The safest cars on sale today

Four 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 safest cars?...

The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) puts new cars through a series of rigorous tests.

Mazda MX-30 Euro NCAP crash test

These recreate important real-life accident scenarios that could result in the death or serious injury of a car’s occupants or other road users. Models that do well are awarded the top five-star rating and those that disappoint could get only one star for safety. 

The safest cars (cont.)

Mazda MX-30 crash test

Euro NCAP toughens up its tests every two years to encourage car makers to continually improve 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.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only four cars have been tested so far under the stricter regime: the Honda Jazz, Mazda MX-30Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen ID.3. All four gained five-star ratings. 

The safest cars (cont.)

Honda Jazz crash test

The Jazz gained a high score for the protection of vulnerable road users. Its standard automatic emergency braking (AEB) system detects pedestrians and cyclists, as well as other vehicles and enabled it to avoid or mitigate collisions in most cases. It also has a front centre airbag to protect against occupant-to-occupant interaction in side impacts; this worked well in the side impact crash test.

Adult occupant protection is the MX-30's biggest strength; it gained maximum marks in the two side impact crash tests thanks to its structural rigidity and the standard fitment of a front centre airbag. However, it lost marks in the vulnerable road user tests because its AEB system was only rated as marginal at detecting pedestrians and cyclists. 

The safest cars (cont.)

Toyota Yaris crash test

The Yaris performed well in the new frontal offset crash test. Its two centre-mounted front airbags inflated on impact to limit occupants’ sideways movement, and it deformed in a way that would be benign to the other vehicle in a crash. However, it didn’t provide the best protection for the driver's chest and legs, due to potentially injurious items on the dashboard.

The safest cars (cont.)

Volkswagen ID.3 crash test

The ID.3 didn’t offer maximum protection for adult occupants in all crash tests. However, it was praised for having a centre airbag that prevents front seat occupants from hitting each other in a side impact. Its strong Safety Assist score is due to the standard fitment of high-tech sensors and systems that help prevent collisions in the first place. 

The safest cars (cont.)

Toyota Yaris crash test

Because so few cars were tested in 2020, our top 10 also takes into account the 51 tested in 2018 and 2019. Although 46 of them earned the full five-star safety rating, there are still big differences between the very best and worst performers. So, below we count down the cars with the best scores – and reveal the models that received one star or less.

=10. Audi Q3

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

Until Euro NCAP began testing Teslas, the Q3 had the highest Safety Assist score. Its long list of driver assistance systems includes blindspot monitoring and a lane-keeping system that can steer the car back into its original lane to prevent a head-on collision. The Q3’s adult occupant protection score is higher than the Range Rover Evoque’s, too.

Read our full Audi Q3 review >>

Audi Q3 (cont.)

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

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

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

Save money on a new Audi Q3 with What Car? >>

=10. Mazda CX-30

Mazda CX-30 driving

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.

Read our full Mazda CX-30 review >>

Mazda CX-30 (cont.)

Mazda CX-30

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

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

Save money on a new Mazda CX-30 with What Car? >>

=10. Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Icon Tech

Toyota’s family hatchback, the Corolla, is not only the best hybrid currently on sale but also one of the safest, achieving a particularly high score for protecting pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. It uses a camera to recognise local speed limits and the driver can set the car to automatically keep below the limit.

Read our full Toyota Corolla review >>

Toyota Corolla (cont.)

Toyota Corolla GR 2020 RHD dashboard

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

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

 

=10. Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

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. It’s very safe, too, with an automatic emergency braking system that includes pedestrian and cyclist detection as standard, as well as lane-keeping assistance.

Read our full Toyota RAV4 review >>

Toyota RAV4 (cont.)

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Design 2.5 AWD Automatic - interior

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

Total Euro NCAP score 342/400

Save money on a new Toyota RAV4 with What Car? >>

9. Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen T-Cross driving

Given that it’s Volkswagen’s smallest and most affordable SUV, it’s great to see the T-Cross score so well for safety. Based on the Polo small hatchback, the T-Cross offers all the standard safety equipment of that five-star Euro NCAP model, including AEB that can recognise cyclists and pedestrians, and adds lane-keeping assistance.

