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Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research and Claire Evans, What Car? with the Mercedes A-Class - winner of the What Car? Safety Award 2019
Matthew Avery, Thatcham Research and Claire Evans, What Car? with the Mercedes A-Class - winner of the What Car? Safety Award 2019

Press release -

A class act: Mercedes A-Class wins What Car? Safety Award 2019

  • Thatcham Research sponsored award goes to a small family car for the first time
  • Audi Q3 second, Volvo XC40 third – both cars come from the fast-growing small SUV segment
  • All three cars benefit Vulnerable Road User protection, thanks to standard-fit Autonomous Emergency Braking to detect pedestrians and cyclists
  • Pioneering Driver Assistance systems available with the top three safest cars are “forming the foundations for Automated Driving”

The Mercedes A-Class is one of the safest and most technologically advanced small family cars ever, according to expert judges who have given it the What Car? Safety Award 2019. The Thatcham Research sponsored accolade was awarded to the Mercedes A-Class for its excellent performance across all judging categories.

It was the only car launched in 2018 to reach an overall Euro NCAP score of 90%, for both the protection it offers in the event of a crash and its crash avoidance technology. Its Driving Assistant Plus[1] package, which combines adaptive cruise control, lane centering, speed limit recognition and guided lane change functions, was also highlighted by Safety Award judges as one of the best available on the market.

Safety in numbers

That the Mercedes A-Class is an increasingly familiar sight on UK roads, ensuring it can make a real impact on safety, was also a major consideration for the judges.

Matthew Avery, What Car? Safety Award judge and director of research at Thatcham Research comments, “The Mercedes A-Class was the year’s top performer in the world’s most exacting safety tests. It’s exciting to see one of 2018’s best-selling cars meet that challenge and shows that carmakers can deliver state-of-the-art safety for the mass market.”

With Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) accident rates involving pedestrians and cyclists increasing[2], Avery highlighted the scores achieved by the Mercedes A-Class in safety testing for its Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system: “It aced the AEB Cyclist test, scoring 100%, and achieved an impressive 97% for the system’s ability to detect pedestrians. This high-performance safety technology is available - at no extra cost - on a car with UK sales in the tens of thousands and rising[3].”

Steve Huntingford, editor, What Car? adds, "The annual What Car? Car of the Year Awards cover every type of car, but safety is the one category that's relevant to everyone. It's therefore particularly exciting to see this award won by a model that millions of British motorists can afford."

Euro NCAP results for the Mercedes Benz A-Class:

Adult Occupant Protection = 96% / Child Occupant Protection = 91% / Vulnerable Road Users = 92% / Safety Assist = 75%

Forming foundations

An additional Driving Assistant Plus package is also available with the Mercedes Benz A-Class. It helps keep the car in the centre of a lane and accelerates and brakes automatically to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front. 

Avery comments, “We have raised concerns[4] around the potential for driver over-reliance on some of these systems, however this is one of the best on the market. It’s intuitive and easy to use, working quietly in the background to support the driver, without taking too much ownership away. Its ability to identify roundabouts and junctions and slow the car accordingly is also impressive, along with its Active Lane Changing function. Crucially, the system doesn’t disengage should the driver need to take over the steering, continuing to aid in the driving task.

“The highly sophisticated Driver Assistance systems on all three cars are forming the foundations for future Automated Driving – an area of next generation technology adoption where Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP’s insights and experience can support safe driver adoption.”

And the runner up...?

The second safest car of the year is the Audi Q3. Representing one of the fastest growing sectors in the market, the small SUV, the Audi Q3 has the second highest overall Euro NCAP score (87%) of the cars tested in 2018.

Avery comments, “The Audi Q3 showed very good passive safety to protect its occupants should a collision occur. It also has the highest ‘Safety Assist’ score, that measures the car’s ability to avoid the crash in the first place. Audi has a strong track record in making safe cars and the Q3 is its safest yet.”

The Audi Q3 comes with Autonomous Emergency Braking systems that can detect pedestrians and cyclists, a Speed Assistance System and a Lane Assist System, with the latter scoring maximum points in testing.

Euro NCAP results for the Audi Q3:

Adult Occupant Protection = 95% / Child Occupant Protection = 86% / Vulnerable Road Users = 76% / Safety Assist = 85%

Of course, there’s a Volvo!

In third place was the Volvo XC40, which achieved the best Adult Occupant Protection score (97%) of any car tested in 2018.

Avery continues, “It’s easy to take Volvo’s safety record for granted. However, this is the first small SUV Volvo has produced and it not only delivers on safety but has also won several driver experience awards, including What Car? Car of the Year 2018. It scored maximum points in the side pole crash test, one of our most severe assessments. As a Volvo XC40 occupant, you are as safe as it’s possible to be in a car.

“The car’s ‘Pilot Assist’ system is also very good. It provides drivers with steering assistance and helps maintain a safe gap from the vehicle ahead. We found that it was well balanced, offering a good level of assistance while leaving the driver in no doubt that they are ultimately in control.”

Euro NCAP results for the Volvo XC40:

Adult Occupant Protection = 97% / Child Occupant Protection = 87% / Vulnerable Road Users = 71% / Safety Assist = 76%

For more information on the winning cars please visit: 

[1] Available as an add-on

[2] Recorded KSI accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists increased from 6,227 in 2013 to 6,991 in 2017. Data referenced from the .gov site, Table RAS40004:

[3] SMMT car registrations 2018:




Thatcham Research is the independent voice of automotive safety, security & repair, advising motorists, insurers and vehicle manufacturers to help reduce accident frequency, severity and costs and to realise the vision of ‘Safer cars, fewer crashes’, while driving standards in vehicle security.

As well as its world leading crash and track research, Thatcham Research develops repair methods amongst a number of other products and services within the collision repair industry for insurers, motor manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

In addition, Thatcham Research has administered the Association of British Insurer’s (ABI) Group Rating system for the past 50 years. Group Rating is an advisory system intended to provide insurers with the relative risk of private cars and light commercial vehicles.

A founder member of the international Research Council for Automobile Repairs (RCAR), Thatcham Research has also been a member of the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) since 2004.

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Tom Flisher

Tom Flisher

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Thatcham Research

Safer cars, fewer crashes...

As the UK's only insurer funded automotive research centre, Thatcham Research enjoy a wide remit at the forefront of the latest vehicle technology. Thatcham's leading work in vehicle safety and security has a vital role in shaping the designs of new vehicles, whilst the centre is also seen as a key industry player at the forefront of driving standards in vehicle body repair.

Thatcham's Crash Laboratory is the only official UK crash testing centre for consumer safety body Euro NCAP and are viewed as a centre of excellence when it comes to active vehicle safety, particularly the evaluation of new Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) which provide the foundation for future vehicle autonomy.

Enjoying an increasingly global influence in both the insurance and automotive sectors, Thatcham Research expertise is in great demand with a range of opinion leaders being regularly asked to provide their experience and know-how at high profile events and in the media, living up to their reputation as ‘Experts in Safety, Security and Crash Repair’.

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