For the second year, Co-op Insurance, in conjunction with car safety experts Thatcham Research and road safety charity Brake, have been crunching numbers to decide the safest used family cars for 2017.
Safety continues to lag behind price and other priorities for used car buyers, and the aim of the annual Co-op Safe Used Car awards is to draw attention to the large number of used family car options that provide the best possible protection for you and your loved ones if the worst happens out on the road.
Thatcham Research – the UK’s world-class crash test research centre – once again ranked all of the affordable family used cars in terms of their safety features. The qualifying criteria were unchanged from last year; price (no more than £15,000 on the used car market), CO2 emissions (no more than 120g/km) and a five-star EuroNCAP rating. All of the cars ranked in the top ten are current models, with the formula considering a used car to be at least one year old.
One of the key safety technologies that contributes heavily to an outstanding safety score is autonomous emergency braking. Thatcham recommends that all car buyers should look for vehicles with this accident-avoidance technology when shopping for a new or used car. All of the top ten cars ranked below have basic AEB included as standard, with more sophisticated systems often available at additional cost.
The top ten safest used cars for 2017
10. Volvo V40 (without safety pack)
The Volvo V40 hatchback features twice in this list, depending on whether it has the optional Driver Support Pack, which adds a number of advanced accident avoidance systems. It was a £2,000 option on any V40 model when launched in 2012, so the majority of cars don’t have it. It’s easy to spot whether or not the vehicle has the pack, as there will be a big black box inside the grille on the right side next to the Volvo logo.
Even without the additional safety pack, the Volvo V40 is still a very safe car for drivers, passengers and even pedestrians thanks to an under-bonnet airbag that pops up in a frontal impact to cushion the impact for a pedestrian striking the bonnet.
9. Peugeot 308
The Peugeot 308 hatchback remains in the top ten this year, but has fallen five places from last year’s results as rival vehicles have improved position. This is not because the 308 is any less safe than a year ago, but a larger number of other cars are now more widely available with class-leading safety features.
8. Nissan Qashqai
The Nissan Qashqai follows the Peugeot 308 in falling five places from last year’s results. Again, it’s not because the Qashqai is less safe than last year, but other cars are now more widely available with similar safety technology.
7. Volkswagen Golf
Another car to fall five places as a result of more competition in the marketplace. Last year, the Volkswagen Golf was rated the second-best safe used family car, but has slipped to seventh as other cars offer the safe technology at lower prices and with greater availability.
6. Volkswagen Touran
A new entry in the top ten safest used cars for this year, the Volkswagen Touran is a small people mover based on the Golf platform. As such it is available with all of the same safety systems as its more popular hatchback sibling, but lower residual values mean it’s a better second-hand buy than the Golf.
5. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
Another new entry is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, a small people mover family car and the first BMW built on a front-wheel drive platform. It actually shares many of its underpinnings with the MINI Countryman, but with increased emphasis on passenger space.
It’s not the cheapest used car in the list, but if you’re looking for a premium family car with a BMW badge, it’s a good bet.
4. Volkswagen Golf SV
Another version of the Golf that ranks higher than the Golf itself, in fourth place is the Volkswagen Golf SV. Filling the very narrow niche between the five-seater Golf hatchback and the seven-seat Touran, the Golf SV has the height and general feeling of poor life choices that you get with a Touran, but with only five seats and more Golf-like styling.
With residual values that are much poorer than the genuine Golf, the SV is an opportunity for buyers wanting a safe family car with Golf-ish looks.
3. Toyota Auris
Debuting in the top ten list – and in a podium position, no less – is the Toyota Auris.
Built here in the UK at Toyota’s Derbyshire factory, the Auris is available in five-door hatchback or estate guise. Unlike pretty much every other car in this list, it is also readily available with a hybrid power option.
The Auris range is well kitted-out with safety equipment, with all models apart from the entry-level Active spec being fitted as standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense package. This includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and other accident avoidance systems. If you are looking at a used Auris, make sure the specification is Icon or above (basically anything except an Active model).
In second place, and improving five spots on last year, is the Mazda3. It’s the same car as last year, but another 12 months of sales has meant a much larger pool of vehicles to choose from in the used car market. And, of course, it means that prices of the latest model are starting to come down.
The Mazda3 has been an underrated car since it launched, but it is definitely worth considering if you are looking for a second-hand family car. Avoid the base-level SE models, as they don’t get autonomous emergency braking as standard. SE-L and above is what you’re after. Higher-spec Sport models are also available with additional optional extras like blind spot and lane departure warning systems.
1. Volvo V40 (with safety pack)
The Volvo V40 holds onto its title as the safest used family car in the UK for 2017, on the same proviso as last year – only if your car has the optional Driver Support Pack.
The safety pack was a £2,000 option on a new car, so only a minority of buyers paid the extra to have it. It’s definitely worth hanging out for a used car with this pack on it, though, as it is a comprehensive set of kit comprising adaptive cruise control, lane departure and blind spot warning systems, cross-traffic assist system and more.