Top 10 Safest Small Cars

14 minutes Published: 24/03/2022
Natalie McGinness

Is safety of the utmost importance to you when it comes to a car? It doesn’t matter to you whether it supports Apple CarPlay or has heated seats - just as long as you feel safe while driving it? We get you. We understand how important it is to feel safe on the roads. 

So, whether you’re a new driver, returning to the roads after an accident, or perhaps you have a new addition to the family and you’d feel safest driving in a ball of bubble wrap, we’ve rounded up the Top 10 Safest Small Cars of 2022 to give you the pick of the bunch. 

All the cars below were top rated by Euro NCAP, the official body for testing car safety. They take many elements into consideration when testing the safety of cars, such as:

  • Safety of adult occupants
  • Safety of child occupants
  • Safety of vulnerable road users
  • Safety assist.

We’ve also looked at the car safety features you should always be on the lookout for, safest car brands and the safest family cars - follow the links if you’re interested!

1. Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

From £248.35 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine:
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 278g/km

They say you shouldn’t reinvent the wheel, but if you can make the wheel better and better, why not? 

The Volkswagen Golf is now on its seventh generation, and the most recent launch is its best yet. Reviews rave about its impressive dashboard technology and its smooth driving experience. The Golf has had years of success, with many more to come. 

This is clearly reflected in the NCAP 5 out of 5 stars rating!

95% Adult Occupant 

  • Front, rear and side collision testing showed that all critical body areas were protected, particularly on side impact where the Golf scored full points for safety. 
  • An assessment of headrests and seats showed great protection against whiplash in the event of a rear collision. 

89% Child Occupant 

  • Assessments for both a 6 year old child and 10 year old child were carried out as standard. Again, the Golf scored maximum points in the protection against a side collision.
  • There is an airbag disable function to allow a rear facing car seat. 

76% Vulnerable Road Users

  • The Golf’s AEB system was rated as being adequate at identifying vulnerable road users such as pedestrians or cyclists, with testing showing the system’s response to such users being an accurate and a strong preventative measure.

78% Safety Assist

  • Seatbelt reminder system is put in place
  • Driver set-speed to prevent drivers exceeding speed limits. 
  • AEB System tested as effective.
  • The Golf also has Lane Assist to prevent drifting, with other more extreme safety features in place in critical circumstances. 

The VW Golf is an all-round safe car to drive according to official testing. However, user reviews have revealed that the low-beam setting of the Golf gives poor visibility - something to consider if you already struggle with driving in the dark. 

2. Hyundai Ioniq 5

From £392.46 per month to lease
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: N/A
  • Fuel: E
  • Body: SUV/Crossover
  • Drive: A
  • CO2:

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 isn’t as small as others on this list, but well worth considering.

It’s a small off-roader that has been described as having a funky, retro exterior with a very comfortable interior. It’s fully electric and boasts a range of up to 300 miles! The Ioniq 5 also hosts a fully customisable dashboard, with a sliding centre console resulting in more room in the front seat for both driver and passengers alike. 

With no previous safety reviews to compare its performance to, this EV scored 5 out of 5 stars on its first assessment!

88% Adult Occupant

  • Protection to both driver and passenger was reviewed as being high in the instance of a frontal collision, and is effective across all shapes, sizes and seating positions of occupants. 
  • Protection to all critical body areas is given, and with central airbags in place to reduce occupant impact in the event of a side-on collision. 
  • Protection against whiplash in rear collisions is high. 

86% Child Occupant

  • Children of both test sizes were highly protected in various scenarios. 
  • Front airbag can be disabled to allow for a rear facing car seat.
  • The car is adequately sized to allow for the fitting of different child restraints. 

63% Vulnerable Road Users

  • Protection against pedestrian head injury upon collision with the lower windscreen is poor. 
  • Pelvic and lower limb injury risk is high upon impact with the bumper.
  •  The Ioniq’s AEB was highly responsive in relation to cyclists. 

88% Safety Assist 

  • Seatbelt reminders and driver fatigue monitoring is in place. 
  • Lane assist technology assesses driving position, with gentle correction when needed and more forceful correction when critical. 
  • Fitted with e-Call technology. 

If you are looking for a small CUV/SUV crossover, then the Hyundai IONIQ electric car is the one for you. Not only is it safe, it is stylish and refreshingly modern. 

