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Five of the safest new small SUVs on sale

Is safety your top priority when looking for your next car? The small SUV class has some of the safest cars around, and we have picked out five of the best

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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.

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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 some newer crossover choices like the Jeep Avenger unfortunately have to sit this one out.

Small carYear testedAdult occupant protectionChild occupant protectionVulnerable road user protectionSafety assistance technology
Mercedes-Benz EQA (and GLA)202197%
(96%)
90%
(90%)
81%
(79%)
75%
(75%)
Audi Q3201895%86%76%85%
Volkswagen T-Cross201997%86%81%80%
BMW X1202286%89%76%92%
Lexus UX201996%85%82%77%
Source: Euro NCAP

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 64%, while the EQA holds an Expert Rating of 58% – 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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Audi Q3

Audi Q3 (2018 onwards) Expert Rating

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 66% 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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Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen T-Cross (2019) - Expert Rating

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 69% in our Expert Rating Index, praised by reviewers for its comfort, practicality and driving dynamics.


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BMW X1

BMW X1 (2022 - present) | Expert Rating

The newest entrant on our list, the third-generation BMW X1 passed its Euro NCAP examinations with flying colours in 2022, with a particularly impressive safety assistance technology score of 92%. This rating stands for petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid versions of the X1, as well as the all-electric iX1.

The BMW X1 and iX1 both currently hold an Expert Rating of 70%, generally praised by reviewers for their spacious and well-equipped cabin, as well as their attractive exterior styling and large boot.


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Lexus UX

Lexus UX (2019 onwards) – Expert Rating

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 60%, while its all-electric counterpart holds an Expert Rating of 54%. 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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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 carYear testedAdult occupant scoreChild occupant scoreVulnerable road user protectionSafety assistance technology
Dacia Duster201771%66%56%37%
Kia Stonic201785%84%62%25%
Jeep Renegade201984%82%55%58%
Source: Euro NCAP

Dacia Duster

Dacia Duster (2018 - present) – Expert Rating

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%.

Kia Stonic

Kia Stonic(2017 onwards) Expert Rating

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.

Jeep Renegade

Jeep Renegade (2015 onwards) Expert 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.

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Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is the Deputy Editor at The Car Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in car-buying need with independent and impartial advice.