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Which are the Safest Cars on the Market?

Volvo V40

Safety first, so the saying goes, and we agree. When it comes to buying a car, there aren't many of us who don't look at safety as one of the most important factors to consider. We've put together a run-down of the safest cars on the market, as judged by the European New Car Assessment Program.

The NCAP score cars in four categories, Adult Protection, Child Protection, Pedestrian Safety, and Safety Assist Systems. To test the car's protection of adults and children, the NCAP hit the car with numerous front and side-on collisions, and see whether the dummies inside survive or not. For the car's Pedestrian Safety, they crash the car into dummies, looking at how well the structure and crumple zones absorb the impact. Safety Assist Systems is simply what the NCAP calls the technology that helps prevent a crash from happening in the first place (ABS, for example).

Volvo V40

By far, the safest car on the road today is the Volvo V40, scoring higher than any other car the NCAP have ever tested. It's very impressive, but we're not hugely surprised. Volvo have built themselves a legacy of car safety over the years (including inventing the child car seat). The V40 scores well in all categories - 98 percent in Adult Protection, 75 percent in Child Protection, 100 percent in Safety Assist Systems, and a record 88 percent in Pedestrian Safety, thanks to an innovative pedestrian airbag. The Volvo V40 is so safe, it is capable of breaking by itself if it realises you're about to crash. At the risk of repeating ourselves, the Volvo V40 isn't just the safest car of its type or its year. It's officially the safest car. Anywhere. Ever.

"The Volvo V40. Probably safer than staying in bed."

BMW 5 Series

Four years down the line, and the BMW 5 Series is still the safest executive car you can buy. 100 percent in Safety Assist Systems due to traction and stability control, 95 percent in Adult Protection, six airbags, and yet further safety options (at a premium), mean that there isn't really any contest. The 5 Series is safer than any executive saloon out this year in every category. There's even a night-vision package available, where your headlights will automatically identify pedestrians and highlight them with a separate beam of light.

It's also worth mentioning the BMW 3 Series. While not quite as safe as the 5 Series, the 3 Series is still an impeccably safe ride. Having said that, it's not as swish or as comfortable - get the 5 Series.

Renault Clio

Renault Clio

Despite it's small size and low price, the Renault Clio outperforms all SUVs when it comes to safety, and actually out-scores most SUVs in all four categories. Features like ESC as standard give it 99 percent in Safety Assist Systems. 66 percent for Pedestrian Safety, but to be fair, that's higher than the norm. It's also one of the cleanest small cars going.

"The Renault Clio. Stripping you of any excuse for owning an SUV."

Citroen C4 Picasso

Another small car running rings round the SUVs is Citroen's C4 Picasso. Narrowly beating the Fiat 500L and the Ford B-Max (both high scoring cars themselves), the C4 Picasso holds the top spot in the "Small MPV" class. And again like the Clio, the C4 Picasso isn't just safe, it's clean and efficient too.

Hyundai Santa Fe SUV

Speaking of SUVs, Hyundai break away from their usually poor safety record with the Santa Fe. The highest scoring SUV to date, the Santa Fe packs seven airbags and ESC as standard. 71 percent for Pedestrian Safety is its lowest score, with 96 percent for Adult Protection. While not as safe as the Clio or the C4 Picasso, or the 500L, or the B-Max, it is a safe car. The Hyundai Santa Fe delivers the safety you'd expect (and rarely properly receive) from an SUV.

It's worth pointing out that car safety has come a very long way in recent years. The most 'dangerous' cars on the road today are a good deal safer than almost any car from 15 years ago - and with electric cars like Tesla's Model S (not yet rated by the NCAP) revolutionising vehicle safety by removing all dangerous parts, cars are only going to get safer and safer. That is unless you're one of our American readers driving a General Motors car, in which case good luck.

For more information about car safety testing, visit www.euroncap.com.