The safest cars on sale today

Safety body Euro NCAP has just revealed its latest crash test results. So which models excelled, which disappointed, and do any new models break into our list of the top 10 safest cars on sale?....

4 Dec 2019 15:46

Safest cars you can buy

Safest cars you can buy

The latest batch of Euro NCAP safety testing results has revealed two strong performers with contrasting appeal.

The Tesla Model X is an electric luxury SUV with a price tag that will make most car buyers' eyes water. However, it's a great bet if safety is high on your list of priorities, because it scores 98% for adult occupant protection and 94% for advanced driver safety assistance features. That latter score is the joint-best to date for this category, being achieved by just one other car: the Tesla Model 3

These are just two of the latest findings. However, while Euro NCAP has stated that drivers have never been safer, there are still big differences between the very best and worst performers. So, below we count down the cars with the 11 best scores – and reveal the models that received one star or less.

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=10. Audi Q3

Audi Q3 35 TFSI Sport S tronic [Comfort and Sound Pack]

Adult occupant protection 95% Child occupant protection 86% Pedestrian protection 66% Safety Assist 85%

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

Until recently, the Audi Q3 had the highest Safety Assist score of any car tested under Euro NCAP's latest criteria. The list of systems that are standard includes blindspot monitoring and a lane-keeping system that can steer the car back into its original lane to prevent a head-on collision.

=10. Mazda CX-30

Mazda CX-30 front

Adult occupant protection 99% Child occupant protection 86% Pedestrian protection 80% Safety Assist 77%

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

The CX-30 fits neatly between Mazda's other two SUVs, the small CX-3 and larger CX-5. It feels as luxurious as rivals from premium brands, but costs significantly less. It comes with an impressive array of safety kit as standard, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), blindspot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assistance, a rear cross-traffic alert system (to warn of traffic in your path when reversing into a road) and a driver attention alert system.

=10. Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla Hybrid Design 1.8 VVT-i

Adult occupant protection 95% Child occupant protection 84% Pedestrian protection 86% Safety Assist 77%

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

As good as the latest RAV4 is, we reckon it's Toyota's family hatchback, the Corolla, that's the best hybrid currently on sale. Although the Corolla matches the RAV4 on its overall score, it betters its larger sibling in terms of adult occupant protection and pedestrian protection.

=10. Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Design 2.5 AWD Automatic

Adult occupant protection 93% Child occupant protection 87% Pedestrian protection 85% Safety Assist 77%

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

Large SUVs are all gas-guzzling planet polluters, right? Well, not the Toyota RAV4, because thanks to hybrid power, it pumps out less CO2 than a 1.0-litre Ford Fiesta. The RAV4 comes with automatic emergency braking, including pedestrian and cyclist detection, as standard, as well as lane-keeping assistance.

9: Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen T-Cross

Adult occupant protection 97% Child occupant protection 86% Pedestrian protection 81% Safety Assist 80%

Total Euro NCAP score 344/400

Given that it's Volkswagen's smallest and most affordable SUV yet, the presence of the T-Cross in such a high position on this list is hugely impressive. In fact, the T-Cross performs well in most respects, also being practical, comfortable and good to drive. Being based on the Polo means the T-Cross already offers lots in the way of safety equipment, but also adds lane-keeping assistance.

=7. Lexus ES

Lexus ES front three quarters

Adult occupant protection 91% Child occupant protection 87% Pedestrian protection 90% Safety Assist 87%

Total Euro NCAP score 345/400

Modern luxury saloons tend to use diesel engines, but the ES is different, combining a 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor. This approach makes for a car that's whisper-quiet around town and when cruising on the motorway but a bit noisy under acceleration. The ride is comfortable and company car tax bills are comparatively low. The ES' suite of safety kit includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assistance and high-speed emergency braking as standard.

=7. Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X Long Range front three quarters

Adult occupant protection 98% Child occupant protection 81% Pedestrian protection 72% Safety Assist 94%

Total Euro NCAP score 345/400

With a real-world range of 233 miles between charges and seating for seven, the Model X electric SUV is a viable alternative to conventionally powered rivals, such as the Audi Q7. And it beats that car in Euro NCAP's safety tests, thanks to better adult occupant protection and the joint-best score to date for active safety assistance features.

