Over the last 10 to 15 years the level of technology in new cars has increased at a staggering rate. There was a time when a car would be considered “kitted out” if it had a tape deck and a radio – now even low-end, mass market cars come with Bluetooth connections, air-con and remote central locking.
But if the advances in in-car entertainment, communication tools and other gadgetry has been impressive, the advances in safety technology are downright unbelievable. Even the least safe car on sale today makes any model from a couple of decades ago look like a death trap by comparison.
There are still big differences between the best and the worst, though. And if you find yourself in a crash and relying on your car’s ability to keep you safe, you will want the best there is.
Fortunately, crash-testers Euro NCAP put most new cars through its vigorous testing regime and gives each model an overall mark out of five stars.
To do that, it checks how each car performs in four critical safety categories. The first of these is how well the car’s structure protects adult occupants in the event of a crash. The second is how well it protects child occupants.
For both of these criteria it will put the car through a number of frontal and side-on collisions at various speeds, and see what effect the crashes have on dummies seated in the car.
The third criteria concerns pedestrian protection, and involves driving the car at a dummy and seeing how well the car’s structure cushions the impact.
And the fourth criteria is Safety Assist – which includes technology that works to prevent a crash from occurring, rather than minimising its impact once it has. This includes systems like Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – which prevents a car skidding out of control – and seatbelt reminders, which ensure all occupants are strapped in.
We’ve looked through Euro NCAP’s test results for 2012 and 2013 to date, added up every car’s score in each category, and worked out which is the safest model in all of the major car segments. So whether you’re looking for an MPV, a city car or a small family car, you’ll find the safest model money can buy in our list on the left of this page.