Safest cars

Last updated: Oct 25, 2013

If safety is your main concern when it comes to choosing a new car, then you've come to the right place. Below, we've listed the safest cars on the market. Our list of the top 10 safest cars has been chosen after careful analysis of the results of crash tests performed by Euro NCAP – the organisation that gives new cars their official safety rating. So you be sure that these really are the safest cars money can buy.

When it comes to safety tests, the experts at Euro NCAP look at four key areas: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, pedestrian protection, and safety assistance systems.

The first three tests look at how well the car's body and various safety gizmos protect adult passengers, child passengers or pedestrians in the event of a crash. The testers put each car through an exhaustive list of crash tests with crash test dummies to check how well each car cushions impacts in a range of circumstances.

The fourth area – safety assist – looks at how effective a car's technology is at preventing a crash in the first place. It includes checks on things like electronic stability control (ESC – also known as Electronic Stability Programme or ESP), a system that can brake the wheels independently of the driver to prevent the car spinning out of control if it starts to skid.

Each category is given a mark out of 100 – with a total of 400 marks available overall. Below are the 10 cars with the highest overall scores.

Volvo V40 hatchback

The Volvo V40 is undoubtedly the safest car on sale now, beating not only its rivals but also every other car that has been tested. Volvo has long been associated with building very safe cars with lots of new technology, and the V40 is no different – it scored very well in every category. Pedestrian safety, typically a weak category for most cars, is top notch, getting a score of 88 per cent thanks to a clever external pedestrian airbag. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£18,995 - £31,900

BMW 5 Series saloon

The BMW 5 Series has been on sale since 2009, with its Euro NCAP crash test taking place a year later in 2010. That shows how strong it really is – even with three years of new cars coming out the 5 Series is still right at the top of this list. With standard equipment like traction and stability control, this executive saloon scored very highly in every area for safety – plus it’s great fun to drive, too. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£30,265 - £57,910

Vauxhall Mokka SUV

Those looking for the safest car possible are more often than not thinking about protecting their family – and crossovers like the Vauxhall Mokka will be able to accommodate that. Although the Mokka scored a little lower than its rival the Ford Kuga on pedestrian safety, it did beat it for occupant safety – keeping you and your family as safe as possible. There’s an excellent range of safety equipment, too. The Vauxhall Mokka wouldn’t be our first pick as a family car or even as a crossover, but if safety is the most important thing to you then it’s one of the best on the market. Read more.

Key points

2.8 / 5
Price 
£15,999 - £23,949

Ford Kuga SUV

The Ford Kuga was just beaten by its rival the Vauxhall Mokka, but it’s still clearly a very safe car. The wide range of safety systems is a particular plus point, but the Kuga scored the full five stars easily in every category. A full array of airbags as well as electronic stability control come standard across the range, too. The best thing about the Kuga, though, is the fact that it’s good value and has a strong range of engines to chose from – meaning it beats the Mokka overall for us. Read more.

Key points

3.0 / 5
Price 
£21,000 - £33,250

BMW 3 Series saloon

Although the BMW 3 Series doesn’t match the larger 5 Series for safety, it’s still one of the safest cars in the UK. It scored an excellent 95 per cent for adult occupancy, meaning everyone inside the car in the event of an accident should be very well protected. There’s plenty of safety tech, too - driver, passenger and side impact airbags come standard on all cars across the range. There are a lot of SUVs on this list, and the BMW 3 Series provides a welcome alternative in the shape of a small executive saloon car. Read more.

Key points

4.9 / 5
Price 
£23,555 - £43,685

Hyundai Santa Fe SUV

Hyundai hasn’t always had a good reputation for safety, but with its Santa Fe SUV it has broken into the top ten safest cars list. It scored highly for side impacts, and the passenger compartment remained stable when subjected to frontal impact. Electronic stability control and seatbelt reminders are standard on all cars too, which gave the Hyundai Santa Fe a strong score for safety equipment. Read more.

Key points

3.6 / 5
Price 
£26,000 - £35,030

Audi A3 hatchback

The Audi A3 is based on many of the same parts as the Volkswagen Golf, but it has managed to stay ahead of that car in terms of safety. It also means that Audi has managed to beat Mercedes in the safety field by having a car in the top ten alongside fellow German manufacturer BMW. The Golf isn’t far behind the A3 on occupant safety, but the Audi won out overall with an impressive 86 per cent score for safety assist systems to the Golf’s 71 per cent. Read more.

Key points

4.0 / 5
Price 
£18,280 - £32,120

Renault Clio hatchback

Although bigger crossovers and saloons like the cars listed above tend to dominate crash safety tests, the Renault Clio proves that small hatchbacks can be just as safe. The Clio is the smallest car on this list, but it scored an admirable 88 per cent for adult occupancy, and an even more impressive 99 per cent for its safety technology. It’s one of our favourite overall cars here, too. Read more.

Key points

3.9 / 5
Price 
£10,795 - £17,595

Mitsubishi Outlander SUV

Mitsubishi hasn’t exactly got a safety reputation matching that of Volvo or BMW, but the Outlander SUV proves that the company has what it takes to build a truly safe car. Like the Mokka above, we don’t rate it highly in most areas, but for safety it’s up there with the best. The Outlander’s 94 per cent adult occupant safety rating and full score for safety assist are particularly impressive. Read more.

Key points

2.4 / 5
Price 
£33,304 - £40,054

Subaru Forester SUV

The Subaru Forester scored highly in its Euro NCAP crash safety tests, receiving 91 per cent scores for both its adult and child occupant safety ratings, and a respectable 86 per cent score for safety assist. It didn’t manage to beat the Renault Clio or Audi A3, despite being much bigger, but being part of the ten safest cars you can buy means the Forester is definitely worth a look for those with safety top of their wish list. Read more.

Key points

3.5 / 5
Price 
£24,995 - £30,995

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