3. Seat Leon Hatchback

From £213.79 per month to lease
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine:
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 214g/km

A sporty take on a typical family appropriate hatchback, the SEAT Leon is known for being a comfortable drive. Modern upgrades have seen the most recent launch increase interior space, and add features such as a full-width brake light and well-designed touchscreen display that hosts a variety of tech features.  

Assessed in 2020, the SEAT Leon scored 5 out of 5 stars on their NCAP safety assessment!

92% Adult Occupant

  • Both driver and passengers are provided with an adequate level of protection, with points being deducted on protection of the driver’s chest. 
  • Various tests showed that the SEAT Leon posed a high risk of exterior damage proving greater risk to opposing vehicles. Overall, a high safety rating was given. 

88% Child Occupant

  • Children of both sizes were assessed as being highly protected in various collision scenarios.
  • Points were deducted for the 10 year-old’s neck only being adequately protected against whiplash. 

71% Vulnerable Road Users 

  • The Leon hosts an autonomous emergency braking system (AEB) that kicks in to prevent further collisions upon initial impact. 
  • This same system is effective at detection of pedestrians and bike users to the front of the car, but has no detection system to the rear of the car. 
  • It was also deemed adequate at detecting children running from behind parked vehicles. 

80% Safety Assist

  • Again the AEB proved effective in reducing or avoiding impact with other vehicles. 
  • The SEAT Leon is equipped with a driver monitoring system which detects fatigue or lack of focus within the driver, and warns the driver if impaired driving is detected. 
  • Lane assist also gently realigns the vehicle, with more advanced options such as local speed limit detection being available to purchase. 

As a small, functional and spacious car, as far as safety goes it is no wonder that the SEAT Leon has found a place on our list. Various protective features and technologies make this an excellent choice for keeping you safe on the roads. 

4. Ford Focus Hatchback

From £241.63 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine:
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 237g/km

This small hatchback has (much like the others in our list) received a bit of a face-lift for 2022, with improvements being seen in the interior design, giving it a more luxurious feel. Much like other Ford models, the Focus is known for its smooth and joyful ride and has been described as the perfect family car. 

With the new model available from February 2022, the NCAP score is reflective of the 2019, but in our opinion they can only get better so the safety rating of 5 out of 5 stars, is still entirely relevant!

96% Adult Occupant

  • All collision tests showed that protection of all critical body areas were assessed as good, with points being dropped for chest protection. 
  • Tests showed that seats and headrests provided optimal protection whiplash in the event of a rear end collision. 
  • The Focus’ autonomous braking system performed well in tests when slow, typical city driving speeds were tested. 

87% Child Occupant

  • Scored maximum points in crash and collision testing for both 6 and 10 year old dummies. 

72% Vulnerable Road Users

  • Poor detection of cyclists crossing the horizontal front path of the car. 
  • Good detection of pedestrians in various positions, with bonnet and bumper scoring high for protection of a struck passenger's head, legs and pelvis. 

75% Safety Assist 

  • As standard, seatbelt reminder equipment is in place. 
  • A speed assistant system uses cameras and live maps to identify local speed limits. 
  • Lane assist gives the driver a reminder when it recognises faltering in lane position, and gently adjusts the vehicle. 

The Ford FOCUS has received relatively high marks for its safety, and has been continuously praised for its size and functionality as a small family car. However, where there seems to be room for improvement, we can hope that this has been noted for the new launch coming in February 2022.   

5. Toyota Yaris

From £191.88 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine:
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 170g/km

The Toyota Yaris has been acclaimed for being one of the best small hybrid cars on the market, as it has a great performance ability and only emits 92g/km of CO2! Its sporty exterior is contrasted by its simplistic interior, which has all the essential features such as smartphone compatibility and climate control options. 

The Yaris is great for a first time driver and its recent designs make it look good on the road. But how safe is this small car? Well NCAP has rated this 5 door hatchback 5 out of 5 Stars.  

86% Adult Occupant - 

  • In collision tests, protection of critical areas for both drivers and passengers was rated as marginal. 
  • These scores were low, particularly for lower limbs, on the basis of the dashboard design. 

81% Child Occupant - 

  • Both ages of dummies were said to have scored maximum points in protection of all critical body parts in various collisions. 
  • Unclear information was given in the manual on how to install certain child safety features. 

78% Vulnerable Road Users - 

  • The Yaris’ AEB system is capable of detecting vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles. 
  • It cannot detect pedestrians at the rear of the car. 

