Government statistics revealed that roughly 24,530 people were killed or seriously injured in 2021.
Although we can’t do much about other driver’s behaviour, a good place to start is getting a vehicle that prioritises you and your passengers’ safety.
The safest cars for 2022
According to Thatcham Research, both EV and hybrid cars have made good headway in terms of safety ahead of the new petrol and diesel car ban in 2030.
These safety advancements don’t just apply to high-value vehicles either. Thatcham Research reviewed more affordable cars too, which should bring safety benefits to more drivers.
To review the cars, Thatcham Research teamed up with the Euro New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP). This organisation tests the safety of cars you can buy in Europe. They usually rate cars out of five stars after giving each safety feature a percentage score.
Matthew Avery, Chief Research Strategy Officer, Thatcham Research comments:
“It's fantastic to see carmakers continuing to prioritise safety, with all but four vehicles[...] achieving a four or five-star rating. Most are rising to the safety challenge and it’s encouraging to note EVs are performing very well as a group too.
“As well as the development of active safety technology to help avoid crashes and protect vulnerable road users, we also welcome the continued introduction of passive safety innovations such as centre-airbags, which prevent occupants from colliding into one another during side impacts.”
A safe car could also be a bonus when it comes to your car insurance, as insurers may look favourably on a Thatcham Research rated safe model.
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The Euro NCAP and Thatcham Research have scored each vehicle on its:
Adult occupant protection - how adult passengers and drivers are protected in a collision
Child occupant protection - how children are protected in a collision
Vulnerable road user protection - vehicle technology that detects vulnerable road users, like cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians
Safety Assist - technology that keeps the driver safe, for example automated lane keeping systems and autonomous emergency braking systems
All of the safest cars received a high five score rating.
Brand: Mercedes EQS
Thatcham Research describes this car as ‘extremely safe’ - but you would expect that from a vehicle that costs just under £100,000.
The EQS had some of the best scores in the Euro NCAP test with its improved Safety Assist technology and passenger protection.
The vehicle has a centre console-mounted airbag to help to protect passengers during side impacts too.
Matthew Avery comments:
“As you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, the EQS is a great safety performer with its Adult Occupant Protection score of 96% and its Child Occupant Protection score of 91% 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.”
Safety scores for the Mercedes EQS:
Adult occupant protection: 96%
Child occupant protection: 91%
Vulnerable road user protection: 76%
Safety Assist: 80%
Brand: Nissan Qashqai
Type: Petrol or Diesel
The Qashqai is a top seller, and it was one of the best performers in the Euro NCAP test.
The car scored well for its:
- Reverse automatic braking
Emergency lane keeping functions
Priced at around £25,000,Thatcham Research believes that the Qashqai could make a big impact on road safety due to its mass-market appeal. Nissan has also committed to rolling out these safety features across its range.
Matthew Avery talks about the Qashqai:
“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.”
Safety Scores for the Nissan Qashqai:
Adult occupant protection: 91%
Child occupant protection: 91%
Vulnerable road user protection: 70%
Safety Assist: 95%
Brand: Polestar 2
Polestar is a relatively new electric car brand. The Polestar 2 is the first model from the brand to be tested by Euro NCAP.
Its excellent body structure means it has impressive passive safety features - as well as an effective restraint system.
The Polestar has also excelled with its lane support functions. This feature could prevent drivers from drifting into another lane.
The safety systems can also detect and alert you to potential safety threats without nagging.
Matthew Avery says: “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 [...] As a new brand, Polestar should be applauded for keeping safety so high on the agenda”
Safety features for the Polestar 2:
Adult occupant protection: 92%
Child occupant protection: 89%
Vulnerable road user protection: 80%
Safety Assist: 86%
Model: Skoda Enyaq
This roomy family car has scored well in the safety department, only bettered by more expensive vehicles.
Skoda designed this model to minimise damage to other vehicles in a collision.
It scored highly in the Adult Passenger Protection, reaching 94%. This is the second highest score of all the cars tested.
Matthew Avery says: “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. The VW Group clearly hasn’t compromised safety in the transition to electric propulsion.”
Safety scores for the Skoda Enyaq:
- Adult occupant protection: 94%
- Child occupant protection: 89%
- Vulnerable road user protection: 71%
- Safety Assist: 82%
Brand: Toyota Yaris Cross
Many of the cars performed similarly to the Toyota in the safety tests, but few were as affordable.
The hybrid performed well in the safety tests - delivering high quality safety at a low price.
Thatcham Research thinks that this car could make safety technology a feature that’s not just reserved for high value models. This might allow lots more motorists to benefit from the newest safety innovations.
Matthew Avery says: “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.”
Safety scores for the Skoda Enyaq:
- Adult occupant protection: 86%
- Child occupant protection: 84%
- Vulnerable road user protection: 78%
- Safety Assist: 81%
The least safe cars for 2022
Thatcham Research has also highlighted cars that have scored poorly in the Euro NCAP, with some receiving one or even zero stars.
The Renault Zoe got a zero star rating in 2021. This is only the third vehicle in the history of Euro NCAP to get zero stars.
In the front end collision test, the ZOE offered little protection for passengers around the chest area, particularly on the driver's side.
But it performed the most poorly in the side pole test. This is when a vehicle collides side-on with a pole to simulate a real life side-on collision with a tree or lamppost.
In this test, the side pole severely damaged the car, resulting in a potentially life threatening injury for any passengers.
The poor result is due to Renault removing a key safety feature of the ZOE - the combined head and thorax airbag.
Previously Renault models performed well, getting five stars in 2001 because it was the first to include this type of feature.
This is now a standard feature in most cars, and with the Euro NCAP upping the safety standard each year, it’s likely Renault has been left behind.
Matthew Avery, comments:
“It is a serious concern to see results like this in 2021, especially from a carmaker who has previously performed well in Euro NCAP testing. Renault was the first to achieve the full five-star rating in 2001, in part because it was also the first to include a combined head and thorax airbag in the Laguna 2.
“Although this was a new and revolutionary safety measure at the time, today this airbag is available on most modern cars. Unfortunately, a conscious decision has been made to remove the head protection from this vital passive safety feature, by the brand that pioneered the use of it. As a result, the safety of occupants within the vehicle has been severely impacted.”
The Dacia Spring - also part of the Renault group - performed poorly in the safety tests too.
The car scored only 49% for the adult occupant protection test, and only 56% for child occupant protection.
The results were most concerning for the driver in the frontal impact test, where severe injuries like chest compressions could occur. The car also offers little protection for the pelvis and legs.
Active technology, like lane departure warnings and lane keeping systems are missing in the Dacia Spring too.
“Dacia has claimed that its customers don’t want active technology on their cars. However, this technology can protect its customers and their families, with studies showing that Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist Systems can reduce head-on collisions and single vehicle injury crashes by 53%.
“An opportunity to exponentially improve safety has been missed – not only for Dacia Spring drivers but also for other road users.”
He also adds:
“The Spring and Zoe have made savings on safety but [...]they only serve to present a higher risk to occupants and other road users.”