Read our full Volkswagen T-Cross review >> 

Volkswagen T-Cross (cont.)

Volkswagen T-Cross interior

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

Total Euro NCAP score 344/400

Save money on a new Volkswagen T-Cross with What Car? >>

=7. Lexus ES

Lexus ES front - 20 plate

Most modern luxury saloons use diesel engines, but the ES is different, combining a 2.5-litre petrol with an electric motor. Its generous suite of safety features includes AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assistance and high-speed braking as standard. Blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional.

Read our full Lexus ES review >>

Lexus ES (cont.)

Lexus ES dashboard - 68 plate

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

Total Euro NCAP score 345/400

Save money on a new Lexus ES with What Car? >>

=7. Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X 2021 RHD front tracking

With an official range of up to 348 miles, the Model X electric SUV is a viable alternative to conventionally powered rivals such as the Audi Q7. It beats that car in Euro NCAP’s safety tests, too, thanks to its better adult occupant protection.To date, it also holds the joint-best score for active safety assistance features.

Read our full Tesla Model X review >>

Tesla Model X (cont.)

Tesla Model X - interior

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

Total Euro NCAP score 345/400

Save money on a new Tesla Model X with What Car? >>

6. Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester 2019 front corner

The Forester is a proper off-roader that feels built to last, while the presence of hybrid power should help to reduce running costs. The latest version is also extremely safe, scoring strongly in all four Euro NCAP categories and particularly impressing the engineers with the adult and child occupant protection it offers in a crash.

Read our full Subaru Forester review >>

Subaru Forester (cont.)

Subaru Forester 2019 interior

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

Total Euro NCAP score 346/400

Save money on a new Subaru Forester with What Car? >>

5. BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series 320d front

The 3 Series is our reigning champion in the executive car market. It has a beautiful interior with an intuitive infotainment system, plus it offers sharp steering and superb body control. Importantly, the 3 Series comes with lane-keeping assistance and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist recognition as standard.

Read our full BMW 3 Series review >>

BMW 3 Series (cont.)

BMW 3 Series Saloon 2021 dashboard RHD

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

Total Euro NCAP score 347/400

Save money on a new BMW 3 Series with What Car? >>

4. Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 front

Tesla is famous for pushing the boundaries of autonomous driving technology, so it’s perhaps not surprising that its electric Model 3 executive saloon scored so highly in the Safety Assist category. However, Euro NCAP found that it also protects occupants of all ages well when a crash is unavoidable.

Read our full Tesla Model 3 review >>

Tesla Model 3 (cont.)

Tesla Model 3 dashboard

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

Total Euro NCAP score 350/400

3. BMW Z4

BMW Z4

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. Automatic emergency braking and a lane departure warning system are fitted to every Z4, and you can add driver aids such as lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control as options.

Read our full BMW Z4 review >>

BMW Z4 (cont.)

BMW Z4 interior

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

Total Euro NCAP score 351/400

Save money on a new BMW Z4 with What Car? >>

2. Mercedes CLA

Mercedes CLA 2020 RHD front right tracking

The CLA scored especially highly for how well it protects child occupants and for its high level of standard safety kit, which includes lane-keeping and speed assistance and AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection. Euro NCAP engineers rated its lane-keeping system as only marginally effective, but its other scores were excellent.

Read our full Mercedes CLA review >>

Mercedes CLA (cont.)

Mercedes CLA 2020 RHD dashboard

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

Total Euro NCAP score 352/400

Save money on a new Mercedes CLA with What Car? >>

1. Mercedes A-Class

Mercedes A-Class front - 19 plate

Despite being the cheapest model in the Mercedes range, the latest A-Class family hatchback has the highest combined score of any car tested by Euro NCAP since it introduced tougher test procedures at the beginning of 2018. Its adult and child occupant and pedestrian scores are all among the highest ever awarded.

Read our full Mercedes A-Class review >>

Mercedes A-Class (cont.)

Mercedes A-Class interior

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

Total Euro NCAP score 354/400

Save money on a new Mercedes A-Class with What Car? >>

And the cars with the worst scores...

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler off road

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.

Read our full Jeep Wrangler review >>

Fiat Panda

Fiat Panda Cross 2020

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.

Read our full Fiat Panda review >>

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