Safest new cars REVEALED: Five models that aced crash tests

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Want to know which of the latest cars to hit the market will offer the best protection to you and your family?

UK safety and security experts Thatcham Research has revealed which models demonstrated impressive safety credentials when being slammed into walls and poles during rigorous crash test assessments in the last 12 months – with the five models selected all in the running to win the 2022 What Car? Safety Award announced later this week.

And while this handful of motors represents the cream of the crop when it comes to protecting occupants and other road users, This is Money will also tell you which three new cars scored the lowest ratings when been scrutinised by safety experts.  

Below, we list the reasons why each model impressed across various judging criteria in 2021, including how well they performed in Euro NCAP’s crash tests.

BEST PERFORMERS

Mercedes EQS

Price: from £99,995 

Mercedes' new EQS is one of the most advanced, tech-filled electric cars to hit the market. But it isn't cheap

Mercedes’ new EQS is one of the most advanced, tech-filled electric cars to hit the market. But it isn’t cheap

It was one of the electric models to ace Euro NCAP crash tests, impressing judges with its improved safety assist technology and occupant protection

It was one of the electric models to ace Euro NCAP crash tests, impressing judges with its improved safety assist technology and occupant protection

The EQS is Mercedes’ answer to an all-electric S-Class.

That means it gets all the technology, luxury and new systems ahead of any other model in the German brand’s ranks.

It scored some of the best Euro NCAP test results of last year, impressing judges with its improved safety assist technology and occupant protection, including a centre console-mounted airbag to contain occupants during side impacts.

Euro NCAP results 

Rating:

Adult occupant protection: 96%

Child occupant protection: 91%

Vulnerable road user protection: 76%

Safety Assist: 80%

Matthew Avery from Thatcham Research: ‘This is an extremely safe vehicle which achieved impressive Euro NCAP test scores. 

‘As you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, the EQS is a great safety performer with its ‘adult occupant protection’ score of 96 per cent and its Child Occupant Protection score of 91 per cent being the joint highest in those categories during testing. 

‘But a price point of just under £100,000 means the EQS won’t be a common sight on the roads.’ 

Nissan Qashqai

Price: from £24,555  

Nissan's Qashqai has been the UK's best-selling SUV for some 15 years - and the latest version that arrived last year was among the safest tested

Nissan’s Qashqai has been the UK’s best-selling SUV for some 15 years – and the latest version that arrived last year was among the safest tested 

As well as offering lots of crash protection, it is packed with lots of advanced features, including reverse automatic braking, lane support and emergency lane keeping functions

As well as offering lots of crash protection, it is packed with lots of advanced features, including reverse automatic braking, lane support and emergency lane keeping functions

The Qashqai is the epitome of a volume seller. Since it hit the UK market 15 years ago, it has been the nation’s most-bought SUV consistently.

The latest version, brought to market last year, is one of best-ever performing cars in Euro NCAP tests, achieving more than 90 per cent in three out of four safety categories. 

Applauded for its reverse automatic braking, lane support and emergency lane keeping functions, the Qashqai’s popularity and price point offset the current absence of all-electric or hybrid versions from its range. 

Tipped to make a big impact on road safety due to its mass-market appeal and Nissan’s commitment to rolling out safety features across its range.

Euro NCAP results 

Rating:

Adult occupant protection: 91%

Child occupant protection: 91%

Vulnerable road user protection: 70%

Safety Assist: 95%

MA: ‘The Qashqai is well-priced at around £25,000 and safety is the fundamental criteria above all else. 

‘It’s one of the best vehicles we’ve tested in terms of safety scores across the board and when you add in the price point, along with the fact it’s produced in the UK, we feel it really deserves its place. 

‘It’s also an established and popular family car, which can’t yet be said of typically more expensive EV models.’ 