85% Safety Assist

  • The Yaris uses cameras and steering inputs to identify whether the driver is alert or suffering from fatigue. 
  • Lane assist technology is also in place to gently realign the car, with more severe intervention being used in critical conditions. 
  • The Yaris is equipped with a multi-collision braking system as standard, where the brakes are applied immediately upon impact to prevent secondary impacts. 
  • It is also equipped with an advanced e-Call system which automatically sends a message to the emergency services alerting them of the car's location in the event of an accident. 

Despite receiving some of the lower scores that we’ve seen so far, the Yaris overall is a safe, small car to drive. So, if you’re looking for a smooth car that is perfect for city or town driving, then this could be the one for you. 

6. Honda Jazz

From £195.97 per month to lease
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine:
  • Fuel: P, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 102 - 139g/km

Perhaps not known for its aesthetic appeal, the Honda Jazz has found itself on this list for good reason. This small hybrid is spacious and practical, and is great for short journeys and city driving. 

With no harsh lines or edgy design appeal, the exterior and interior design of this car and its typical drivers, bellows safe. So, it is of no wonder that it has been scored 5 out of 5 stars by NCAP. 

87% Adult Occupant

  • Lower body protection was rated as good, but protection of other critical areas such as the chest were rated as weak.  
  • The Jazz is equipped with various airbags, including a centre airbag that aims to protect against occupant-to-occupant collisions in side impacts. Testing proved this to be effective. 

83% Child Occupant 

  • Both child dummies were provided with adequate protection in various collision scenarios
  • A child restraint cannot be fitted stably in the middle rear seat. 

80% Vulnerable Road Users

  • Good visual and AEB detection of cyclists or pedestrians. 
  • No rear detection ability. 

76% Safety Assist

  • Seat belt reminder for driver and passengers as standard, with no driver impairment technology to check for fatigue. 
  • Speed assistance cameras are in place to detect local speed limits, for drivers to adjust their speed accordingly. 

The Honda Jazz is by no means a luxurious sports car, but its practicality and simplistic safety features can’t be argued with. Between its drive and interior technology, this car is a simple car for simple needs, that will undoubtedly keep you safe. 

7. Nissan Micra

From £167.97 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine:
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 163g/km

In 2017 Nissan re-designed and relaunched their Micra model. The relaunch saw a redesign of the iconic bubble-like exterior, once resembling a less stylish Fiat 500, to now sport clean lines and angled features. This re-launch has been praised for its brighter interior and smoother performance, but how safe is it?

In May 2017, Euro NCAP evaluated the safety of this car and gave it an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars. 

91% Adult Occupant

  • Praised for its overall protection, particularly to the lower body and to drivers/passengers sat in a variety of positions and of different sizes.  
  • Good front assessment against whiplash, significantly poorer for rear sitting passengers. 

79% Child Occupant 

  • Assessment for the 10 year-old dummy was good, and showed high levels of protections for all critical areas of the body. 
  • The same assessment for the 6 year-old dummy was slightly poorer in terms of chest protection. Air bags and other safety features can be activated to improve this. 

68% Pedestrian

  • An overall good assessment, as the bumper has minimal damage on pedestrians legs.
  • The bonnet has adequate protection of the pedestrian's head upon impact.
  • The Micra offers a safety addition of an autonomous braking system to further prevent the need to concern yourself with hitting pedestrians. 

49% Safety Assist

  • As standard the Micra is fitted with a seatbelt reminder for all seats. 
  • The standard autonomous emergency braking system performed well, even at high motorway speed. 
  • A speed limitation is also set. 

The Nissan Micra can be considered as one of the safest small cars as standard, and with the  ability to purchase extra safety features, this redesigned car is sure fire way to stay safe on the roads. 

8. Fiat 500 Electric Hatchback

From £246.51 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3
  • Engine: N/A
  • Fuel: E
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: A
  • CO2:

Possibly understood as the smallest car on our list of safest small cars so far, the Fiat 500e is building a reputation for being a safe, stylistic choice for new or cautious drivers who have no need for crazy high-tech specs. 

In 2021 it was rated 4 out of 5 Stars for safety. 

76% Adult Occupant

  • Good protection of the lower body for both passengers and drivers, however if contact was made on certain points of the dashboard injury risk is much higher. 
  • In a frontal collision, the 500e would be particularly benign, but in terms of side collisions there is a high risk of passengers being flung to the other side of the car. 

80% Child Occupant

  • Again with side collisions, protection has been rated as poor as the chest of the 10 year old dummy was low. 
  • The size of the 500e is insufficient for the installation of an ISOFIX child seat in the rear.  

