2024 What Car? Safety Award contenders revealed

Testing for Euro NCAP safety ratings was toughened in 2023. We reveal the models that did well enough to make it onto the shortlist for the 2024 What Car? Safety Award...

Honda Z-RV crash test

The new car models that are in contention to win the 2024 What Car? Safety Award, held in association with Thatcham Research, have been revealed. 

The winner of the Safety Award will be named on 18 January as part of our annual Car of the Year Awards event. The five models with a chance of winning range from a small SUV to a luxury SUV, giving buyers a good variety of car sizes and price points to choose from. 

All but one of the contenders are pure electric cars, demonstrating that car makers are paying attention to safety for the models that will become their main sellers in the future, as we transition to the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales in 2035

BMW 5 Series crash test

The panel of expert judges from Euro NCAP, Thatcham Research and What Car? only had a small number of vehicles to choose from because the testing criteria for EuroNCAP ratings became more demanding in 2023, and 18 new car safety ratings were released.  

The more rigorous safety testing included new requirements for collision avoidance, crash protection and post-crash safety. In collision avoidance, a new crash test dummy riding a motorcycle was introduced, along with a test of an in-car system that should detect a cyclist riding past a parked car. The best systems will first issue a warning to the driver and, if this is ignored, prevent the car door from being opened.

Another new evaluation focussed on vehicle submergence countermeasures. It requires car makers to install systems that prevent occupants from becoming trapped inside if a car is submerged in water. 

Volkswagen ID 7 crash test

What makes a What Car? Safety Award winner? 

As well as gaining the full five-star EuroNCAP safety rating, to be in contention for the safety award, new models need to show excellent crash protection and collision avoidance, innovation in the protection of vulnerable road users and mass market appeal.  And, 2024 is also the the first time that on-road advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) performance is being considered during the judging process.

“In 2023 we had new automotive brands enter the UK market, but thankfully that did not mean a compromise on safety performance. With the notably expanded safety requirements and new test scenarios from Euro NCAP, it is ever more impressive that both new and established brands took the challenge head on and delivered high achieving safety scores across a wide variety of vehicles,” said principal engineer of automotive safety at Thatcham Research and What Car? Safety Award judge, Alex Thompson.  

“Vehicle manufacturers should also receive credit for listening to consumers and designing safety systems that support the driver and work with them collaboratively, a challenging task when combined with complex testing and assessments," he added. 

The 5 models in contention for the Safety Award:

1. BMW 5 Series

BMW 5 Series

The BMW 5 Series excelled in the protection of vulnerable road users, in part due to its pop-up bonnet, which helps to reduce injuries to pedestrians and cyclists in collisions. It also has a customisable advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), which enables drivers to tailor the sensitivity of the system to suit their needs, discouraging them from turning it off and missing out on the safety benefits. 

BMW 5 Series Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 89%

Child occupant protection 85%

Pedestrian protection 86%

Safety Assist 78%

2. BYD Seal

BYD Seal crash test

Although Chinese brand BYD is a newcomer to the What Car? Safety Award, it has produced an all-electric car with many of the safety technologies only found on more premium vehicles. 

The BYD Seal scored full points in the new tests involving motorcyclists. Safety systems often find motorcyclists difficult to detect due to their small profile, so it is great to see BYD taking vulnerable road user safety seriously. 

BYD Seal Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 90%

Child occupant protection 86%

Pedestrian protection 83%

Safety Assist 77%

3. Lexus RZ

Lexus RZ crash test

This all-electric car scored highly across the board including gaining 87% on both the adult occupant and child occupant categories. It was also awarded full points on its AEB vulnerable road user performance (84%) which includes challenging night-time scenarios.

The Lexus RZ is also fitted with a direct driver monitoring system as standard, which aims to ensure driver safety on longer journeys by monitoring sleepiness.

Lexus RZ Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 87%

Child occupant protection 87%

Pedestrian protection 84%

Safety Assist 81%

4. Mercedes EQE

Mercedes EQE crash test

The Mercedes EQE continues the German luxury brand's strong reputation for building some of the safest vehicles you can buy. In the AEB car-to-car tests, the EQE achieved the highest score of the cars on the shortlist: 8.9 out of nine. And, in the even more challenging head-on AEB test, it gained maximum points. 

It also gained the highest score for child occupant protection, with it score in this category bolstered by a system that can automatically disable the front passenger airbag when a child seat is installed in the seat, and automatically re-enable it when the child seat is removed. 

Mercedes EQE Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 87%

Child occupant protection 90%

Pedestrian protection 80%

Safety Assist 85%

5. Volkswagen ID 7

Volkswagen ID 7 crash test

The Volkswagen ID 7 is the highest scoring vehicle to have undergone the latest, tougher EuroNCAP tests. As standard, it is fitted with a variety of innovative safety technologies that are aimed at reducing risk to vulnerable road users. These include a pop-up bonnet and a system that prevents the driver's door from being opened if a cyclist is riding alongside the car. The ID 7's 95% adult occupant protection score is also the highest on the shortlist. 

Volkswagen ID 7 Euro NCAP crash test scores

Adult occupant protection 95%

Child occupant protection 88%

Pedestrian protection 83%

Safety Assist 80%

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