What Car? Safety Award 2023

Winner: Tesla Model Y

  • A fully-electric SUV that’s set a new passive and active safety benchmark
  • Safety Assist score of 98% is the best-ever recorded by Euro NCAP
  • Adult Occupant Protection score of 97% is the benchmark during 2022
  • Collision Avoidance Driver Monitoring system praised for intuitive capability
  • Over-the-air-updates means Model Y will improve on owners’ driveway
  • “There’s no safer place to put your family” – award judge summary

Tesla’s impressive Model Y is the winner of the latest What Car? Safety Award. It’s a result that signals the beginning of a new era for vehicle safety standards.

The fully-electric SUV was the outstanding performer during assessments. With its Safety Assist score the highest ever recorded by Euro NCAP, and its Adult Occupant Protection rating the best of the year, the Model Y represents a major step forward when it comes to avoiding collisions and protecting those involved in them.

The Model Y’s success is even more impressive when you look at the strength of the Safety Award competition in 2022. It’s a year that will go down as a golden 12 months in new vehicle testing, with 53 of the 67 cars all achieving a 5-star rating during Euro NCAP assessments.

“Tesla has made some bold claims about being super safe in the past, and they’re really delivering on that promise. In terms of the passive and active safety performance of the Tesla Model Y, there’s no safer place to put your family. Credit to Tesla for that, our chief research strategy officer, Matthew Avery, said.

Join judges Matthew Avery and What Car? consumer editor Claire Evans as they talk through some of the cars that were in contention for the award, discussing some hot safety topics along the way, before explaining why the Tesla Model Y is a worthy winner of this year’s Safety Award

The judges’ conclusions

“We must give congratulations to Tesla and Model Y for achieving a truly outstanding, near-perfect safety rating in Euro NCAP’s tests.

Tesla have committed themselves to a very high level of safety performance in crash prevention and protection, we hope to see them continue to aspire to that goal in the future.”

Michiel van Ratingen

Secretary general, Euro NCAP

“Think of the Model Y as a pumped-up version of the Model 3 saloon, making it great for families who need more interior space. Even better, Tesla doesn’t charge much of a premium over the Model 3 for this model’s added practicality.

With a real-world range of 250-300 miles, the Model Y goes further between charges than rivals, and owners can replenish the batteries using the fast, well-maintained Tesla Supercharger network.”

Claire Evans

Consumer editor, What Car?

The 2023 runners-up

Smart #1

  • A keenly-priced SUV with the potential to take high-end safety to the masses
  • Car’s Adult Occupant Protection score of 96% impresses award judges
  • Centre airbags and advanced eCall system are welcome safety features

“The Smart #1 is designed for the younger buyer and we know from our research that young motorists don’t prioritise safety in the same way as older drivers with families. But Smart hasn’t compromised because of that.

“For instance, the #1 scored an incredible 96% for its Adult Occupancy performance. This is particularly impressive for a compact car with a smaller crumple zone to absorb energy during a collision,” Matthew Avery said.

Mercedes-Benz EQE

  • A high-end executive car that pushes the innovation envelope
  • Good AEB performance in collision-avoidance tests with car, pedestrian and cyclist
  • Features tech that will support the safe adoption of future Automated Driving tech

“Mercedes was the first brand to introduce Anti-Lock Braking Systems and Electronic Stability Control. With the EQE, it is now the first to develop an Automated Emergency Lane Control system, which it calls ‘Active Emergency Stop Assist’.”

“The EQE has all the safety features you would expect of a high-end model from a carmaker with a reputation for great safety. It continues to push the boundaires of innovation – albeit on a car with a price tag where you’d expect the very highest levels of safety,” Matthew Avery said.

How the winner is decided


The best-performing cars during the year’s exacting Euro NCAP safety tests are assessed by a panel of expert judges across various criteria. A shortlist of ten vehicles is then selected for further analysis, before a winner and two runners-up are chosen.
The top-three is unveiled at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards, scheduled to be held on 19 January 2023.


Read our full press release announcing the 10 safest cars of the year:
Click here

What Car? Safety Award 2022

Previous Winner: Nissan Qashqai

After scoring more than 90% in three of Euro NCAP’s four testing categories, the Nissan Qashqai was one of our most impressive winners of the What Car? Safety Award to date.