67% Vulnerable Road Users

  • Protection of a struck pedestrian received mixed reviews, with some areas good and others poor. 
  • AEB system is effective at identifying vulnerable users and avoiding collisions where possible. 

67% Safety Assist

  • Seat belt reminders are standard in front and rear seats. 
  • AEB system performed marginally in reaction to other vehicles. 
  • The 500e is equipped with “Drowsy Driver Alert” where the car looks to identify patterns of fatigue on particular roads. 

This small car may not be best suited to those carting around the kiddies, but if you are buying your first car or are buying a first car as a present for one of your own kiddies, then the Fiat 500e is best suited to you.

9. Kia Ceed Hatchback

From £184.39 per month to lease
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine:
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 94 - 170g/km

This small family car is extremely affordable and practical, particularly with the size of boot that it offers. Its mature and smart looks are supported by upmarket features such as the 8” touchscreen and soft, comfortable furnishings. 

Appreciated as being a great car for the family, it would be good to know just how safe your family would be in this small hatchback wouldn’t it? Well it received 4 out of 5 Stars from NCAP in 2021. 

88% Adult Occupant

  • It was determined that there was insufficient pressure behind the airbag in the driver's seat, which resulted in the head making contact with the steering wheel. 
  • This wouldn’t cause critical injury but protection against all critical areas of the body has been reduced. 
  • Protection against whiplash was praised. 

85% Child Occupant

  • Both dummy sizes were well protected against various collision scenarios, with a small exception being made for the neck of the 10 year old, where minor injury can be incurred. 
  • The Ceed is well designed to accept and accommodate a variety of child restraint styles. 

52% Vulnerable Road Users

  • Overall protection against pelvic, lower limb and head injuries was recorded as adequate.
  • The AEB only responds to other vehicles, and is not equipped to respond to cyclists or pedestrians. 

68% Safety Assist

  • Standard seat belt reminder system in place. 
  • Simplistic lane assist technology is in place.
  • Driver set speed limiter helps to prevent over speeding. 

In a basic sense, the Kia Ceed can be appreciated as a safe, simplistic addition to your driveway. However, if you feel safer having a wide variety of safety features and technology, you may want to look elsewhere. 

10. Skoda Fabia Hatchback

From £212.47 per month to lease
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine:
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 185g/km

Another car on our list that is considered to be a small family car, is the Skoda Fabia. An affordable, functional car that is simple and smart - no quite giving you everyday luxury, but certainly providing everyday reliability and comfort. 

Although not the most stylish choice, this small car has been awarded 5 out of 5 stars by the NCAP. 

85% Adult Occupant

  • A very rigid and protective passenger compartment, provides a strong barrier of protection for passengers. 
  • Levels of protection are maintained within the Fabia across different passenger sizes and seating positions, with side collisions scoring maximum points for protection. 
  • The Fabia is not equipped with central airbags. 

81% Child Occupant

  • In the dummy tests, both frontal and rear collisions showed critical areas of the body were protected but the head and neck were less protected. 
  • The Fabia is well equipped to fit various child restraints. 

70% Vulnerable Road Users

  • Bumper and bonnet give adequate protection from pelvic and lower limb injuries, but the lower windshield can be stiff. 
  • The AEB system is capable of detecting cyclists, pedestrians and other vehicles. 

71% Safety Assist

  • The Fabia has the standard seat belt reminder system, with occupant detection to identify who is going without. 
  • “Driver Alert” monitors driving ability and fatigue, and alerts the driver of when to take breaks. 
  • Lane intervention system helps correct lane position gently, whilst also keeping the car on the road in severe circumstances. 

Overall it is clear to see why the Fabia has achieved its 5 star safety status! It may not be to everyone’s taste aesthetically, especially with the Ned Flanders-esque moustache grill, but this car will undoubtedly keep you safe on the road. 

Summary

If you’ve reached the end of our post, then you’ll be a dab hand at understanding what makes a car safe and what doesn’t. Hopefully we’ve got your brain ticking at what you will now look out for when it comes to judging a car's safety.

So, whether you were on the lookout for a safe, small car to get yourself back out on the roads or you’re hitting them for the first time, we hope our rundown of aesthetics, tech specs and safety ratings has given you a good idea of where to start!

Not seen anything you fancy on our Top 10 Safest Small Cars list? Here at Lease Fetcher we compare millions of personal and business leasing deals to help you find your perfect fit, from body style to manufacturer we can help you find the one!