Skoda Enyaq iV

Price: from £34,850

The second fully-electric model to make it into the list is the impressive Skoda Enyaq iV - which also happens to be significantly cheaper than the Mercedes EQS

The second fully-electric model to make it into the list is the impressive Skoda Enyaq iV – which also happens to be significantly cheaper than the Mercedes EQS

The Skoda Enyaq iV's adult occupant protection score of 94% is the second highest of all the cars tested in 2021

The Skoda Enyaq iV’s adult occupant protection score of 94% is the second highest of all the cars tested in 2021

While the Mercedes EQS represents the expensive end of the electric car spectrum, the Enyaq iV offers a more attainable option to drivers, with prices starting at just under £35,000.

This entry-level compact crossover SUV scored well in frontal offset testing, with the car engineered to minimise damage to other vehicles in a collision, and its adult occupant protection score of 94 per cent was the second highest of all the cars tested. 

Euro NCAP results 

Rating:

Adult occupant protection: 91%

Child occupant protection: 91%

Vulnerable road user protection: 70%

Safety Assist: 95%

Skoda is planning improvements to the Enyaq’s Lane Assistance technology, which judges felt was a little ‘over-zealous’.

MA: ‘Skoda’s Enyaq is a family car with lots of room which was only bettered in safety performance by much more expensive vehicles. 

‘It’s satisfying to see the Enyaq feature in our top five safest cars list, as it represents the future of all-electric motoring and will account for many sales in the EV crossover segment. 

‘Impressive results show the VW Group hasn’t compromised safety in the transition to electric propulsion.’ 

Toyota Yaris Cross

Price: from £24,140 

The Yaris Cross is essentially a supermini on stilts. The crossover - mixing small car dimension with SUV look - gives the impression of better protection. And it delivers, too

The Yaris Cross is essentially a supermini on stilts. The crossover – mixing small car dimension with SUV look – gives the impression of better protection. And it delivers, too

Judges of the safety panel felt the Yaris Cross' popularity will help democratise safety technology, allowing many motorists to access and benefit from recent innovations

Judges of the safety panel felt the Yaris Cross’ popularity will help democratise safety technology, allowing many motorists to access and benefit from recent innovations

The Yaris Cross – which is available exclusively as a petrol-electric hybrid – was commended for its encouraging overall performance in safety tests and its affordability. 

Essentially a Yaris supermini on stilts, this crossover – mixing small car dimension with SUV look – gives the impression of better protection. And it delivers, too. 

Euro NCAP results 

Rating:

Adult occupant protection: 86%

Child occupant protection: 84%

Vulnerable road user protection: 78%

Safety Assist: 81%

Judges felt the car’s popularity will help democratise safety technology, allowing many motorists to access and benefit from recent innovations.

MA: ‘Other cars performed similarly well in testing but few, if any, came in anywhere near the Yaris Cross’s low-entry price. 

‘It’s reassuring to see Toyota are demonstrating that lower-cost models can still offer high-end safety systems, and that a focus on overall price need not be at the expense of driver safety. 

Polestar 2

Price: from £49,900

The 2 is the first Polestar to be tested against Euro NCAP protocols and has all the safety features you would expect from a Volvo-derived full EV

The 2 is the first Polestar to be tested against Euro NCAP protocols and has all the safety features you would expect from a Volvo-derived full EV

Scoring highly across all categories the Polestar 2 is a vehicle fit for the future, with over-the-air updates offering potentially improved performance over the car’s lifetime

Scoring highly across all categories the Polestar 2 is a vehicle fit for the future, with over-the-air updates offering potentially improved performance over the car’s lifetime

This is the first model from the new electric-car brand to be tested against Euro NCAP protocols and has all the safety features you would expect from a Volvo-derived full EV. 

Euro NCAP results

Rating:

Adult occupant protection: 92%

Child occupant protection: 89%

Vulnerable road user protection: 80%

Safety Assist: 86%

The car was commended for its impressive passive safety performance, due to its excellent body structure and very effective restraint systems.

MA: ‘Scoring highly across all categories the Polestar 2 is a vehicle fit for the future, with over-the-air updates offering potentially improved performance over the car’s lifetime. 

‘It also boasts very good lane support functions, which are threat sensitive and don’t nag the driver. 

‘As a new brand, Polestar should be applauded for keeping safety so high on the agenda.’ 

