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Car of the Year Awards 2023: Safety Award

For this award, our judges considered both active and passive safety, along with purchase price, because a model that sells in large numbers will have a bigger influence on road safety...

WINNER: Safety Award

Tesla Model Y

Car of the Year Awards logo - Thatcham

Out of more than 100 models, the Tesla Model Y is the highest-scoring car tested by Euro NCAP since 2020, when it introduced the latest testing criteria. It gained a total score of 364 out of 400, putting it more than 10 marks ahead of other top- performing models such as the Smart #1 and Mercedes EQE.

It is the safest model for adult occupants, gaining almost 100% in this area, and its safety assist rating – which demonstrates how well its active safety systems work – is also the highest ever achieved, at 98%.

It scores so well for safety assist for two reasons. The first is that its systems, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB)
and high-speed adaptive cruise control, are extremely well tuned, so they’re able to spot other vehicles and road users early and react swiftly to avoid collisions.

Tesla Model Y 2022 front pan

The second is that the safety systems are continually getting better, because when Tesla spots potential improvements, it issues over-the-air updates that add the latest active safety software to existing models as well as new ones.

The American brand also takes notice of new advances in safety made by competitors and acts quickly to bring them to its models. One example of this is when other brands started introducing airbags between the front seats of their cars to lessen the impact of side-on crashes. Euro NCAP recognised the safety benefits of these and awarded the models that included them higher points. Tesla did too and swiftly decided to introduce these to its cars worldwide, starting with Europe.

As a large electric SUV, the Model Y is fairly expensive, but it’s selling well, because it’s also a practical family car. If you can afford it, it’s the model to choose for keeping you, your family and other road users safe.

2nd - Smart #1

Smart #1 Euro NCAP crash test

The Smart #1 demonstrates that it is possible to make an affordable small electric car that is also safer than many larger models. It scores almost as well as the Tesla Model Y for adult protection (96%), and it betters that car for child protection with a score of 89%.

This is a significant achievement; small cars have to work harder than larger ones to get top safety scores, because they’re lighter and there’s less metal to absorb an impact.

With an 88% score, the #1 also does well in the safety assist tests, and that means there’s less likelihood of the car being involved in a collision in the first place.

3rd - Mercedes EQE

Mercedes EQE Euro NCAP crash test

The EQE is an extremely safe place for adults and children in the event of a collision, with scores of more than 90% for protecting those inside. It’s also fairly benign in accidents with pedestrians and cyclists, scoring 83% for the protection of vulnerable road users.

The EQE is the first production model to have an advanced emergency lane assistance system, going beyond the current standards for a high score. Instead of just slowing the car down in its lane if the driver is unresponsive, as other systems do, it can steer the car to the left to bring it to a halt out of the way of other traffic.

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See all of our Car of the Year 2023 winners >>