It’s easy to see why SUVs are so popular – their high driving position gives a commanding view of the road ahead and not only are the chunky looks fashionable, they’re suggestive of safety and security. But are SUVs as safe as they look?
Car safety testing is carried out in Europe by Euro NCAP. The group has re-vamped its testing regime for 2015, and it has become increasingly difficult for manufacturers to achieve the fabled five-star rating. We’re listing the safest SUVs of the last two years according to Euro NCAP’s experts.
The Lexus NX was awarded a full five-star rating despite testers noting that it only offered marginal side protection to the driver’s upper body. Frontal protection was considered excellent, with only a minor risk to the driver’s feet.
Lexus offers an Autonomous City Braking system but, because it isn’t included as standard, the NX was marked down. The same applies for the lane departure warning system. Euro NCAP also suggests the NX’s pedestrian safety could be better.
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With so much performance on offer, you’d hope that the Porsche Macan would be capable of protecting the driver and its occupants in an accident, and overall it fares very well.
Occupant protection for both adults and children is excellent, but the Macan’s overall score is let down slightly by the lack of some driver assistance features. Pedestrian protection could be better, too.
One of only three small SUVs on our list, the Jeep Renegade scores very well, particularly for child protection and in side impact tests. The overall score could’ve been improved with better whiplash protection though, which was considered marginal all round.
Safety assist scores would have been better if City Collision Avoidance and Lane Assist systems were offered as standard, while pedestrians face a likely risk of pelvic injuries due to the leading edge of the bonnet being bluff and unforgiving.
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The seven-seat Kia Sorento is one of only two cars on this list to receive a perfect score in side impact tests – it even passes the more stringent pole test with flying colours. Overall, it scores very highly in terms of both adult and child protection.
However, Euro NCAP discovered that pedestrian safety was below the class best, with moderate to high risk of injury to both the head and upper leg. The lack of autonomous city braking harmed the Sorento’s driver assist score, but otherwise it fared well.
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There was only one area where the Nissan X-Trail was considered to offer anything less than adequate protection – rear seat passengers were at risk of whiplash injuries. This can be mitigated by fitting Autonomous Emergency Braking but the X-Trail was marked down because this system isn’t standard.
Otherwise, scores are high across the board. The driver’s shins are at risk in frontal collisions, and pedestrians will hope to avoid the windscreen pillars which, as you’d imagine, are very stiff.
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There are very few cars which fared better in occupant protection than the Mercedes GLA. Only a minor risk was highlighted for the driver and passenger’s lower legs in a front-end smash while whiplash protection was excellent for everyone. Euro NCAP awarded the GLA maximum scores for children sat in a rear-facing child seat, too.
Although the GLA does without a bonnet airbag, actuators are able to raise it slightly allowing for a softer impact in a collision with a pedestrian. Although lane departure warning is only optional, stability control and automatic emergency braking are equipped as standard across the range.
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Land Rover Discovery Sport
Not only has the Land Rover Discovery Sport won many plaudits with the motoring press, but it was also the safest SUV tested by Euro NCAP in 2014. Front seat occupants are at minimal risk of injury in a front or side impact, with adequate protection offered even in the toughest side-on collision with a pole. The only minor black mark is a moderate whiplash risk to rear seat passengers.
The bluff front end means upper leg protection for pedestrians isn’t great, but an airbag mounted in the bonnet works extremely well to reduce head injuries.
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The Hyundai Tucson achieved a very impressive five-star safety rating in the much stricter 2015 Euro NCAP tests. Occupant whiplash protection was especially commended but, testers would have been more impressed had the autonomous emergency braking system been fitted as standard.
Child occupant protection was rated very highly – the Hyundai scored full-marks for 18-month-old occupants – and all forms of child restrain systems could be safely fitted. A deployable bonnet resulted in a good pedestrian safety score of 71 per cent.
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The Audi Q7 scored a very admirable 94 per cent for adult occupant protection in the strict 2015 tests. Child protection was similarly impressive – the Q7 received full marks for protection of a three-year old passenger, resulting in a total mark of 88 per cent.
The Audi was able to score maximum points in the severe pole-impact test, a feat only matched by the Kia Sorento. Whiplash protection from front and rear-end collisions was good, thanks in part to autonomous braking systems and strong, supportive seats.
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The autonomous braking system fitted to the Volvo XC90 helped it to gain a 100 per cent score in the ‘safety assists’ category, the only car tested in the last two years to achieve such a feat. Adult occupant protection levels were also incredibly high, the XC90 received a score of 97 per cent.
Tests involving both three-year old and 18-month old occupant dummies yielded full marks for the Volvo, and the overall child protection score was an impressive 87 per cent, marking this out as an exceptionally safe vehicle.
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