Safest cars

Last updated: Nov 25, 2014

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 those people 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.

The first three categories assess the car's structure combined with safety systems like the airbags to see how much protection is offered to occupants and pedestrians in the event of a crash. The safety assist 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 it senses you are going to hit a car in front. For more information on Euro NCAP testing, read our 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, so we have taken a closer look at their individual category scores to rank them.

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 held 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 percent rating for adult occupant protection, scored 100 percent in the safety assist category and an innovative external pedestrian airbag helped it score a record 88 percent for pedestrian protection, which is a weak point for most cars. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£18,995 - £31,900

Mercedes C-Class saloon

The Mercedes C-Class carries plenty of state-of-the-art electronic equipment, so it's as good as avoiding a crash in the first place as it is in 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. A system that alerts the driver should the car determine they are getting drowsy. The C-Class is also a fundamentally strong car, and gained a 92% rating for adult protection and 84% for child protection. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£27,195 - £73,500

BMW 5 Series saloon

The current generation BMW 5 Series has now been on sale for five years and was tested by Euro NCAP in 2010 – the fact it remains near the top of our list is a tribute to its strong safety credentials. As you would expect of an executive saloon like the 5 Series , it has plenty of safety technology fitted as standard, including traction and stability control, and scored 100 percent in the safety assist category. It also achieved 95 percent for adult protection. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£30,865 - £57,910

Ford Kuga SUV

The Ford Kuga might not be a natural rival for the Mokka, but in safety terms the two are closely matched. The Mokka just has the edge – not by much though as the Kuga still performed very well in the Euro NCAP tests and takes fourth spot in our top 10. It achieved 94 percent for adult occupant and got the full 100 percent for safety assist thanks in part to standard-fit electronic stability control and an array of airbags. Read more.

Key points

3 / 5
Price 
£20,995 - £33,530

BMW 3 Series saloon

The BMW 3 Series didn’t score quite as highly as the bigger 5 Series but it’s still a very safe car, gaining a 95 percent score in the adult occupancy category. It comes with lots of safety technology too, with driver, passenger and side impact airbags standard on all cars in the range. There are no other cars in the 3 Series’ class in our top 10 list, so buyers looking for the safest small premium saloon can rest assured that the 3 Series is the one to go for. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£24,255 - £43,885

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 
£27,995 - £37,105

Audi A3 hatchback

Despite the fact that the Audi A3 shares many of the same parts with the Volkswagen Golf, it did better overall in the Euro NCAP tests thanks to superior scores in the pedestrian safety and safety assist categories. The A3’s seventh place in our list means Audi has managed to beat Mercedes in terms of safety by getting a car in our top ten safest cars list. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£18,575 - £32,420

Renault Clio hatchback

The difference in price and sheer size between SUVs and hatchbacks makes it more difficult for the smaller cars to outperform the bigger ones in safety tests, so it’s heartening to see a car like the Renault Clio making the list. It scored 88 percent for adult occupancy protection and an impressive 99 percent in the safety assist category. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£10,995 - £17,895

Volkswagen Polo hatchback

Like the Clio, the Volkswagen Polo is a car that punches above its weight in the safety stakes. Although its 90% score for adult protection improves on the Clio's score, it a safety assist score of 78% can't compete with the Renault. Even so, the Polo was praised for its Multi Collision Brake system which applies the brakes automatically should the airbag be deployed to avoid a second collision, which becomes vital should the driver be unable to control the vehicle themselves. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£11,250 - £19,865

Ford Focus hatchback

Although the latest version of the Ford Focus hasn't been tested, the car was rated in 2012 so should perform in a similar manner today. The car scored 92% for adult occupant protection and 82% for child protection. Since 2011, Euro NCAP has given Ford an Advanced Reward accolade on five occasions for its electronic safety kit. These include Forward Alert and Active City Stop automatic emergency braking systems and Lane Keeping Aid which helps the driver stay in lane. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£13,995 - £25,995

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