With their raised driving positions and rugged looks, if you are looking at buying a compact crossover or SUV, it is likely that safety is one of your top priorities.
And with safety laws tightening in the UK, the highly competitive small SUV market provides a wide array of crash tested models that offer plenty of protection in the case of a collision, and are fitted with driver assistance technology that can prevent the accident in the first place.
We have picked five of the safest small SUVs currently on sale using the ratings given out by independent crash tester Euro NCAP, which regularly tests new cars in every aspect of vehicle safety. Using the same ratings, we have also highlighted some compact crossovers that you should probably avoid if safety is your top priority.
Testing all body sizes from pint-sized city cars to chunky people carriers, Euro NCAP rates each car in four areas: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, vulnerable road user protection (mainly cyclists and pedestrians) and safety assistance technology (accident avoidance and mitigation). The car is then given an overall star rating out of five.
Here at The Car Expert, we firmly believe that safety is a core component of any new car. Unlike most new car reviews that only report the headline score and don’t bother updating it over time, our unique Expert Rating Index includes the full Euro NCAP results for all cars tested and is kept up to date as ratings change or expire.
Five of the safest new small SUVs
Some of our top picks have particular stand-out strengths, while others are simply great all-rounders. Our SUV picks include traditional combustion-powered cars, plug-in hybrids and electric cars, and all have been awarded a five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP.
On the other hand, our picks don’t include any SUV that hasn’t been put through its paces by Euro NCAP, and thus popular crossover choices like the Kia e-Niro and the Hyundai Kona Electric unfortunately have to sit this one out.
|Small car||Year tested||Adult occupant protection||Child occupant protection||Vulnerable road user protection||Safety assistance technology|
|Mercedes-Benz EQA (and GLA)||2021||97%
Mercedes-Benz GLA & EQA
The two smallest SUVs in the Mercedes-Benz range, the combustion-powered GLA and its all-electric equivalent, the EQA, have some of the most impressive Euro NCAP scores around. The EQA has been given an occupant safety rating of 97%, the joint-best score in the small SUV class, and the GLA and EQA have the highest score on this list for child protection, which should be of considerable interest to parents when choosing a new car.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA currently holds an Expert Rating of 65%, while the EQA holds an Expert Rating of 60% – making it one of the lowest-scoring small SUVs on this list. Mostly that stems from the EQAs’s high price tag and rather rigid ride comfort.
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The Audi Q3 was put through its paces by Euro NCAP at the end of 2018, and achieved high scores in every category. The Q3 particularly stands out for its safety assistance rating of 85%, making it the best small SUV on this list when it comes to preventing an accident in the first place. This is crucial as – obviously – avoiding an accident altogether is better than surviving one.
The Audi Q3 currently holds an Expert Rating of 68% according to our Expert Rating Index. Whether you do most of your driving in busy urban streets or congested motorways, the excellent safety systems provided as standard in the Q3 will help reduce your chances of getting into an accident.
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Another fantastic all-rounder, the Volkswagen T-Cross was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2019, achieving above 80% in every category. It was given an adult occupant safety rating of 97%, making the T-Cross just as safe for adults as the Mercedes-Benz EQA if a collision were to occur. This is made more impressive when you consider that a new T-Cross is available for just over £22,000.
The Volkswagen T-Cross currently holds an Expert Rating of 72% in our Expert Rating Index, praised by reviewers for its comfort, practicality and driving dynamics.
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Available as either a hybrid or full-electric model, the Lexus UX was awarded a full five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2019, and stood out thanks to its outstanding scores for the protection of vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. The UX is also highlighted by Euro NCAP for its impressive driver and passenger protection in the event of a collision, with an adult occupant safety score of 96%.
The UX has received mostly average to good scores from the UK motoring media – the hybrid version currently holds an Expert Rating of 62%, while its all-electric counterpart holds an Expert Rating of 55%. Despite its excellent safety ratings, reviewers have criticised the UX’s poor infotainment system and cramped interior, and the electric version has a rather unimpressive battery range.
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The final of our five, the Skoda Kamiq passed its Euro NCAP examinations with flying colours in 2019 – and while it is not the best in any one area, it is still one of the safest small SUV choices on the market with high scores across the board. Most notable is its high adult crash protection score of 96% – impressive when you consider its comparatively low price tag.
The Skoda Kamiq currently holds an Expert Rating of 73%, generally praised by reviewers for its practicality and value for money.
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Small SUVs with second-rate safety scores
The vast majority of compact crossovers and SUVs achieve a four- or five-star safety rating after their Euro NCAP testing, but there are a few small SUVs that miss the mark somewhat.
While it is probably best to avoid them if safety is a top priority on your search for your next car, these are still reasonably safe models by modern safety standards.
In some cases, a poor Euro NCAP rating will reflect how old the model is, or the sub-par levels of equipment on the standard model, while mid-range of top-spec models with additional safety features will be more than worthy of a five-star rating.
|Small car||Year tested||Adult occupant score||Child occupant score||Vulnerable road user protection||Safety assistance technology|
It is fair to say that the Dacia Duster has received a very mixed pot of reviews since its 2017 arrival – achieving outstanding scores from some outlets due to its value-for-money, while also receiving a few poor reviews thanks to its three-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
While its adult and child occupant safety scores are decent considering its budget price tag, the Duster is not fitted with many safety assistance features, and thus received a low safety assistance score of 37%.
Another small SUV that was awarded a three-star rating from Euro NCAP in 2017, the Kia Stonic actually has some impressive driver and passenger protection in the event of a collision. What lets the side down is its lack of safety assistance features on the entry-level model, meaning that the standard SUV does not provide much help when it comes to avoiding a crash.
Opting for a Stonic with the optional safety pack provides more on-road protection – this upgraded version of the Stonic has been given a full five-star safety rating.
While praised for its off-road ability, the Jeep Renegade is not so praiseworthy when it comes to road safety. The small SUV was awarded a three-star rating from Euro NCAP in 2019, and while it proved to be quite safe in collision scenarios, it has the lowest vulnerable road user protection score in the whole of the small SUV sector.
This is because the Renegade has no emergency braking detection for pedestrians or cyclists – a feature that is readily available on a large majority of modern cars.