Best cars

The safest cars to buy in 2022

These are the latest Euro NCAP ‘best in class’ cars, the safest cars crash tested in each category during 2021

Safest Cars 2022

Safety is always one of the most important priorities for car buyers. Safe cars offer the peace of mind that you and your family will be well protected and pose less of a risk to other road users in the event of an accident. In this guide we’ll take you through some of the safest cars on sale in the UK today.

The cars listed below all have a five-star safety rating and were named as Euro NCAP’s ‘best in class’ of 2021. This means they are the safest cars tested in classes that range from small family cars to off-road SUVs, executive cars and electric cars.

Euro NCAP ratings are the primary means for car buyers to gauge a car’s level of safety and are highly trusted by the industry and consumers alike. The independent organisation stringently tests new cars in its own laboratory crash test and rates them in four critical areas; adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, vulnerable road user protection and safety assistance technology. 

To perform well in the Euro NCAP tests the safest cars need the latest passive and active car safety kit. Active safety features like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which enables the brakes to work automatically if there is a high risk of a collision, helps prevent accidents occurring. Passive safety features, like seatbelts, airbags and crumple zones, work to lessen the risk of injury when an accident does occur. 

Tyre tread depths explained

The Euro NCAP crash tests are made progressively more stringent each year to reflect improvements in car safety technology. This means that a car awarded a five-star safety rating a few years ago may not do so well on the latest tests. This puts the pressure on car makers to keep improving the safety of their cars which is good news for buyers overall. It also means that the 2021 crop of Euro NCAP ‘best in class’ cars are the safest tested in each class before the start of 2022.  

The safest cars to buy now

Small Family Car - Skoda Fabia

  • Adult occupant protection: 85%
  • Child occupant protection: 81%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 70%
  • Safety assist: 71%
Skoda Fabia hatchback front 3/4 tracking

Standard safety equipment on the Fabia includes a seatbelt reminder alert for front and rear passengers, a ‘Driver Alert’ system that detects if the driver is drowsy, and lane keep assist, which automatically keeps the car in the centre of a lane. Other standard safety features include a speed limiter and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Skoda Fabia Crash Test

When we reviewed the Fabia we particularly liked the high levels of comfort, interior space and on-board tech. The Fabia’s boot space was particularly impressive, making it a practical small family car. Unfortunately, Skoda doesn’t offer the Fabia as a hybrid, so if you’re looking for this option you may want to consider some of its rivals, the Toyota Yaris or Renault Clio E-tech.

Small MPV - Toyota Yaris Cross

  • Adult occupant protection: 86%
  • Child occupant protection: 84%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 78%
  • Safety assist: 81%
Toyota Yaris Cross

Every Toyota Yaris Cross is equipped with Toyota’s Safety Sense technology, with features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot alert, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist and a rear-view camera. It also achieved a maximum rating in the side impact test, contributing to its great rating overall.

Toyota Yaris Cross Crash Test

Aside from its safety, we liked the impressive hybrid technology in the Toyota Yaris Cross, found it easy to live with day-to-day and cheap to run. The Yaris Cross isn’t as cheap as some of its rivals, however, and interior and luggage space isn’t as good as it could be.

Small MPV runner-up - Volkswagen Caddy

  • Adult occupant protection: 84%
  • Child occupant protection: 82%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 69%
  • Safety assist: 79%
Volkswagen Caddy MPV

The runner-up in the Small MPV category was the Volkswagen Caddy which also earned a five-star rating. Safety assist technology on the van-based MPV includes a seatbelt reminder, driver fatigue monitoring, lane assistance and a driver-set speed limiter. 

When we reviewed the Caddy we liked that it drove like a Golf but offered much more space and practicality. It’s also economical, making it a great option for a cheap-to-run family car. It isn’t cheap to buy, however, with more affordable options from rivals, and its boxy design isn’t the most attractive.

Small off-road - Nissan Qashqai

  • Adult occupant protection: 91%
  • Child occupant protection: 91%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 95%
  • Safety assist: 70%
2021 Nissan Qashqai driving along road

The latest Qashqai packs a huge amount of standard safety equipment, including autonomous emergency braking, which performed well in its ability to detect other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. It also has a seatbelt reminder alert system with occupant detection as standard for all seats, Driver Attention Alert, a speed limiter which automatically detects local limits. Euro NCAP praised its lane assistance system, scoring the feature maximum points in testing.

