The safest cars on sale in 2024 - the latest crash tests

The safety tests for new cars were toughened up in 2023, making it harder for new cars to achieve the full five-star rating. Which models make it onto our list of the safest cars?...

Zeekr 001 crash test

The European New Car Assessment Programme or EuroNCAP may have started crash testing cars in 1997, but the international safety organisation is continually enhancing and tweaking the tests new cars need to go through to be assessed as part of its safety rating programme. 

The latest round of changes were introduced in 2023, and include the introduction of tougher tests to see how well cars are able to detect and avoid collisions with motorcyclists and vulnerable road users in more complex situations, such as when a car is turning right at a junction and when it’s crossing the path of an oncoming vehicle. New night-time tests of active safety systems are being carried out for the first time, too.  

There is now also a requirement for cars to have a driver monitoring system to warn against drowsiness or inattention, and a warning system to stop the driver from opening their door and hitting a cyclist if one is riding alongside the car. 

New models should also have emergency systems that allow people to open the doors and windows after a car has been submerged in water. And extra marks will be added for vehicles that come as standard with an in-car system that alerts the driver if a child has been left in the car. 

To achieve the coveted five-star rating, each new model has to comply with these exacting new targets, as well as provide exemplary physical crash protection. 

Zeekr X crash test

The highest-scoring model tested under the latest regime is the Zeekr X small SUV. It's one of many new electric models arriving from China, but it is based on the same underpinnings as the Volvo EX30, which is a good thing as it appears to have taken onboard that brand's ambition to build extremely safe vehicles. It provides excellent protection for those inside the car, and for other road users. 

A second model being introduced by the brand, the 001 electric car, also scored well in EuroNCAP testing. It achieved an overall score of 344 points, putting it in fifth place in our top 10.  

A model from another Chinese brand, Nio, lies in third place. The ET5 gained the top score of 96% for adult occupant protection, making it the safest place to be in the event of an accident. 

Another superbly safe all-rounder is the Volkswagen ID 7, which takes the second spot overall, scoring well across the board. Not far behind is the Smart #3, which scored 85% for active safety systems; this is the joint highest active safety rating so far, also achieved by the Mercedes EQE, the German brand’s electric executive express. 

BMW 5 Series crash test

In total, 25 new cars have been tested under Euro NCAP's latest standards. They include the new BMW 5 Series, which includes the BMW i5 electric model, the BYD Dolphin, Kia EV9 and the Lexus RZ

The four models that scored less than five stars were the Ford Tourneo CustomHonda Z-RV, Hyundai Kona and the Vietnamese Vinfast VF8.

Here, we list the top 10 safest cars that are either on sale now, or arriving in 2024.

The top 10 safest cars

1. Zeekr X

Zeekr X front driving

Adult occupant protection 91% Child occupant protection 90% Pedestrian protection 84% Safety Assist 83%

Total Euro NCAP score 348/400

The Zeekr X is the safest car of all those tested under the latest EuroNCAP test regime. It gained full marks for the side impact crash test, offering good protection to all those seated inside the vehicle. In the front-end crash, it demonstrated that it would be moderately benign in a collision with another vehicle. 

Protection for other road users is also good. The Zeekr X's autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system was able to prevent collisions with cyclists in all test scenarios, gaining the maximum possible points for this area of testing.  It's also fitted with a system that prevents front seat occupants from opening a door onto a cyclist riding beside the car. 

The Zeekr X comes as standard with a system that automatically applies the brakes after a collision to avoid a secondary impact, and it's designed so that the car doors can be opened and the electric windows can be used by occupants after the car has been submerged in water. 

2. Volkswagen ID 7

White VW ID 7 interior infotainment

Adult occupant protection 95% Child occupant protection 88% Pedestrian protection 83% Safety Assist 80%

Total Euro NCAP score 346/400

The ID 7 is the safest car of all those tested under the latest EuroNCAP test regime. It gained full marks for the full-width frontal crash test, providing excellent protection for a wide range of people of different statures sitting in a number of positions in the vehicle.

It also excels in some of the newest tests aimed at protecting the most vulnerable road users. It has a pop-up bonnet that helps to reduce head injuries of pedestrians and cyclists should they be struck by the car, and its crash avoidance system is able to detect motorcyclists extremely well and avoid collisions with them.  

The ID 7’s active driver assistance systems are effective yet unobtrusive. They are a significant improvement over previous versions of the group’s active driver safety systems, especially lane keeping assistance, which was considered too abrupt and intrusive by drivers. 

Read our in-depth Volkswagen ID 7 review

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=3. NIO ET5

Nio ET5

Adult occupant protection 96% Child occupant protection 85% Pedestrian protection 83% Safety Assist 81%

Total Euro NCAP score 345/400

The NIO ET5 is the Chinese brand’s answer to the Tesla Model 3. An electric executive saloon and estate, it is good to drive and well-appointed, and it’s made by a brand that’s starting to gain credibility in Europe. It's expected to go on sale in the UK in early 2025. 

Its adult occupant protection is exemplary, and it’s also pretty good at protecting children onboard. 

The AEB system responds to vulnerable road users, as well as to other vehicles. It worked well at spotting pedestrians and children in daylight, and motorcyclists in all conditions.  The lane-keeping support system worked well, but was not too intrusive. The only shortcoming was with the system that detects cyclists pedalling alongside the car, which didn’t work that well.

