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The safest SUVs in the UK of 2023
If you’re on the lookout for a brand-new SUV, chances are you’ve got a family in tow. And if you’ve got a family to cart about from place to place, it’s fair to assume that safety is probably going to be right at the top of your priority list. So what are the safest SUVs on sale, then?
Euro NCAP, the people responsible for awarding a car its safety rating based on a rigorous testing procedure, take many things into account. They award a score for adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, vulnerable road user (IE pedestrians and cyclists) protection, and safety assistance systems such as auto-emergency braking. All up, there are 157 points to be had.
Naturally, all of the SUVs below have a five-star rating, but if you want to drill down into the nitty-gritty to find out exactly what is the best safety rated SUV on sale, read on.
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Euro NCAP (that stands for New Car Assessment Programme) is an organisation that was established to provide independent safety ratings for new cars that go on sale in Europe. Manufacturers don’t have to put their cars through NCAP’s rigorous testing procedure by law, but given the fact that practically every new mainstream car that goes on sale is tested (and that buyers really care about that all-important star rating), it’d look a bit odd if the decision was made not to test a new car.
Anyway, Euro NCAP’s tests are broken down to assess four different areas of a car’s overall safety rating. These are: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, pedestrian or vulnerable road user protection, and safety assistance systems.
The adult occupant protection score (that’s for the driver and any adult passengers) is determined by subjecting a car to frontal and lateral impact tests, as well as whiplash tests, to see just how well the car will cocoon them in such incidents. Any measures in place that help to facilitate quick rescue and removal from the vehicle are also taken into account here.
A car’s child occupant protection rating takes three things into account: the level of protection offered by the child restraint systems in front- and side-on impacts; the car’s ability to fit in a wide range of child restraint systems of different shapes and sizes; and whether or not there are sufficient provisions in place that allow for the safe transport of children. These include things like ISOFIX points, and a front-seat passenger airbag disabling system that’s clearly labelled and easy to use.
Vulnerable road user safety tests look at how well a car will protect pedestrians in the off chance that the two collide. Impact tests are carried out on the head, upper leg, and lower legs of a special crash test dummy to assess the risk of injury. A car’s automatic emergency braking systems are also taken into account, with cars being awarded bonus points if these systems can detect pedestrians and cyclists.
Finally, the safety assist score is worked out by looking at whether or not a car is equipped with what Euro NCAP calls “the most important driver assist technologies that support safe driving to avoid and mitigate accidents”. Systems such as lane-keep assist, speed assistance, autonomous emergency braking and driver attention monitoring systems are all taken into account here. A car will often have two separate safety ratings if these systems are optional extras too, with the highest score always being awarded to the car that gets them as standard.
If you’re going off Euro NCAP’s numbers, multiple SUVs could be described as having the best rating for child safety. The Mazda CX-60, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru Forester and Mercedes EQB all score 91%, making them the family SUVs with the highest ratings for child safety. It would appear that no new car has scored higher than this just yet, though of course that could well change in future.
It wouldn’t quite be accurate to say that SUVs come with safety features that aren’t available on other types of car. Some SUVs have more seats than your average family hatchback, which means they may well have additional ISOFIX child seat anchor points, but that’s about it. Otherwise, the roster of technologies that you’ll be looking at are largely the same across the board.
Adaptive cruise control that can automatically match the speed of the car in front of you to maintain a safe distance on the motorway, driver attention monitoring that can detect if you’re dozing off at the wheel and autonomous emergency braking that will haul the car to a stop if it thinks you’re going to hit the car in front of you are just a small handful of the systems currently available. There are also things like 360-degree parking cameras, lane-keep assist, speed limit detection systems and, in some cases, night vision cameras available either as standard or on the options lists.
There’s no really clear answer on this front. On the face of it, the sheer size of an SUV will arguably play to its favour if it were involved in a crash with a smaller car, but that size can also play against an SUV were it to be involved in a collision with a pedestrian (or another similarly-sized SUV). Owing to their higher centre of gravity, the chance of a rollover occurring will be higher in an SUV than a hatchback or saloon too, and of course an SUV moving at speed will generate greater momentum owing to its weight than a smaller car would. You might be able to argue that a higher driving position and greater visibility might help to slightly reduce the chance of an accident occurring in the first place, though.
Cars have become safer and safer with the passing of each year, but if you look back to 2018 you'll find the Jeep Wrangler sitting with a rare one-star Euro NCAP score. Its adult occupant and child occupant ratings of 50% and 69% respectively weren't strong but arguably weren't too disastrous, but the 32% mark it gained for its safety assist tech was certainly off the pace.
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