by Euro NCAP in 2021 achieving a four or five-star rating. Most are rising to the safety challenge and it’s encouraging to note EVs are performing very well. 

"As well as the development of active safety technology to help avoid crashes and protect vulnerable road users, we also welcome the continued introduction of passive safety innovations, such as centre airbags that prevent occupants from hitting one another during side impacts."

Which models are in contention for the Safety Award? 

Mercedes EQS

Mercedes EQS crash test

The pure electric Mercedes EQS scored some of the best Euro NCAP test results of the year, impressing judges with both its active Safety Assist technology and the high level of protection it provides to occupants.

The luxury saloon's scores for adult and child protection are the joint highest of all cars tested in 2021, and it comes as standard with a front airbag mounted in the centre console that protects occupants during side impacts. The EQS costs almost £100,000, though, it will be out of the price range of many car buyers. 

Mercedes EQS Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 96%

Child occupant protection 91%

Vulnerable road user protection 76%

Safety Assist 80%

Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai crash test

The Nissan Qashqai is also one of the top-performing cars in the 2021 Euro NCAP tests, achieving more than 90% in three out of four safety categories. The family SUV is fitted with active safety technologies including lane support and emergency lane-keeping assistance and an automatic braking system that activates when the car is reversing to prevent rear-end shunts. 

Matthew Avery commented: “The Qashqai is an affordable model, yet it's one of the best vehicles we've tested in terms of safety.”

Nissan Qashqai Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 91%

Child occupant protection 91%

Vulnerable road user protection 70%

Safety Assist 95%

Polestar 2

Polestar 2 crash test

The Polestar 2 is the first model from the Swedish brand to be tested by Euro NCAP, and it's reassuring to know that this pure electric model has all the safety features you'd expect from its parent company, Volvo. It has impressive passive safety thanks to its excellent body structure and very effective restraint systems.

Matthew Avery commented: “The Polestar 2 is a vehicle that's fit for the future, with over-the-air updates that offer the potential of improved safety systems over the car’s lifetime. It also boasts very good lane support functions, which are threat sensitive and don’t nag the driver.”

Polestar 2 Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 92%

Child occupant protection 89%

Vulnerable road user protection 80%

Safety Assist 86%

Skoda Enyaq

Skoda Enyaq crash test

Even though the pure electric Skoda Enyaq is a large SUV, it has been designed to minimise damage to other vehicles in the event of a front-end collision. It's also a safe place for those inside the vehicle, with high scores for occupant protection. 

Matthew Avery said: “It’s satisfying to see the Enyaq feature in our top five safest cars list, as it represents the future of all-electric motoring and should sell in large numbers. Its high scores show that safety has not been compromised in the transition to electric propulsion.”

Skoda Enyaq Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 94%

Child occupant protection 89%

Vulnerable road user protection 71%

Safety Assist 82%

Toyota Yaris Cross

Toyota Yaris Cross crash test

The Toyota Yaris Cross small SUV was commended for providing an impressively high level of safety in a small affordable vehicle.

Matthew Avery commented: “It’s reassuring to see Toyota demonstrating that cheaper models can still offer high-end safety systems, and that a focus on overall price need not be at the expense of driver safety.”

Toyota Yaris Cross Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 86%

Child occupant protection 84%

Vulnerable road user protection 78%

Safety Assist 81%

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read more: 2022 What Car? Car of the Year Awards contenders revealed >>