We liked the latest Qashqai’s high levels of safety, its reasonable price tag, practicality and improved looks in our road tests. Unfortunately, though, the Nissan Qashqai doesn’t come as a hybrid yet, and the touchscreen interface graphics weren’t the clearest. Some competitors also offer better warranties on their cars.

Small off-road runner-up - Volkswagen ID.4

  • Adult occupant protection: 93%
  • Child occupant protection: 89%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 76%
  • Safety assist: 85%
VW ID.4 GTX

The fully-electric Volkswagen ID.4 finished in the runner-up spot in the Small off-road class scoring a maximum five-star rating. It comes with handy features like a lightstrip below the windscreen for warnings and sat-nav directions that avoids pulling your attention away from the road.

Standard safety systems include adaptive cruise control, a City Emergency Braking System, driver fatigue alert and High Beam Assist, which dips the headlight beam automatically to avoid dazzling other road users.

Large off-road - Skoda Enyaq iV

  • Adult occupant protection: 94%
  • Child occupant protection: 89%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 71%
  • Safety assist: 82%
Skoda Enyaq iV Sportline 80

The electric Skoda Enyaq iV earned the brand its second Euro NCAP Best in Class win for 2021 in the Large off-road category. Every version of the Enyaq iV comes with plenty of safety tech as standard, including lane assist, front assist with an emergency braking function, cruise control, a speed limiter and rear parking sensors. While its safety assist score was slightly reduced by the lack of a standard driver fatigue monitor, this can be specified as an option. 

Skoda Enyaq iV Crash Test

We liked the Skoda Enyaq iV in our road tests because of its big boot space and good value, making it a great family-friendly EV. The versatile interior options stood out to us as a highlight and the range between charges for an EV of its price is good. The Enyaq’s firm ride means it’s not the most comfortable car in its class, though.

Large off-road runner-up - BMW iX

  • Adult occupant protection: 91%
  • Child occupant protection: 87%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 73%
  • Safety assist: 81%
BMW iX SUV

Named as the runner-up in the Large off-road category, the BMW iX SUV impressed on its way to a five-star rating. The iX’s ‘active bonnet’ safety system, which detects when a pedestrian is hit and automatically raises the bonnet to cushion the blow, contributed to its good score for vulnerable road user protection. 

We liked the excellent range and driving feel of the premium BMW iX when we reviewed it, and on-board technology felt futuristic. The interior was full of high-quality materials and would appeal to many buyers looking for a more luxurious electric SUV, but the iX costs a lot and its looks are not to everyone’s tastes. 

Executive / Pure electric - Mercedes EQS

  • Adult occupant protection: 96%
  • Child occupant protection: 91%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 76%
  • Safety assist: 80%
Mercedes EQS

The Mercedes EQS was Best in Class for both the Executive and Pure electric categories. As Mercedes' flagship electric saloon, the EQS comes with a wide array of the latest safety equipment, including an 'active bonnet’ that moves upwards to help cushion pedestrian impacts, and an autonomous emergency braking system that can detect cyclists, pedestrians and other vehicles. 

Mercedes EQS Crash Test

It also features the brand's Attention Assist system as standard, which automatically monitors the driver. This feature can be enhanced by a more advanced direct eye monitoring system, which can be specced as an extra to further improve safety. With incredible range between charges, a premium interior and extremely advanced technology, the EQS really made an impression in our review despite its high cost and firm ride.

Executive / Pure electric runner-up - Polestar 2

  • Adult occupant protection: 93%
  • Child occupant protection: 89%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 80%
  • Safety assist: 83%
Polestar 2

It’s no surprise that Polestar is one of the top performers in these segments, given parent company Volvo’s history of safety innovation. The Polestar 2 benefits from Volvo’s driving assistance technology which uses sensors to brake and steer the car of danger in the event of a potential collision with another road user. 

Safety was clearly a priority in the design of the Polestar 2, with the battery contained in aluminium and steel for added protection in the event of a collision. Not so good though, was the tight rear passenger space and firm ride, but overall the Polestar 2 is a worthy alternative to the Tesla Model 3.

Now you're all up to date on the safest cars you can buy, why not check out Carbuyer’s recommendations for most economical family cars, and most economical 4x4s, SUVs and crossovers.

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