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The 10 safest cars you can buy

From small family cars to large MPVs, here are 10 of the safest cars you can buy right now

Car insurance groups – how to find the cheapest cars to insure

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Why cars are getting safer

The introduction of the New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) in 1997 and the launch of the Euro NCAP Safety Ratings are estimated to saved more than 78,000 lives.

The Euro NCAP ratings systems has encouraged car manufacturers to produce safer vehicles, but when the tests were first introduced, they were controversial among carmakers.

  • manufacturers complained Euro NCAP tests were too stringent 

  • they claimed it would be impossible to achieve a high score

  • some of the most popular cars of the time including the Rover 100, Fiat Punto, and Nissan Micra achieved only one or two safety stars 

Buying a safer car in 2020

More than 20 years on, and with the Euro NCAP tests becoming more comprehensive over the years, new cars are consistently awarded four or five-star ratings.

Safer cars and cheaper insurance

The Safety Ratings can also have an impact on insurance costs.

  • as of 2014, new cars were required to come equipped with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) to score the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP safety tests.

  • insurers may consider cars with AEB to be less at risk of being at fault in a crash, as research has found AEB reduces the risk of accidents by up to 27%

What is the safest car I can buy?

Our list of the ten safest cars is based on the latest five-star Euro NCAP ratings. These were released in January 2020.

The ratings cover different car classes so while star ratings can’t be compared directly between different categories of vehicle, we’ve picked the highest-scoring vehicles in each class.

We’ve included the four main ratings – adult occupant, child occupant, pedestrian and safety assist- all of which are scored as a percentage.

Safest small family cars

Mercedes-Benz-CLA

The Mercedes-Benz CLA achieved a score of more than 90 percent in three of the four areas of safety and delivered the best overall rating of the year.  

The four door salon’s Euro NCAP safety score was 96% for adult protection, 91% for children, 77% for pedestrian and 75% safety assist. 

“The autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system performed well in tests of its functionality at the low speeds, typical of city driving, at which many whiplash injuries are caused, with collisions avoided or mitigated in all test scenarios.”

Mazda 3 The Mazda 3 came second in the Euro NCAP small family car category scoring 98% for adult protection, 87% for child protection, 81% pedestrian protection and 73% safety assist.

The Mazda 3 had the top score for adult occupant safety in the small car category.

“The standard-fit autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system, known as 'Smart Brake Support', performed well in tests of its functionality at the low speeds, typical of city driving, at which many whiplash injuries occur.”

Safest large off-road cars

Tesla Model X Tesla’s Model X was awarded a Euro NCAP score of 98% for adult protection, 81% for children, 72% for pedestrian safety and 94% for safety assist. It shared the top spot in this category with BMW’s 3 series.

“Tests on the front seats and head restraints demonstrated good protection against whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision.”

BMW’s 3 series

The BMW 3 series shares top-spot in the Euro NCAP large family car category with Tesla Model X. Although the BMW scored better in pedestrian protection, and the Tesla edged it in safety assist.  BMW scored 97% adult occupant, 87% child occupant, 87% pedestrian, and 76% safety assist.

“The car scored maximum points in both side impact tests, with good protection of all critical body areas in both the barrier impact and the more severe pole test.”

Seat Tarraco

The Seat Tarraco’s Euro NACP score was 97% adult occupant, 84% child occupant, 79% pedestrian and 79% safety assist. In both the side barrier test and the side pole impact, protection of all critical body areas was good and the Tarraco scored maximum points. 

“In both the side barrier test and the side pole impact, protection of all critical body areas was good and the Tarraco scored maximum points.”

Safest electric and hybrid

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 scored 96% for adult protection, 86% for child occupant, 74% for pedestrian safety and 94 for safety assist. The Tesla Model 3 was one of the highest scoring in the safety assist category during NCAP’s crash tests.

“Tests on the front seats and head restraints demonstrated good protection against whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision.”

Safest small off-road/small MPV class

Subaru Forester

Subaru’s Forester’s Euro NCAP score was  97% adult occupant, 91% child occupant, 80% pedestrian and 78% safety assist. NCAP said the Forester had an all-round excellent safety performance.

“Tests on the front seats and head restraints demonstrated good protection against whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision.”

Safest small off-road vehicles

Safest supermini 

Audi A1

The Audi A1’s Euro NCAP score was 95% adult occupant, 85% child occupant, 73% pedestrian and 80 safety assist. It tied for top place in the safest supermini category with the Renault Clio.

Renault Clio

The Renault Clio’s Euro NCAP score was 96% adult occupant, 89% child occupant, 72% pedestrian and 75% safety assist. The Clio has been among Europe’s most popular and desirable hatchbacks for years. It tied with the Audi A1 in the safest supermini category

Ford Puma 

The Ford Puma scored 94% adult occupant, 84% child occupant, 77% pedestrian and 74% safety assist. The newcomer was said to be, alongside the Clio and the Audi A, as deserving  extraordinary credits for their uncompromising stance on safety.

Other ways to save on your car insurance 

If you aren’t quite in the market for a new car there are other things you can do to reduce your annual car insurance premium

Be experienced

Experienced drivers and have a good driving record can still get a good deal on their insurance. If you are not an experienced driver you can cut car insurance costs by adding a named driver who is older and more experienced to the policy. 

Taking a Pass Plus course if you are a new driver may also reduce your premiums but you will need to check with the insurer first.

The type of car you drive

Having a car with is the type of car you drive, with the car’s speed, security features, and value all playing a big part in increasing the cost of your insurance.

Increase your voluntary excess 

This will result in a cheaper monthly premium. Before you take out car insurance make sure you can afford any voluntary excess. This excess is in addition to the compulsory excess set by your insurance provider. This is what you would have to pay if you ever have to claim. Pay upfront 

Pay for your insurance in one go if you can. Spreading the cost of your car insurance over 12-monthly payments may seem cheaper but remember you will be paying interest on top of the amount you pay towards your car insurance premium.    Drive less

Limiting your miles makes you less of an insurance risk. Simply because you are reducing your risk of having an accident. When you take out your car insurance policy the insurer always asks for an estimate of your maximum annual mileage. You need to try and you’re your mileage low, although you need to be realistic as to how much you will drive. Extra security

Having an alarm or immobiliser is considered a theft deterrent and by deterring car thieves you can reduce your car insurance. Not all insurers will offer this, so check first.

Black box or telematics insurance 

Black box, or telematics, insurance can help reduce your car insurance over a period of time. 

A small device, the black box is installed in your car. 

  • this then measures how fast you driver, when you brake, what time of day you drive how fast you accelerate and how you drive around corners

  • some black boxes include an app which you can access on your phone

  • if you drive safely you may be rewarded with cheaper monthly premiums

Don’t own a car

You don’t need to own car to get car insurance. Unlike a full car insurance policy you won’t build up a no claims bonus, but it does mean you can drive someone else’s car, as long as you have their permission. If you are only planning on borrowing a car you can also compare quotes for short-term or temporary car insurance

If you are need to insure several cars you can search for multi-car insurance policies.

Multi insurance might also be suitable:

  • if you own more than one car

  • if you’re a family with more than one driver

  • if you’re a couple with more than one vehicle 

Get a car insurance quote

See a range of car insurance quotes in just a few minutes when you compare with Uswitch