What Car? Safety Award


Everything you need to know!

 Introduced in 2015, The What Car? ‘Safety’ category stands out from the crowd because it’s the only award chosen by an independent third party – the experts at Thatcham Research – along with a hand-picked panel of safety experts.
There’s nothing as important as safety so this award really matters…. to the manufacturers of course but most importantly to you, the drivers and passengers. So read on to find out who’s in the long list of finalists – the cars on sale in the UK judged the safest on the market. The winner will be announced at the What Car? Awards Ceremony on 11 January 2017.

How to Buy the Safest Car Possible



‘Bringing top end safety to the masses…” – Jim Holder, Editor, What Car?


All cars in the list are underpinned by a 5 star Euro NCAP rating. In other words they’re great at crash protection and packed with innovative technology aimed at crash avoidance.


Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) (click here for an explanation!) was a must for the best performers, and the judges gave further credit for additional new and unique safety equipment.


Regardless of budget, everyone is entitled to keep themselves and their passengers as safe as possible. With that in mind, price and specification helped separate some of the closely matched contenders.


The safety award winners are shortlisted using a fixed list of criteria combing hard facts with expert opinion. All contenders have to have a 5 star Euro NCAP star rating for starters, plus standard fit Autonomous Emergency Braking on at least one model within their range.
Then it starts to get really interesting!
The judging panel scrutinise each car’s adult, child and pedestrian protection scores from Euro NCAP… look at where and how effectively the AEB systems work and take into account any additional and unique safety equipment/interesting innovations that make them stand out from the crowd.
Marks are then taken off where safety kits are available on cars outside the UK but not here, and finally, the price of the car is taken into account so that competitively priced cars can be rewarded for bringing safety to more buyers. For example, in 2016 the Honda Jazz was highly praised as the first supermini to offer AEB as standard at an accessible purchase price.



Matthew Avery Director of Insurance, Thatcham Research

M. Avery
Matthew’s background is as the safety lead for Thatcham Research, having overall responsibility for the centre’s detailed research into collision avoidance technologies and having been pivotal in the definition of test procedures to evaluate Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and other primary safety technologies. Matthew also has overall responsibility for Thatcham’s ongoing engagement with member insurers as well as a range of other high level relationships, including vehicle manufacturers, safety bodies and legislators.

Professor Pete Thomas Professor of Vehicle Safety, Loughborough University

P. Thomas
Pete Thomas is the Director of the Transport Safety Research Centre at Loughborough University. A specialist in the area of accident and injury causation, Pete has published over 150 research papers on a broad range of vehicle safety issues, including active safety systems, injury biomechanics and causation, crash test procedures and accident data analysis.

Michiel van Ratingen Secretary General, Euro NCAP

M. Ratingen
As Secretary General of the European New Car Assessment Program Euro NCAP, Michiel implemented the organisations’ most recent rating scheme updates, including the introduction of crash avoidance technology testing. He has provided technical support to the Global NCAP, Latin NCAP and ASEAN NCAP programmes and is Council member of the International Research Council on Biomechanics of Injury (IRCOBI).

‘Manufacturers are starting to rise to our challenge of fitting safety as standard across all models, regardless of segment or price” – Peter Shaw, Thatcham Research CEO

Autonomous Emergency Braking Fitment
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) Explained

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)

Similar to traditional Cruise Control, with the addition of a radar that monitors the car infront so the system can keep a fixed distance. This may include ‘Stop & Go’ or ‘Queue Assist’ functionality that can slow the car to a complete stop and start driving again once a hazard ahead has cleared.

Blind Spot Warning

A warning system that lets you know when another vehicle is in your blind spot. This can help prevent collisions when changing lane with many manufacturers using sensors similar to parking sensors. Because these warnings may be regular, they are non-obtrusive such as a warning light in the wing mirror or interior trim.

blind spot

Driver Alerts

Aimed to combat tiredness at the wheel or being distracted, these warning systems monitor performance and alert you if it senses attentiveness is affected. Most systems will give an audible alert along with a message on the dashboard display encouraging you to take a break. Advanced systems can even alert you of a potential collision if one is detected ahead.

driver alerts

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

This prevents you from losing control in a skid and has proven to be so effective, it’s been mandatory on new vehicles since 2012. It works by applying small steering and braking actions to selected wheels if it senses the car veering off course. Research shows that vehicles equipped with ESC are a huge 25% less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than those without it.


Forward Collision Warning (FCW)

FCW systems detect potential obstacles in your path and alert you with a warning. They can also support drivers by boosting the braking input to help avoid a crash, however, unlike AEB, FCW doesn’t work automatically, it needs you to take action and apply the brakes in response to the warning.

Front Side View Cameras

These are a development of reversing cameras, but put into the front bumper on both sides of the car. They provide you with a real-time overview of traffic conditions when pulling out of obscured junctions, gateways or car parks and provide extra information when manoeuvring in those tight spaces.

front view cameras

Lane Departure Warning

Most of these systems use a forward facing camera mounted inside the windscreen by the rear view mirror to identify the lane markings and seeing if they are crossed. When activated typical warnings include a flashing symbol on the dashboard display or audible alert. If the indicators are used before changing lanes, the warnings are deactivated.


Lane Keep Assist Systems (LKAS)

Building on LDW systems, this steers the car to keep a central position between lane markings. If the car starts to unintentionally cross lanes, steering and/or braking is automatically applied to return the car to the centre of the lane and a warning is sounded. On tighter bends, if lane markings are poor or the driver takes their hand off the steering wheel, LKAS automatically suspends itself.


Night Vision

Using infrared sensors to detect heat contrasts, these systems let you ‘see’ further into the distance. The images picked up are displayed on the sat nav or dashboard. The BMW Night Vision system with Pedestrian Recognition even monitors the images and when a pedestrian is identified, you’re alerted.

night vision

Parking Aids

Did you know that in the UK nearly a quarter of all insurance claims are related to parking or low speed manoeuvres? There are a wide variety of parking and manoeuvring assistance systems available, in some cases even controlling the speed and driving direction on behalf of you, the driver.

reverse parking


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