Safety in a vehicle can be ignored somewhat; after all, many of us believe we wonâ€™t ever have an accident. Therefore, looks, efficiency, size and speed may all be more important factors influencing our choices when weighing up the options when leasing a vehicle.
But actually, as we get older and acquire partners and children, the question of the safest cars on the road becomes paramount. There are certain features that vehicles possess that could literally be lifesavers, from the types of tyres to anti-lock brakes to child locks to the actual structure and rigidity of the vehicle. Technology is playing a bigger part than ever before, allowing us to change lanes in busy traffic with more visibility of our surroundings, and helping us to corner more securely at speed or in poor weather.
What is a Euro NCAP rating?
Each year the European New Car Assessment Programme (known as Euro NCAP) analyses a huge number of new cars released onto the market across the continent, grading them on a series of criteria built upon extensive testing. As of the time of writing, nine out of ten cars sold on the euro market hold an NCAP rating.
The four areas are:
Â· Adult occupation protection
Â· Child occupant protection
Â· Pedestrian protection
Â· Safety assistance
At the conclusion of these tests an overall score out of five is given â€“ which tells you exactly how safe the vehicle is.
How is car safety tested?
Each vehicle is assessed across the four criteria using a number of tests; usually studying the effects on the vehicles and dummy versions of occupants in realistic crash scenarios which can ascertain which are the safest cars in head on collisions. These could include a crash with a side pole and barrier or a full width rigid barrier, for example. The impact on the car, and factors such as whiplash, will be measured and scores will be given.
What are the safest cars to drive?
For 2017 nine cars achieved the top ranking of five stars, and the highest average across the four criteria went to two Volvos: the S90 and V90, which both achieved 95% for driver safety and a superb 93% for safety assistance â€“ 15% higher than the next-highest score for that category.
As examples of safety measures that have been introduced over the past decade both models boast a feature called Pilot Assist, which combines active cruise control, lane keep assist, and forward collision systems, to the extent that the driver can actually remove their hands from the steering wheel for up to 15 seconds at a time. Another impressive feature is that the speed can be configured to link with GPS data, so it is limited depending on the speed limits where youâ€™re driving.
Another high scorer was the new Toyota C-HR, particularly for driver safety. Among its distinguishing features are lateral airbags for head, chest and pelvis, a knee airbag, and a belt pretensioner and loadlimiter. These, added to various AEB (automatic emergency braking) features, gave the model an overall rating of five stars.
For smaller cars, the Nissan Micra (with safety pack, although this is fitted as standard in the UK) is probably the best option for city drivers; a small and agile drive with a sleek, sporty appearance, combined with pedestrian AEB and lane keeping assistance, makes it a drive well worth considering. That, plus the Bose personal audio systemâ€¦
Other high scorers for the year included the Skoda Kodiaq, the Land Rover Discovery and the Mini Countryman. Carbuyer said: â€œAll cars come with driver and passenger airbags, naturally, as well as curtain airbags that run the entire length of the interior.
Land Rover also fits lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking as standard, and this last item is a real lifesaver â€“ itâ€™s estimated to reduce rear-end collisions by 38%.â€
The Mini Countryman has gained positive reviews for its looks and space, the latter of which has kept marque enthusiasts and newcomers happy. Collision warning and autonomous braking for urban travel are fitted as standard, while the driving assistant pack is available comprising adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection.
If youâ€™re in the market for cars that are slightly older, Toyota and Volvo yet again prove to be strong choices. In 2016 the Prius and Hilux both bagged five stars, a feat matched by the Avensis in 2015. That year, the Volvo XC90 gained a fantastic 97% for driver safety and 100% for safety assistance. Standouts from 2015 included the Jaguar XE and XF and the Mercedes-Benz GLC.
For 2016, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, VW Tiguan (which boasts an â€˜activeâ€™ bonnet that rises up to protect pedestrians from the engine compartments) and Kia Niro (safety pack) all marked highly. The Alfa Romeo Giulia gained the highest adult occupant score of any car that year (98%).
If none of these options suit you, then it should be remembered that four stars is still an impressive score in the NCAP tests. The car youâ€™re after may not have been marked down for poor performance, but might instead be missing a feature that other cars possess. As an example, the Suzuki Swift missed out on five stars because it did not offer the pedestrian AEB.
How do I keep my child safe in the car?
Each of the vehicles mentioned above have graded quite highly for child occupants, based on tests for safety features and crash test performance for six- and ten-year-old children. The UK law states that children must use a properly-fitted child car seat until they are 12-years-old or 135cm tall, suitable for their size and weight. The penalties for ignoring the law could mean a Â£500 fine, but this would be a small price to pay, to ensure your child is adequately protected.
There are many other questions to consider when buying a car, and then driving it; for example, the safest car in the world is still hostage to fortune if other drivers are poorly behaved on the road, which might make you question whether you should get a dash cam or not. In some countries such as Russia, the dash cam has gone from being part of car safety in the future to now being part of everyday driving.
If you have any questions about the cars mentioned here, and the many other positives that they offer such as efficiency, speed and looks, get in touch with us today.