6: Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester e-Boxer front three quarters

Adult occupant protection 97% Child occupant protection 91% Pedestrian protection 80% Safety Assist 78%

Total Euro NCAP score 346/400

This is one SUV that's not all about looks. The Forester is built to last and capable of climbing mountains, and it now comes with hybrid power, which should reduce running costs. The latest version is also extremely safe, scoring strongly in all four Euro NCAP categories, doing particularly well for adult and child occupant protection. 

5: BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series 320d front

Adult occupant protection 97% Child occupant protection 87% Pedestrian protection 87% Safety Assist 76%

Total Euro NCAP score 347/400

The latest 3 Series – our reigning champion in the executive car market – is a triumph. It has a beautiful interior with an intuitive infotainment system, plus it offers sharp steering and superb body control. And no matter whether you're heading to business meetings in the city or crossing countries on your holidays, we think you'll end each journey with a smile on your face. Importantly, the 3 Series comes with lane-keeping assistance and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist protection as standard.

4: Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Adult occupant protection 96% Child occupant protection 86% Pedestrian protection 74% Safety Assist 94 %

Total Euro NCAP score 350/400

Tesla is famous for pushing the boundaries of autonomous driving technology, so it's perhaps unsurprising that its new Model 3 scored so highly in the Safety Assist section. However, Euro NCAP found that it also performs well when a crash is unavoidable.

3: BMW Z4

BMW Z4

Adult occupant protection 97% Child occupant protection 87% Pedestrian protection 91% Safety Assist 76 %

Total Euro NCAP score 351/400

You might not think that a low-slung convertible sports car could make it so far up this list, but the BMW Z4 – twinned with the Toyota GR Supra – has one of the highest adult occupant protection scores of any car here. Automatic emergency braking and a lane departure warning system are fitted to every Z4, and you can add aids such as lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control from the options list.

2: Mercedes-Benz CLA

Mercedes-Benz CLA front three quarters

Adult occupant protection 96% Child occupant protection 91% Pedestrian protection 91% Safety Assist 75 %

Total Euro NCAP score 352/400

The latest Mercedes CLA scored especially well for its protection of child occupants, and offers standard safety kit including lane-keeping and speed assistance, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection. Euro NCAP engineers rated its lane-keeping system as only being marginally effective, but its other scores were excellent.

1: Mercedes A-Class

Mercedes A-Class

Adult occupant protection 96% Child occupant protection 91% Pedestrian protection 92% Safety Assist 75%

Total Euro NCAP score 354/400

Despite being the cheapest model in the Mercedes range, the latest A-Class has the highest combined score of any car tested by Euro NCAP since it introduced its tougher test procedures back at the start of 2018. Hardly surprising, then, that the A-Class won the Safety Award at the 2019 What Car? Car of the Year Awards.

So that's the safest cars you can buy, but what about the cars with the worst scores?

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler off-road

Jeep Wrangler

Adult occupant protection 50% Child occupant protection 69% Pedestrian protection 49% Safety Assist 32%

Total Euro NCAP score 200/400

It may look suitably tough, but while all of the cars in the top 10 earned Euro NCAP's maximum five-star rating, the new Jeep Wrangler was awarded just one star. Structures in the dashboard were found to present a risk to front seat occupants, and there were indications that the car's body would be unable to withstand higher loads than those experienced during the offset frontal crash test.

Fiat Panda

Used Fiat Panda 12-present

Adult occupant protection 45% Child occupant protection 16% Pedestrian protection 47% Safety Assist 7%

Total Euro NCAP score 115/400

As disappointing as the Wrangler's scores are, it's the Fiat Panda that's the worst performer under the latest test rules, with a zero-star overall rating. Interestingly, it was given four stars when it was first tested by Euro NCAP back in 2011, showing just how much and how quickly standards have improved.

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