Car safety really is more important than ever these days. It seems every week another manufacturer announces a new piece of safety kit that will prevent a crash, or a new development that will protect occupants better in an accident.
The sheer volume of safety kit can be baffling, which is where the experts at Euro NCAP come in. Euro NCAP is a totally independent organisation which evaluates nearly all new cars sold in Europe for safety. The firm uses all manner of crash tests to evaluate car safety as accurately as possible, after which it awards the cars a star rating out of five.
Cars are crashed into obstacles head-on, side-on and slightly offset to one side. The cars are fitted with sophisticated crash-test dummies covered in sensors, which tell researchers the forces applied to various body parts in an impact. The crash tests give a picture of the overall safety of the car - effectiveness of seatbelts and airbags as well as its body rigidity during a crash.
Cars are then tested for pedestrian safety, and a dummy leg and head are fired at the front to gauge the forces involved in a pedestrian collision.
A recent development has been the addition of a 'safety assist' category to the Euro NCAP tests. This refers to equipment such as autonomous braking and lane-keeping assist which doesn't aid in a crash, but prevents it happening in the first place. This category is so important now that it's impossible for a vehicle to achieve the full five-star rating if it's not equipped with some of these 'active safety' features.
The confusing part for consumers comes when trying to compare cars. Euro NCAP constantly revises its testing criteria, making it more and more difficult for cars to reach the full five-star rating. A five star car tested in 2010 would more than likely only receive three or four stars if tested in 2016, as the tests become more stringent and challenging.
As an example, the Vauxhall Mokka remains one of the highest-scoring cars on Euro NCAP's books, with an amazing score of 96% in the adult protection category. However, it was tested back in 2012, and four years on it's unlikely it would receive the same stellar score.
With that in mind, here's Euro NCAP's list of the safest cars it tested last year under the 2015 testing procedure - the safest new cars you can buy today.
Of these, there was one overall winner - and it's perhaps unsurprising that the Volvo XC90 is the safest car Euro NCAP tested last year and the safest car it has ever tested to date. Volvo's commitment to safety is well-known and one of the brand's cornerstones.
Curious about the safest cars from previous years? Here are the last five years of NCAP's safest cars...
Visit our class winners to see previous winners in that car's class. Be aware though that Euro NCAP's car classifications have changed over the years so some cars may be in categories that don't really define them - for example, the Ford Kuga as a large MPV. Regardless of class, however, all cars Euro NCAP tests in a particular year go through the same strict testing procedure.
For a full list of car safety ratings, visit Euro NCAP's website here.