=3. Smart #3

Smart #3 Premium, white, review

Adult occupant protection 90% Child occupant protection 86% Pedestrian protection 84% Safety Assist 85%

Total Euro NCAP score 345/400

The Smart #3 is a longer, wider coupé version of the Smart #1 electric SUV that promises a slightly sportier drive and a sleeker roof line that doesn’t significantly compromise practicality. 

It’s also exceptionally good at protecting those inside and outside of the car in the event of an accident. The AEB system reacts well to the presence of vulnerable road users, particularly cyclists and motorcyclists, and it’s good at detecting other vehicles in the various test scenarios. There’s also a driver monitoring system that can spot various forms of inattention as well as fatigue. 

Read our in-depth Smart #3 review

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5. Zeekr 001

Zeekr 001 Coming Soon

Adult occupant protection 89% Child occupant protection 88% Pedestrian protection 84% Safety Assist 83%

Total Euro NCAP score 344/400

The 001 is a swoopy, pure electric estate model that aims to rival the Porsche Taycan. Although its EuroNCAP score is slightly behind the Zeekr X, it's still a very safe vehicle. As well as performing well in the frontal crash tests, it gained maximum points in the collision with a side barrier, providing good protection for all critical bodyparts of those inside the car. 

Like the X, the 001 has a system that applies the brakes after an accident, and it enables those inside the car to get out if it's enters water. It also comes with an alert system to tell parents if a child as accidentally been left in the car. Although it has a driver monitoring system, this only detects fatigue and not distraction, so it didn't gain full marks. 


6. Mercedes EQE

Mercedes EQE SUV front cornering

Adult occupant protection 87% Child occupant protection 90% Pedestrian protection 80% Safety Assist 85%

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

The EQE is a refined and comfortable electric car with a long range. The EQE 300 and 350 have an official range of 388 miles and, although you’re only likely to get around 325 miles in real-world driving, that’s still five miles more than a Tesla Model 3 Long Range. 

With strong scores in all four EuroNCAP rating areas, the EQE is a great safety all-rounder. It stands out for gaining the highest marks for child occupant protection, with its score bolstered by an automatic front passenger airbag deactivation system (most systems have to be manually turned off or on to accommodate a child seat safely), and a child presence detection system. In addition, the AEB system is good at detecting pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. 

Read our in-depth Mercedes EQE review

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7. BYD Dolphin

BYD Dolphin front cornering

Adult occupant protection 89% Child occupant protection 87% Pedestrian protection 85% Safety Assist 79%

Total Euro NCAP score 340/400

The Dolphin is a small electric car that’s affordable, roomy and well equipped. In terms of adult and child occupant protection it’s up there with the best alternatives, and its score of 85% for pedestrian protection is only exceeded by the BMW 5 Series. 

As well as being fairly kind to smaller vehicles in frontal collisions, the Dolphin is designed to minimise injuries to vulnerable road users. Its AEB system reacts well to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists and it will prevent the driver’s door from being opened onto a cyclist. 

Read our in-depth BYD Dolphin review

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8. Lexus RZ

Lexus RZ front cornering

Adult occupant protection 87% Child occupant protection 87% Pedestrian protection 84% Safety Assist 81%

Total Euro NCAP score 339/400

Although Lexus has been ahead of the pack for hybrid technology, the RZ is its first bespoke pure electric model, so it’s great to see that it’s an extremely safe option. It’s also practical, good to drive, comfortable and quiet. 

In spite of its SUV styling, it's one of the most benign models when it comes to impacts with pedestrians and cyclists, and its AEB system scored maximum points for spotting those on two wheels and avoiding impacts with them. It is also able to prevent a driver from opening the door if a cyclist is pedalling alongside the car.  

Read our in-depth Lexus RZ review

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9. BMW 5 Series 

Blue BMW i5 front right driving

Adult occupant protection 89% Child occupant protection 85% Pedestrian protection 86% Safety Assist 78%

Total Euro NCAP score 338/400

The BMW 5 Series has long been a stalwart of premium company car wish lists, and the eighth generation model looks set to continue this trend. It’s offered with mild hybrid engine technology and as a plug-in hybrid, while the i5 version should satisfy electric car enthusiasts. 

Although it provides good protection for its occupants in a collision, the 5 Series is fairly benign to smaller vehicles in a head-on crash. It also ticks the boxes for the latest safety innovations: its advanced eCall system automatically alerts the emergency services after an accident and the car’s brakes are activated too, preventing a secondary collision. There’s a system to send a warning if a child is left in the car, too.

Other road users are well protected too, with the active safety system scoring maximum points for spotting and avoiding a collision with a motorcyclist, and the car issuing a warning if the driver is going to open the door on a cyclist - and stopping the door from opening if an accident becomes imminent. 

The Euro NCAP rating is valid for all 5 Series variants, including the pure electric i5. 

Read our in-depth BMW i5 review

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10. NIO EL7

Nio EL7

Adult occupant protection 93% Child occupant protection 85% Pedestrian protection 80% Safety Assist 79%

Total Euro NCAP score 337/400

The Chinese brand's luxury SUV doesn't score quite as well as the ET5, but it's still a strong all-rounder. While the AEB system worked well at preventing accidents with vulnerable road users in most instances, the 'dooring' system, which prevents or warns against door opening if a cyclist is approaching from behind, did not gain a strong score. Although the EL7 is fitted with a system that alerts the driver if a child is left alone in the car, the system didn't meet the requirements of the Euro NCAP tests so it didn't gain any points in this area. 

We expect the EL7 to go on sale in the UK in early 2025. 

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