BMW 3 Series wins What Car? Safety Award 2020

Judges praise the all-round safety performance of popular executive saloon, which is the first BMW to win the What Car? Safety Award...

BMW 3 Series crash test

The BMW 3 Series has been crowned as the safest car of the year in the What Car Awards, beating stiff competition from the Mercedes CLA and Telsa Model 3. 

The seventh-generation 3 Series was hailed as a great all-rounder by judge and safety expert Matthew Avery from Thatcham Research.   

“It gained some of the highest scores seen in Euro NCAP impact testing and has a very good automatic emergency braking (AEB) system, which can detect other vehicles along with pedestrians and cyclists,” he said. 

In Euro NCAP crash tests, the BMW scored maximum points in both side impacts, and its AEB system gained top marks in tests at city driving speeds for avoiding collisions with other cars, cyclists and pedestrians. 

Fitted with an ‘active’ pop-up bonnet, the 3 Series is also able to lessen the impact in the event of the car hitting a pedestrian.  

Another important factor in choosing the best car for safety is how much of an impact it will have on road safety. Because the 3 Series is a high-volume seller, accounting for nearly a third of BMW’s annual sales, this maximises the benefit to road users. 

Tesla Model 3 crash test

Two other new models were highly commended by the judges: the Telsa Model 3 and Mercedes CLA. The Tesla was praised for the quality of its driver assistance systems, which scored 94% and make it by far the best car ever tested for avoiding accidents. 

It also achieved maximum points for its lane support and electronic lane-keeping systems, which can recognise, and steer away from, road edges and oncoming vehicles.

Although the Model 3 is fitted with some of the best driver assistance systems on the market, Avery sounded a word of caution on its AutoPilot system. “Its AutoPilot function is badly named and has design flaws that encourage the driver to let the vehicle take complete control,” he said. 

Mercedes CLA crash test

In third place was the Mercedes CLA, which is closely related to the 2019 Safety Award winner, the A-Class. It was the only vehicle to score more than 90% in the Euro NCAP adult occupant protection, child occupant protection and vulnerable road user categories. 

However, its emergency lane-keeping system was not “best of breed”, according to Avery, because it isn't able to identify road edges when there are no markings on the road, and it has no threat detection for oncoming vehicles.

The What Car? Safety Award 2020 winners were selected by an expert panel of judges made up of Avery, Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen and What Car? consumer editor Claire Evans. 

The judging criteria took a variety of factors into account, including: 

  • Five-star Euro NCAP rating and high overall Euro NCAP test scores in all categories
  • Sales potential and affordability
  • Standard-fit crash avoidance technology, including AEB systems that can detect vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, and electronic lane-keeping systems to prevent cars from colliding with oncoming vehicles
  • Driving assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control and lane support systems that reduce fatigue for motorway drivers

The safest SUVs and 4x4s

With their tough looks, 4x4s and SUVs have long been seen as some of the safest cars on the road. But in reality there are sizeable differences between the best and worst performers.

This is highlighted by the crash tests conducted by the independent assessors at Euro NCAP. So, if you're looking for a new SUV to keep you and your family safe, what should you choose?

Below we count down the 10 SUVs that have received the highest scores since the latest – and toughest – version of the Euro NCAP test was introduced at the start of 2018. Plus, we reveal the model which received just one star out of five.

=9. Mercedes GLE

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Mercedes GLE front - 19 plate

Adult occupant protection 91% Child occupant protection 90% Pedestrian protection 78% Safety Assist 78%

Total Euro NCAP score 337

Some rivals are more practical and better to drive, but the Mercedes GLE has a dazzling interior, and on air suspension, is a comfortable cruiser. Whiplash protection is good, too, and the GLE has one of the best child occupant protection scores of any car tested.

Read our full Mercedes GLE review >>

=9. Skoda Kamiq

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Skoda Kamiq front

Adult occupant protection 96% Child occupant protection 85% Pedestrian protection 80% Safety Assist 76%

Total Euro NCAP score 337

This small SUV is very comfortable and easy to drive, without feeling like a wallowy barge, plus it's well priced and very roomy for its size. All of this helped it achieve a five-star What Car? rating, and Euro NCAP rates it just as highly; standard safety equipment includes lane keeping assistanceautomatic emergency braking (with pedestrian detection) and seven airbags.

Read our full Skoda Kamiq review >>

8. Seat Tarraco

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2019 Seat Tarraco front

Adult occupant protection 97% Child occupant protection 84% Pedestrian protection 79% Safety Assist 79%

Total Euro NCAP score 339

The largest of Seat's three SUVs is enjoyable to drive and generously equipped, but it isn’t as versatile as the very best alternatives. On the other hand, it outscored both its Skoda Kodiaq sister car and the award-winning Peugeot 5008 for adult and child occupant protection.

Read our full Seat Tarraco review >>

7. Lexus UX

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Lexus UX front

Adult occupant protection 96% Child occupant protection 85% Pedestrian protection 82% Safety Assist 77%

Total Euro NCAP score 340

Lexus's smallest SUV is offered exclusively as a hybrid, giving it low CO2 emissions and company car tax bills. What's more, every model comes with a Safety System Plus package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and road sign detection. Unfortunately, the driving experience is so-so and the infotainment system and practicality are poor.

Read our full Lexus UX review >>

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