The safest new cars on sale in 2022: the highest rated models for crash protection and accident prevention

Euro NCAP, Mercedes, Skoda, Polestar, Nissan
Experts Thatcham Research reveal the models with the best Euro NCAP scores and highest-rated safety systems

Road safety experts have revealed the safest new cars on UK roads.

Specialists from Thatcham Research have released a short list of the five cars launched in 2021 they rated highest for their protection of passengers and other road users.

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The list focuses on mainstream vehicles that will “bring the biggest safety benefits to the greatest number of drivers”, including a number of all-electric and hybrid models from mainstream brands such as Nissan and Skoda.

Thatcham Research, which conducts crash tests used to help set the Euro NCAP safety ratings, used the NCAP star rating along with assessment of vehicles’ active and passive safety features, driver interface and equipment availability to come up with its list of the country’s safest new cars.

Thatcham Research is the UK’s only Euro NCAP accredited crash test facility (Photo: Euro NCAP)Thatcham Research is the UK’s only Euro NCAP accredited crash test facility (Photo: Euro NCAP)
Thatcham Research is the UK’s only Euro NCAP accredited crash test facility (Photo: Euro NCAP) | Euro NCAP

Matthew Avery, chief research strategy officer at Thatcham Research said: “It is fantastic to see carmakers continuing to prioritise safety, with all but four vehicles tested by Euro NCAP in 2021 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.”

The list forms the shortlist for the 2022 What Car? Safety Award, which is judged by Mr Avery,  What Car? consumer editor Claire Evans; Euro NCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen and Loughborough University’s Pete Thomas, emeritus professor in road and vehicle safety.

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Mercedes-Benz EQS

  • Adult occupant protection: 96%
  • Child occupant protection: 91%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 76%
  • Safety Assist: 80%

The EQS is a brand-new luxury large saloon from Mercedes which scored some of the best Euro NCAP test results of the year. It impressed judges with its improved safety assist technology and occupant protection, including a centre console-mounted airbag to contain occupants during side impacts.

Matthew Avery says: “This is an extremely safe vehicle which achieved impressive Euro NCAP test scores. As you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, the EQS is a great safety performer with its adult occupant and child occupant protection scores 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.”

Nissan Qashqai

  • Adult occupant protection: 91%
  • Child occupant protection: 91%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 70%
  • Safety Assist: 95%

The all-new version of Nissan’s groundbreaking crossover is one of the best-ever performing cars in Euro NCAP tests, achieving more than 90% in three out of four safety categories.

Matthew Avery says: “This was a difficult choice and sparked long debate among the judges because we’re aware it’s an ICE vehicle. But it’s well-priced at around £25,000 and safety is the fundamental criteria above all else. 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.”

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Skoda Enyaq

  • Adult occupant protection: 94%
  • Child occupant protection: 89%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 71%
  • Safety Assist: 82%

Skoda’s electric SUV won a number of awards in 2021 for its family-friendly practicality, long EV range and value for money. It was also among the top performers during Euro NCAP testing and its adult occupant protection score of 94% was the second highest of all the cars tested last year.

Matthew Avery says: “Škoda’s Enyaq is a family car with lots of room which was only bettered in safety performance by much more expensive vehicles. 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.”

Toyota Yaris Cross

  • Adult occupant protection: 86%
  • Child occupant protection: 84%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 78%
  • Safety Assist: 81%

Based on Toyota’s popular Yaris supermini, the Yaris Cross is a slightly more rugged crossover version that was praised by judges for helping to “democratise safety technology” by offering a high level of assistance systems at a relatively low price.

Matthew Avery says: “Other cars performed similarly well in testing but few, if any, came in anywhere near the Yaris Cross’s low-entry price. 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.”

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Polestar 2

  • Adult occupant protection: 92%
  • Child occupant protection: 89%
  • Vulnerable road user protection: 80%
  • Safety Assist: 86%

Positioned to challenge the might of the Tesla Model 3 as well as all-electric executive saloons from the likes of BMW and Mercedes, the Polestar 2 is the first model from the EV brand to be tested against Euro NCAP protocols. The car was commended for its impressive passive safety performance, due to its excellent body structure and very effective restraint systems.

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. It also boasts very good lane support functions, which are threat sensitive and don’t nag the driver. As a new brand, Polestar should be applauded for keeping safety so high on the agenda.”

Claire Evans, commented on the nominees: “The great news for consumers is that the shortlisted models demonstrate that cars don’t have to be hugely expensive to be kitted out with the latest safety equipment. The Qashqai and Yaris are affordable, popular models that will sell in large numbers and so enhancing road safety for their buyers and other road users. It’s also reassuring to see that specifically designed pure electric models, such as the Enyaq and Polestar 2 have impressive all-round safety credentials.”

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