The good news is that cars are safer than ever, not just in terms of the way they’re constructed, but the latest technical wizardry available to help prevent accidents.
Naturally, car owners with families are some of the most safety conscious buyers, valuing driver assistance equipment such as anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic stability programmes (ESP) and lane-departure warning systems, plus autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which kicks in automatically to alert a driver, helping to prevent a collision.
The vast majority of new cars are tested by Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme), an independent organisation which performs a range of crash tests and rates each car in four critical areas:
Cars are given a star rating (the maximum is five) and a percentage score for each of the four areas.
In June 2020, Euro NCAP updated its crash testing to be even more rigorous. For instance, a new test simulates a head-on crash with another car and assesses how well occupants of both vehicles are protected.
We've chosen 10 of the safest new cars on the market. All the vehicles listed below were launched in 2020 and 2021, all have high levels of safety equipment as standard, and all gained a maximum five stars.
If we had more space, other top scoring new cars would have been listed, including the Seat Leon, Cupra Formentor and Isuzu D-Max, plus premium newcomers, the Genesis G80 saloon and Genesis GV80 SUV.
Launched in 2020, Toyota's best-selling supermini has been transformed for its fourth generation, with cool looks, clever packaging, new technology and an efficient petrol-electric hybrid system.
Featuring a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor, it can return up to 68.9mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 92g/km. It also benefits from Toyota's reputation for reliability, plus a five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
As standard, the affordable Yaris comes with AEB, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and emergency steering assist, which can swerve you into another lane (if it’s safe) if the system senses you’re about to have a crash.
It can also scan for people walking across the road you’re about to turn into – and stops the car if it thinks you’re going to hit them.
Winner of the World Car of the Year 2021 award, Volkswagen's first all-new all-electric SUV is about the size of a Tiguan and a great family choice.
Futuristically designed inside and out, it features a small driver's digital instrument cluster and a larger infotainment screen mounted on the centre console, just like its smaller sibling, the ID.3. Available with 52kW and 77kW battery packs, it has a range of up to 322 miles.
One of the few cars here fitted with Isofix points in the front passenger seat, as well as the rear, standard safety and driver assistance systems include AEB, lane assist, adaptive cruise control and driver fatigue detection. It also features a centre-mounted airbag which protects the driver and front passenger from hard mutual contact in the event of a side crash.
Mazda's dramatic first electric car is an eye-catching coupe-like SUV with unusual rear-hinged back doors. Equipped with a modest 36kWh battery, it has a range of up to 124 miles and it can be charged up to 80% in 36 minutes (via a 50kW rapid charger) or from home in under five hours.
Swift, smooth and near-silent, the MX-30 is a fun and fascinating addition to the EV scene, that's also very safe.
As standard, it's fitted with AEB, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, Emergency Signal System (ESS), which causes the hazard lights to flash rapidly if you brake suddenly at high speed. There's also 'e-call with GPS', which informs the emergency services and provide them with your vehicle's exact location in the event of an accident.
Launched in 2020, the handsome fourth generation Audi A3 builds on the success of the outgoing model, with its blend of driver engagement, refinement, a comfortable, quality interior, the latest tech and serious badge envy.
Also available as a saloon or cabriolet, it battles it out with the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class at the premium end of the family sector and comes with a choice of petrol, diesel and mild-hybrid engines – plus a plug-in hybrid.
While the A3 is fitted with essentials such as AEB and land departure warning as standard, other safety and driver assistance systems come as optional extras. For instance, the Driver Assistance Pack includes rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control.
One of the new car highlights of 2020, this distinctive five-door fastback from Volvo's all-electric sister brand, Polestar, is a genuine rival to the Tesla Model 3.
Handsome outside and oozing Scandi chic inside, it blends practicality with performance and cutting-edge technology. You can choose from three versions which offer a range of up to 335 miles and a 0-62mph time as fast as 4.7 seconds.
The Polestar 2 performed consistently well across the board, it's packed with safety equipment as standard and is fitted with Isofix points front and rear. There's also a multi-collision braking system, which applies the brakes immediately after an impact to prevent the vehicle from being involved in secondary impacts.
Another 2021 newcomer, the boldly styled new Sorento SUV has already been crowned Car of the Year by leading motoring title Carbuyer.
Offering comfort, space, practicality, state-of-the-art tech, upmarket materials and great build quality, it's available as a self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or diesel. Crucially, it also boasts a generous seven-year warranty.
The seven-seater comes with plenty of safety kit as standard, but you'll have to move up a trim level is you want other nice-to-haves, such as Blind-spot Collision Avoidance Assist with Rear-Cross Traffic Assist.
A legend reinvented for the 21st Century, the new Defender is available as a three-door 90 or longer five-door 110 (which can seat six) and you can choose between petrol, mild hybrid petrol and diesel engines, plus a plug-in hybrid.
Blessed with Land Rover's legendary off-road capability, it's the ultimate go-anywhere 4x4 that's now also a genuine pleasure to drive on the road.
It's also super safe with AEB, cruise control, speed limiter, lane-keep assist and traffic sign recognition as standard, along with Isofix points front and rear.
Skoda's first fully electric SUV is a cousin of the Volkswagen ID.4 and is available with two sizes of battery, giving it a range of up to 333 miles.
Distinctive and well built, there's bags of space for a family inside, plus a luggage capacity of 585 litres, which can be extended to 1,710 litres with the rear seats folded.
AEB, lane-keep assist, cruise control and speed limiter are fitted as standard, along with Isofix points front and rear, it's one of the safest EV SUVs on the market. It's worth adding that Euro NCAP's tests on the front seats and head restraints also demonstrated good protection against whiplash injuries in the event of a rear-end collision.
Launched in 2020, the cute fourth generation of Honda's popular supermini is the best ever. With space for two adults in the back, it's easy to drive, comfortable and practical, while the rufty-tufty Jazz Crosstar version (pictured), with its slightly raised ride height and roof rails, is even better.
The new Jazz is kinder to the planet too because its 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid engine is capable of up to 62.8mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 102g/km.
Equipped with the 'Honda Sensing' suite of advanced driver assistance technologies as standard across the range, goodies include AEB, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and automatic high-bean headlights.
Effectively replacing the outgoing e-Golf, the futuristic ID.3 is about the same size, yet offers more space inside and a generous boot capacity.
Inside it's almost as minimalist as the Tesla Model 3 with a large floating centre touchscreen and a small display ahead of the driver with a dinky twisty gear selector attached to the side. Fast, agile and smooth, it is available with three different sizes of battery and the most expensive version (77kWh) has a claimed range of 336 miles.
Safety and driver assistance essentials such as AEB, land-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, a driver fatigue alert system and Isofix points front and rear are all standard. The ID.3 also comes with a centre front airbag which prevents the two front seat passengers from hitting each other during a side-on collision.
I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.