The safest new SUVs and 4x4s

SUVs can make great family cars, but which of these stylish, high-riding vehicles is safest – and which is best avoided?.....

With their tough looks, 4x4s and SUVs have long been seen as some of the safest cars on the road.

Volvo XC40 crash test

But in reality there are sizeable differences between the best and worst performers.

This is highlighted by the crash tests conducted by the independent assessors at Euro NCAP. So, if you're looking for a new SUV to keep you and your family safe, what should you choose?

Below we count down the 10 SUVs that have received the highest scores since the latest – and toughest – version of the Euro NCAP test was introduced at the start of 2018. Plus, we reveal the model which received just one star out of five.

Slideshow story - please click right-hand arrow above to continue 

=9: Mercedes GLE

Mercedes GLE front - 19 plate

Adult occupant protection: 91%

Child occupant protection: 90%

Pedestrian protection: 78%

Safety Assist: 78%

Total Euro NCAP score: 337

Some rivals are more practical and better to drive, but the Mercedes GLE has a dazzling interior, and on air suspension, is a comfortable cruiser.

=9: Mercedes GLE - interior

Mercedes GLE - interior

Whiplash protection is good, too, and the GLE has one of the best child occupant protection scores of any car tested.

=9: Skoda Kamiq

Skoda Kamiq

Adult occupant protection: 96%

Child occupant protection: 85%

Pedestrian protection: 80%

Safety Assist: 76%

Total Euro NCAP score: 337

This small SUV is very comfortable and easy to drive, without feeling like a wallowy barge, plus it's well priced and very roomy for its size.

=9: Skoda Kamiq - interior

Skoda Kamiq interior

All of this helped it achieve a five-star What Car? rating, and Euro NCAP rates it just as highly; standard safety equipment includes lane keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking (with pedestrian detection) and seven airbags.

8: Seat Tarraco

2019 Seat Tarraco front

Adult occupant protection: 97%

Child occupant protection: 84%

Pedestrian protection: 79%

Safety Assist: 79%

Total Euro NCAP score: 339

The largest of Seat's three SUVs is enjoyable to drive and generously equipped, but it isn’t as versatile as the very best alternatives.

8: Seat Tarraco - interior

Seat Tarraco XCELLENCE 1.5 TSI EVO 150PS - interior

On the other hand, it outscored both its Skoda Kodiaq sister car and the award-winning Peugeot 5008 for adult and child occupant protection.

7: Lexus UX

Lexus UX

Adult occupant protection: 96%

Child occupant protection: 85%

Pedestrian protection: 82%

Safety Assist: 77%

Total Euro NCAP score: 340

Lexus's smallest SUV is offered exclusively as a hybrid, giving it low CO2 emissions and company car tax bills. What's more, every model comes with a Safety System Plus package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and road sign detection.

7: Lexus UX - interior

Lexus UX interior

Unfortunately, the driving experience is so-so and the infotainment system and practicality are poor.

=4: Audi Q3

Audi Q3 Sportback front three quarters

Adult occupant protection: 95%

Child occupant protection: 86%

Pedestrian protection: 76%

Safety Assist: 85%

Total Euro NCAP score: 342

Unlike the UX, the Q3 is good to drive and very practical.

=4: Audi Q3 - interior

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

However, the Range Rover Evoque and Volvo XC40 are more comfortable, so we rate both slightly higher overall, even though it's the Audi that has the edge with Euro NCAP.

=4: Mazda CX-30

Mazda CX-30

Adult occupant protection: 99%

Child occupant protection: 86%

Pedestrian protection: 80%

Safety Assist: 77%

Total Euro NCAP score: 342

The CX-30 feels as luxurious as family SUVs from prestige brands, despite being much cheaper to buy.

=4: Mazda CX-30 - interior

Mazda CX-30

Plus, it affords outstanding protection to the driver and front-seat passenger, with this earning it a 99% adult occupant protection rating. Just bear in mind that rear space is tight and the boot isn’t anything to write home about.

=4: 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

Thanks to its clever hybrid technology, this large SUV pumps out less CO2 than a 1.0-litre Ford Fiesta. Plus, it comes with a long list of safety equipment which includes automatic emergency braking (including for pedestrians and cyclists), traffic sign recognition, lane keeping assistance and an SOS emergency call function.

=4: Toyota RAV4 - interior

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Design 2.5 AWD Automatic - interior

Go for Excel trim or above and you'll also get blind spot monitoring.

3: Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

Adult occupant protection: 98%

Child occupant protection: 81%

Pedestrian protection: 72%

Safety Assist: 94%

Total Euro NCAP score: 345

Tesla's luxurious, fully electric SUV combines astonishing performance with very low running costs and seating for up to seven people.

3: Tesla Model X - interior

Tesla Model X - interior

While Euro NCAP rated its adult occupant protection particularly highly.

=1: Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester e-Boxer front

Adult occupant protection: 97%

Child occupant protection: 91%

Pedestrian protection: 80%

Safety Assist: 78%

Total Euro NCAP score: 346

Subaru has a reputation for building rugged cars that are very capable off road, and the Forester lives up to that tradition.

=1: Subaru Forester - interior

Subaru Forester - interior

However, the latest version also scores incredibly well for child occupant protection and comes with a sophisticated driver monitoring system that uses facial recognition technology to warn if you're becoming too tired to concentrate or if your gaze has wandered for the road for too long.

=1: Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen T-Cross front three quarters

Adult occupant protection: 97%

Child occupant protection: 86%

Pedestrian protection: 81%

Safety Assist: 80%

Total Euro NCAP score: 346

As a rival to the likes of the Nissan Juke, Seat Arona and Vauxhall Crossland X, the T-Cross is the smallest and most affordable SUV in Volkswagen's range. Yet it joins the Forester at the top of this list, scoring strongly in all four areas.

=1: Volkswagen T-Cross - interior

Volkswagen T-Cross - interior

Add in the fact that it's comfortable and easy to drive, as well as cheap to run and surprisingly spacious inside, and it should definitely be on your shortlist.

And the SUV that performed worst in Euro NCAP's latest tests...

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler

Adult occupant protection: 50%

Child occupant protection: 69%

Pedestrian protection: 49%

Safety Assist: 32%

Total Euro NCAP score: 200

At the other end of the spectrum to the Forester and T-Cross, the latest Jeep Wrangler was awarded just one star out of five by Euro NCAP.

Jeep Wrangler - interior

Jeep Wrangler - interior

Structures in the dashboard were thought to present a risk to those in the front, and the crash test dummy in the rear showed weak protection of the neck, along with high loads on the chest.

We hope you enjoyed this story. To easily access more like it, why not sign up to receive our email newsletter? What Car? is the UK’s biggest car-buying brand and has been helping Britain’s car buyers make purchasing decisions for over 40 years, and the newsletter will keep you up to date with all our latest stories. And signing up takes less than 30 seconds. Click here to sign up

Related cars

Spinner