We all love a bit of style and performance from our cars, but safety is also one of the most important considerations for car buyers.
Thankfully, cars are getting safer over time, as the testing standards are made tougher. Although the assessments made by leading independent crash testing body Euro NCAP are now the more rigorous than ever, and since 2018 have included evaluations of self-driving systems, the majority of cars are managing to score a maximum five stars overall.
Of the 59 vehicles that were scrutinised last year, an impressive 45 of them were awarded a full complement of stars — the highest annual number since Euro NCAP introduced the rating system in 2009.
Helpfully, Euro NCAP has picked the best of the best in different car classes, ranging from little superminis to large SUVs. Here are its top picks:
Best hybrid and electric car: Tesla Model 3
Tesla boldly claims it’s “committed to building the safest cars on the road”, and the new Tesla Model 3 is proof the car maker is serious about that pledge. As well as being the safest pure-electric car assessed by Euro NCAP over the last 12 months, the Model 3 is also one of the safest vehicles tested in 2019 full stop — the Tesla was one of only three cars awarded an overall safety score of at least 89% last year.
Best large family car: BMW 3 Series and Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 has been awarded another Best in Class gong by Euro NCAP, though it doesn’t have this one all to itself. Just as impressive as the Tesla in the assessors’ eyes was the new BMW 3 Series executive saloon, which was awarded an ever-so-slightly lower overall safety rating to the Tesla (88.8% for the Beemer versus 89.2% for the Tesla), and actually performed better than the Model 3 in the passenger and pedestrian safety categories.
Best large off-road car: Tesla Model X
Yes, Tesla picked up another Best in Class award from Euro NCAP in 2019, though this time for the Model X SUV. Like its little brother, the Model X was one of the safest cars assessed in 2019, and it also shares 94% safety assist technology score (the highest recorded by Euro NCAP last year) with the Model 3. By extension, this also makes it one of the safest SUVs put through a crash test over the last 12 months.
Best small family car: Mercedes-Benz CLA
Mercedes-Benz took home Euro NCAP’s best small family car safety award in 2018 with its A-Class hatchback, and the car maker has held on to that accolade for another year with the CLA, Merc’s A-Class-based compact coupé. Like the hatchback, the CLA was also the standard bearer for safety overall in 2019; its overall rating of 89.8% being the highest awarded to any car.
Best small off-road / MPV car: Subaru Forester
Euro NCAP’s “small off-road/ MPV” classification for the Subaru Forester may be questionable, but the vehicle’s safety credentials are certainly beyond doubt. The family-friendly 4×4 is especially impressive when it comes to passenger safety: its 97% adult occupant rating is one of the highest achieved by any car crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2019, and the Forester was ranked the safest car of all for child protection.
Best supermini: Audi A1 and Renault Clio
Because of their compact dimensions and the fact they don’t tend to be fitted with the most advanced safety equipment in their makers’ arsenals, superminis have a much tougher hill to climb in their pursuit of a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. It’s testament to just how well engineered the new Audi A1 and Renault Clio are, then, that their identical 85.6% safety rating is among the highest achieved by any car crash tested last year; outscoring larger family hatchbacks such as the BMW 1 Series, Ford Focus and Kia Ceed.
Honourable mention: BMW Z4
By virtue of being the only sports car assessed by Euro NCAP last year, the BMW Z4 is by default the best in class for 2019. That said, even if more performance models were assessed last year, the BMW would likely still have been among the best: with an overall rating of 89.6%, the Z4 had the second-highest safety score of any vehicle tested by Euro NCAP last year, and the assessors said the car “unquestionably has set a new safety benchmark for the segment”.
The top 10 safest cars of 2019
|Tesla Model 3
|BMW 3 Series
|Tesla Model X