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Top 10: Safest cars on sale today

Safety is obviously a high priority for most car buyers, so here we reveal the models that performed best and worst in the official Euro NCAP crash tests.....

9 Oct 2019 15:30

The new BMW 1 Series and 3 Series have both scored five stars out of five in the latest round of Euro NCAP's safety tests.

Safe car compilation image

The 3 Series is our reigning champion in the executive car market, while the 1 Series is one of the better family hatchbacks.

Other new models put through the latest round of Euro NCAP's crash tests include the Peugeot 208 small hatchback and Jeep Cherokee large SUV, both of which managed only four stars. Officials say the 208 has disappointing whiplash protection for adult rear passengers and that it also lost marks for its protection of vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians. The Cherokee, meanwhile, earned four stars in every area.

Of the 55 models that Euro NCAP has tested since tough new standards were introduced in 2018, 43 have earned the full five-star safety rating. Among them are such diverse vehicles as the Audi A1 hatchback, BMW Z4 sports car and Skoda Kamiq small SUV.

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 10 best scores – and reveal the models that received one star or less.

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=8: Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

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.

=8: Toyota RAV4 - interior

Toyota RAV4 - interior

The RAV4 comes with automatic emergency braking, including pedestrian and cyclist detection, as standard, as well as lane-keeping assistance.

=8: Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla

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.

=8: Toyota Corolla - interior

Toyota Corolla - interior

Although the Corolla matches the RAV4 on its overall score, it betters its larger sibling in terms of adult occupant protection and pedestrian protection.

=8: Audi Q3

Audi Q3

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.

=8: Audi Q3 - interior

Audi Q3 - interior

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.

7: 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.

7: Volkswagen T-Cross - interior

Volkswagen T-Cross - interior

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.

6: Lexus ES

Lexus ES

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.

6: Lexus ES - interior

Lexus ES - interior

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.

5: BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series

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.

5: BMW 3 Series - interior

BMW 3 Series - interior

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.

4: Tesla Model 3 - interior

Tesla Model 3 - interior

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.

3: BMW Z4 - interior

BMW Z4 - interior

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 CLA

Mercedes CLA

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.

2: Mercedes CLA - interior

Mercedes CLA - interior

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.

1: Mercedes A-Class - interior

Mercedes A-Class - interior

Hardly surprising, then, that the A-Class won the Safety Award at the 2019 What Car? Car of the Year Awards.

So, what about the new cars with the worst scores?

Jeep Wrangler

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.

Jeep Wrangler - interior

Jeep Wrangler - interior

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

Fiat Panda

Adult occupant protection: 45%

Child occupant protection: 16%

Pedestrian protection : 7%

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.

Fiat Panda - interior

Fiat Panda - interior

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.