Safest cars

Last updated: Jul 3, 2015

Many people put safety at the top of their list of priorities when it comes to choosing a new car. If you’re one of them and want to know about the safest cars on the market, then our top 10 list is exactly what you need.

We’ve ranked cars in order of the scores they achieved during crash tests carried out by Euro NCAP – the independent body that gives new cars an official safety rating.

Cars are assessed by Euro NCAP in four areas: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, pedestrian protection and safety assistance systems – and the criteria get tougher every year.

The first three categories assess the car's structure combined with safety systems such as airbags to see how much protection is offered to occupants and pedestrians in the event of a crash.

The safety assistance category looks at the level and efficiency of safety technology that's fitted to the car to help prevent a crash from happening in the first place. This includes electronic stability control, lane-departure warning systems and systems that can automatically apply the brakes if they sense you’re going to hit a car in front. For more information on Euro NCAP: How safe is my car? article.

Every car that's tested is given a percentage for each category and then an overall star rating out of five. All the cars on our list achieved a five-star rating in 2014 – the toughest tests yet – apart from the Volvo V40, which scored a never-beaten set of scores back in 2012.

Volvo V40 hatchback

The Volvo V40 is the safest car you can currently buy, beating every other car ever tested by Euro NCAP. Volvo has had a reputation for building safe cars for a long time and the V40 is proof that it continues to do so today, scoring highly in all four categories. It got a 98% rating for adult occupant protection, scored 100% in the safety assist category and an innovative external pedestrian airbag helped it score a record 88% for pedestrian protection, which is a weak point for most cars. Although the V40 is the only car in this list not to have been tested over the last 12 months, its incredible score means it still tops our list. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£19,195 - £31,700

Land Rover Discovery Sport SUV

The Land Rover Discovery Sport replaced the old Freelander and eclipsed its safety score. The mid-sized SUV impressed Euro NCAP’s testers across the board, but its highest score was for adult occupant protection. That 93% rating was helped by comprehensive protection from front and side-impact crashes. It scored only marginally less for child protection – most cars do – but the fitment of two ISOFIX child-seat mountings along with clear instructions meant it still impressed. An 82% score in the safety assist category was achieved thanks to a top-performing automatic emergency braking system, which reduces the likelihood or severity of a low-speed shunt. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
Price 
£30,695 - £43,000

Mercedes C-Class saloon

The Mercedes C-Class carries plenty of state-of-the-art electronic equipment, so it's as good at avoiding a crash in the first place as it is at protecting the occupants should the worst happen. Euro NCAP praised Mercedes' PRE-SAFE system, which tightens the seatbelts and optimises the front seat positions to best protect the occupants. The C-Class also has a system that alerts you should the car determine you’re getting drowsy. It’s a fundamentally strong car, too, scoring a 92% rating for adult occupant protection and 84% for child occupant protection. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£27,590 - £41,650

Mercedes GLA-Class SUV

Despite being much the same as a Mercedes A-Class under the metal, the Mercedes GLA scored better under more stringent tests. It scored top marks in tests designed to simulate a side impact – or T-bone – collision. Plus, it scored well in all other parts of the adult occupant protection test, gaining a 96% score in this area. It also scored 88% for child occupant protection. Here it benefitted from two rear ISOFIX child-seat mounting points and automatic deactivation of the front passenger airbag when a child seat is fixed to a further ISOFIX mount. A 70% safety assistance score was a slightly below par, though. Read more.

Key points

3.8 / 5
Price 
£26,265 - £31,645

Nissan Qashqai SUV

Few cars offer such comprehensive protection for the driver as the Nissan Qashqai. The current model scored full marks for driver protection, while adult passengers are protected almost as well, earning it a respectable 88% score in this area. The Qashqai also scored full marks for its protection of an 18-month-old child, helping it to an 83% overall score for child safety. The Qashqai features ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the two outermost rear seats and if a child seat is fitted in the front passenger seat, the corresponding airbag can be deactivated. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£18,545 - £28,910

Nissan X-Trail SUV

The second Nissan in the list is the seven-seat Nissan X-Trail SUV and its scores are strikingly similar to those achieved by the Qashqai. It scored 88% for adult occupant protection, and was rated impressively for its protection from a side impact. The X-Trail’s 83% score for child occupant protection matches the Qashqai’s, while this model also has ISOFIX mounting points on the two outer seats in the rear, as well as the front passenger seat. Although the X-Trail scored well for its electronic safety equipment, the lack of seatbelt reminder buzzers for the third row of seats counted against it slightly. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
Price 
£23,195 - £31,345

Subaru Outback estate

The Subaru Outback has a reputation as a reliable, tough and comfortable workhorse, but its inclusion in a list of our safest cars is a bit of a surprise. Nevertheless, its 85% score for adult protection and 87% score for child safety is very good. The Outback provides good protection in a front-end crash, but it performs even better in a side impact. Its child protection score impressed even more, thanks in part to a passenger airbag that automatically activates only when a passenger of the correct size is in the seat. Subaru’s EyeSight automatic emergency braking system helped the Outback to score 73% in the safety assist category. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£27,995 - £32,995

Volkswagen Passat saloon

The current Volkswagen Passat comprehensively beat the already brilliant score achieved by the previous model – and there isn’t a single area where it doesn’t impress. Once again, adult occupants are well protected from front and side impacts, while the Passat’s headrests do a good job of reducing whiplash injuries. Although the car’s 87% score for child protection is very respectable, it lost a fraction of a point for a slightly high loading on a child’s neck. Aside from this, the VW is a safe way for kids to travel. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£22,320 - £35,620

Jeep Renegade SUV

Despite the all-American name, which conjures up images of big 4x4s, the Jeep Renegade is actually a Fiat 500X under the metal. And Fiat tends to score more five-star hits with Euro NCAP than Jeep. The Renegade was rated 87% for adult protection, but was marked down due to “marginal” protection for whiplash. As in the rest of the cars on this list, you can disable the front passenger airbag to safely install a rearward-facing child seat, plus there’s a pair of ISOFIX mounting points in the rear seats. That resulted in an 85% child protection score. A speed limiter and automatic emergency braking system secured the Renegade a 74% score for safety assistance. Read more.

Key points

3 / 5
Price 
£16,995 - £27,995

New Kia Sorento SUV

A 90% score for adult occupant protection is pretty outstanding and unsurprisingly the Kia Sorento excelled in every area. In comparison, the 83% child protection score doesn’t seem as good, but it’s still very impressive. But Euro NCAP places a lot of emphasis on automatic emergency braking systems (which apply the brakes to reduce the chances or severity of a low-speed crash), so the Sorento only scored 71% for safety assistance. That’s a shame, because fitting this equipment could have boosted the Sorento higher up this list. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5