The safest cars on sale today

Thirteen new cars have been assessed by safety organisation Euro NCAP under the latest, more stringent test regime. Are they good enough to make it into our list of the top 10 safest cars?...

Polestar 2 crash test

The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) puts new cars through a series of rigorous crash tests. These recreate common real-life accident scenarios that could result in the death or serious injury of a car’s occupants or other road users. The best performing cars are awarded the top five-star rating, while those that perform poorly could get only one star for safety. 

Euro NCAP toughens up its tests every two years to encourage car makers to keep improving safety standards. For 2020, it introduced a new moving barrier element to the frontal offset crash test, replacing the frontal crash test that had been used since the programme started in 1997.

The new test not only measures likely injuries for those sitting in the near and far side of the vehicle during a crash, but also evaluates how much of a risk the car’s front-end structure poses to the vehicle it hits. To date, these tests have yielded nine five-star results and one four-star result. The only car to score fewer than four stars on these tests so far is the latest Hyundai i10, whose three-star rating was put down to its automatic braking system (AEB) having more limited functionality than that of some small car rivals, and the fact that, in the full-width frontal impact tests, the driver's lap belt didn't prevent the driver's pelvis from slipping under it.

So far, 13 cars have undergone these new, more stringent safety tests. We take a look at the 10 highest-scoring models below. 

The top 10:

10. Kia Sorento

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2021 Kia Sorento front

Adult occupant protection 82% Child occupant protection 85% Pedestrian protection 63% Safety Assist 87%

Total Euro NCAP score 317/400

We've been very impressed with the latest version of the Sorento large SUV and gave it a full five-star score on our road test. The Sorento earned five stars from Euro NCAP, too, helped by its central airbag (the first to be fitted to a Kia) between driver and passenger, and by including an advanced e-Call system which automatically alerts the emergency services in the event of an accident. These technologies helped to offset what Euro NCAP called an "underwhelming performance" in its frontal offset crash test.

Read our full Kia Sorento review >>

9. Mazda MX-30

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Mazda MX-30 2020 wide front left tracking

Adult occupant protection 91% Child occupant protection 87% Pedestrian protection 68% Safety Assist 73%

Total Euro NCAP score 319/400

The electric MX-30 is based on the same underpinnings as the CX-30 family SUV but is considerably heavier, so the fact that it achieved 91% for adult occupant protection is impressive. Helping the car with that feat was its strengthened front-end structure. However, Euro NCAP's testers noted that, while the MX-30 has AEB as standard, the system's performance when detecting and avoiding cyclists and pedestrians was only mediocre.

Land Rover Defender front

Adult occupant protection 85% Child occupant protection 85% Pedestrian protection 71% Safety Assist 79%

Total Euro NCAP score 320/400

As well as being both larger and heavier than the previous Defender, this latest version is also far more advanced when it comes to safety, and its raft of driver assistance and safety systems contributed to a high score across the board from Euro NCAP's testers. Every Defender gets AEB as standard, as well as lane-keeping assistance.

Read our full Land Rover Defender review >>

7. Isuzu D-Max

Isuzu D-Max

Adult occupant protection 84% Child occupant protection 86% Pedestrian protection 69% Safety Assist 83%

Total Euro NCAP score 322/400

You might imagine that a heavy pick-up truck would struggle to perform well in safety tests, but the D-Max did just that. Although Euro NCAP noted that the car's shape and weight made it "aggressive to other vehicles" in the event of a collision, the fact that it now comes with restraints, AEB and a centre airbag as standard made it better at both avoiding potential accidents, and protecting those inside should the worst happen.

Read our full Isuzu D-Max review >>

6. Honda Jazz

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Honda Jazz 2021 front tracking

Adult occupant protection 87% Child occupant protection 83% Pedestrian protection 80% Safety Assist 76%

Total Euro NCAP score 326/400

Honda's small car impressed us with its frugal hybrid engine setup and its practicality, and it impressed in the latest safety tests too. That's thanks to its modern safety systems, which include AEB and – for the first time in a Jazz – a centre airbag. The Jazz also put in the highest score for pedestrian protection of any car yet tested under the stricter 2020 regime.

Read our full Honda Jazz review >>

5. Cupra Formentor

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Cupra Formentor 2020 front tracking

Adult occupant protection 93% Child occupant protection 88% Pedestrian protection 68% Safety Assist 80%

Total Euro NCAP score 329/400

The Cupra Formentor is not only a sporty small SUV, but also a very safe one. In safety tests, it impressed with its modern safety systems, such as AEB that can detect vulnerable road users and is able to prevent or mitigate collisions when the car is turning into a side road. The Formentor also put in the highest score for adult occupant protection of any car yet tested under the stricter 2020 regime.

Read our full Cupra Formentor review >>

4. Toyota Yaris

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Toyota Yaris 2021 front

Adult occupant protection 86% Child occupant protection 81% Pedestrian protection 78% Safety Assist 85%

Total Euro NCAP score 330/400

The new Toyota Yaris was the first car to be tested under Euro NCAP's tougher 2020 safety tests and emerged with a high score in all four areas. As well being shaped in a way that makes it friendlier to other vehicles in the event of an accident, the addition of two central airbags help to limit injuries to those inside the Yaris should the worst happen. Testers also raised Toyota's Safety Sense technology, which successfully prevented the Yaris from turning and hitting an oncoming car.

Seat Leon 2020 front

Adult occupant protection 92% Child occupant protection 88% Pedestrian protection 71% Safety Assist 80%

Total Euro NCAP score 331/400

It turns out that our favourite family hatchback is also one of the safest cars on the road; the latest Leon beat every other car here in terms of how well it protects adults during an accident. The Leon also posted high scores for child and pedestrian protection, and the fact that every version gets an AEB system that can recognise pedestrians and cyclists, plus lane-keeping assistance, helped it to score well for safety assistance systems too.

Read our full Seat Leon review >>

2. Volkswagen ID.3

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Volkswagen ID.3 2021 wide cornering

Adult occupant protection 87% Child occupant protection 89% Pedestrian protection 71% Safety Assist 88%

Total Euro NCAP score 335/400

There was a lot of hype leading up to the launch of Volkswagen's new electric family hatchback, but our own road tests and Euro NCAP's crash tests have shown that it was worth the wait. It's the second safest car yet to go through the more demanding 2020 tests. Testers praised the car's tough structure and restraints for how well they protect occupants in an accident, and the fact that all models have AEB, an advanced e-Call system and a system that applies the car's brakes after an accident.

Read our full Volkswagen ID.3 review >>

Polestar 2 front cornering

Adult occupant protection 92% Child occupant protection 89% Pedestrian protection 80% Safety Assist 86%

Total Euro NCAP score 347/400

The Polestar 2 is a thrillingly quick electric car with an exquisite interior and a decent range. It's also the safest car yet to go through the more demanding 2020 tests. As well as a strong rating for adult occupant protection, it scored an impressive 80% for minimising injury to vulnerable road users thanks to the inclusion as standard of a pop-up bonnet that deploys if the car strikes a pedestrian. It was also praised for the high level of its active safety systems and for the fact that it gives owners the ability to make their car safer in the future via over-the-air-software updates. 

Read our full Polestar 2 review >>

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