The top 10 safest used cars have been selected, say the organisations, because they’re all relatively affordable, proving safety is not reserved for those with the deepest pockets.
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Co-op and Thatcham Research set criteria to hunt down Britain’s safest used car: they must all have a five-star Euro NCAP safety score, be freely available on the secondhand market for less than £15,000 and also boast CO2 emissions of 120g/km or less. So let’s count down Britain’s top 10 safest used cars.
10: Fiat 500L (2012)
The roomy Fiat 500L is the five-seat people-carrying version of the Fiat 500 city car. Like every car in the top 10 safest used cars in Britain, it has a full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, with a 94% rating for adult occupant protection.
9: Mazda CX-5 (2012)
Mazda’s mid-size crossover SUV was given an 86% score for safety assist features by Euro NCAP in 2012. This rates the standard inclusion of key active safety features such as ESC electronic stability control and seatbelt reminder (standard for all five passengers on the CX-5).
8: Honda Civic (2012)
The British-built Honda Civic was tested by Euro NCAP in 2012 and also earned an 86% rating for safety assist features, plus 83% for child occupant protection; Euro NCAP praised the clarity of labelling regarding the status of the front passenger airbag deactivation device.
7: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (2012)
The current-shape Mercedes-Benz A-Class was tested by Euro NCAP in 2012, earning a five-star safety score. The boxy high-rise old-shape model also has a five-star score, but don’t be misled: it was tested back in 2005, when test rules were much less strict and inclusive than they are today. The two scores are not comparable.
6: Mazda 3 (2013)
Again, the 2013 model Mazda 3 scored a five-star Euro NCAP score, as did the previous 2009 model. But the rules were tougher by 2013, requiring 81% for safety assist and 93% for adult occupant protection to earn the rating.
5: Vauxhall Astra (2015)
The latest-shape Vauxhall Astra is just coming onto the used car market as a nearly-new option. It’s worth seeking if you want the safest British-built family hatch on sale, with a strong score across all four of Euro NCAP’s testing criteria: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, pedestrian safety and safety assist features.
4: Peugeot 308 (2013)
The 2013 308 was a breakthrough car for Peugeot in terms of ability and appeal. This strong user experience is backed up by a good safety score, with Euro NCAP testers praising its side impact protection and standard inclusion of a driver-set speed limiter.
3: Nissan Qashqai (2014)
One of Britain’s top 10 best-selling cars, the second-generation 2014 Nissan Qashqai is packed with clever safety assist features such as AEB autonomous emergency braking and a lane departure warning system. It would have scored even more highly had these been fitted as standard, as per Euro NCAP rules…
2: Volkswagen Golf (2012)
The 2012 Volkswagen Golf Mk7 does have AEB autonomous emergency braking as standard, which operates at speeds of up to 50mph to either bring the car to a full halt in an emergency, or rapidly reduce the severity of any impact. Thatcham Research has data that shows Mk7 Golf drivers have 45% fewer personal injury claims as a result…
1: Volvo V40 with safety pack (2012)
The 2012 Volvo V40 became the safest car ever tested by Euro NCAP in 2012, with a superb score across the board – including an unprecedented 100% for safety assist features. It was one of the first mainstream cars to offer AEB autonomous emergency braking, which Volvo calls City Safety, while models with the optional safety pack add even more functions: road sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and driver tiredness monitor are amongst the features. “A class leading car that has exceptional safety features and all for a reasonable price” summarises Thatcham Research.
Top tips for finding the safest used family cars
Thatcham Research has advice for used car buyers seeking out the safest family cars from Britain’s 30 million-plus used car market. The first is, simply, to choose a car with a five-star Euro NCAP safety score. Remember too, the newer the car, the stricter the safety testing will be.
AEB autonomous emergency braking will automatically slow the car if it detects an emergency ahead to which the driver does not respond. It’s been fitted to cars since 2008 and became increasingly commonplace on regular family cars from 2012.
Once you’ve ticked those two boxes, be on the lookout for additional safety features. You may need to do some deciphering here, but it’s worth it: active cruise control uses radar to automatically keep you a safe distance from the car in front, lane keep assist uses an array of warnings to alert you if you’re drifting out of lane on the motorway, a driver monitor detects drowsiness and sounds wake-up warnings while high beam assist will automatically put your headlights onto main beam – and dip them again when it detects oncoming traffic. All are worth hunting down if you want the safest used car you can get for your money.