WORST PERFORMERS

Renault Zoe

Price: from £28,595 (with Plug-in Car Grant)

The Renault Zoe is seen as one of the best small electric cars currently on the market, but one decision made by the French brand around its safety equipment has seen it score the lowest Euro NCAP rating ever

The Renault Zoe is seen as one of the best small electric cars currently on the market, but one decision made by the French brand around its safety equipment has seen it score the lowest Euro NCAP rating ever

Zoe received a zero-star rating because Renault had deleted a head-protecting airbag from the car during a model update

Zoe received a zero-star rating because Renault had deleted a head-protecting airbag from the car during a model update

Euro NCAP results 

Rating:

Adult occupant protection: 43%

Child occupant protection: 52%

Vulnerable road user protection: 41%

Safety Assist: 14%

 

Renault’s Zoe electric car was awarded the lowest possible crash test rating by Euro NCAP – a zero rating – due to the French brand removing a life-saving piece of safety equipment. 

The current version of the small zero-emission vehicle no longer has a seat-mounted airbag to protect an occupant’s head in a side impact. As a result, in a sideways collision with a pole it was found to directly impact a driver’s skull without any additional protection.  

The Zoe becomes only the third car in 25 years of testing to achieve a zero-out-of-five rating from renowned vehicle safety assessor, Euro NCAP, making it the least safe new car Britons can buy in showrooms today. 

Dacia Spring

Price: from approx £14,500

There is still no official word if the all-electric Dacia Spring will be sold in the UK, but if it is it will be with a one-star crash test rating

There is still no official word if the all-electric Dacia Spring will be sold in the UK, but if it is it will be with a one-star crash test rating

The Spring scored poorly in the last 2021 round of crash tests due to poor and weak protection across several areas of the crash test dummies used for the collision simulations

The Spring scored poorly in the last 2021 round of crash tests due to poor and weak protection across several areas of the crash test dummies used for the collision simulations

Euro NCAP results

Rating:

Adult occupant protection: 49%

Child occupant protection: 56%

Vulnerable road user protection: 39%

Safety Assist: 32% 

Dacia’s all-electric Spring, a Sandero-sized crossover, obtained a one-star rating in Euro NCAP tests last year.

While it hasn’t been confirmed for the UK market, there is a strong likelihood that it is sold in British showrooms. 

An adult occupant protection score of just 49 per cent represented poor and weak protection across several areas of the crash test dummies used for the collision simulations, which could result in life-threatening injuries in a real-life crash scenario.

However, it should be noted that the Dacia is fitted with the airbag that had been removed from the new Renault Zoe, which protects against head injury in side impacts.

The Spring also had a low 56 per cent rating for child occupant protection. 

Dacia Sandero 

Price: from £7,995

Budget brand Dacia makes up two of the three worst performers for vehicle safety last year (and an unwanted hat-trick for Renault, which is Dacia's parent company). The latest Sandero scored a two-star rating in 2021

Budget brand Dacia makes up two of the three worst performers for vehicle safety last year (and an unwanted hat-trick for Renault, which is Dacia’s parent company). The latest Sandero scored a two-star rating in 2021

Sandero was marked down for featuring safety technology that only mitigates impacts with other cars and is 'not designed to prevent crashes with pedestrians or cyclists'

Sandero was marked down for featuring safety technology that only mitigates impacts with other cars and is ‘not designed to prevent crashes with pedestrians or cyclists’

Euro NCAP results 

Rating:

Adult occupant protection: 70%

Child occupant protection: 72%

Vulnerable road user protection: 41%

Safety Assist: 42%

The nation’s most affordable new car, the Dacia Sandero, received a low two-star rating in the industry-leading crash tests early in 2021.

Euro NCAP confirmed a two-out-of-five-stars score for the budget-friendly supermini with the car marked down for featuring safety technology that only mitigates impacts with other cars and is ‘not designed to prevent crashes with pedestrians or cyclists’.

The Stepway Crossover, which sits higher above the ground but is mechanically almost identical to the conventional supermini, was also given the same rating. It starts from £11,495 in the UK. 

Dacia says ‘the safety of our customers is of the utmost importance,’ but experts have accused its owner, Renault, of putting price before safety.

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