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Safety is an important part of the decision process when buying any used car, especially if you've got a family to consider. Thankfully the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) is the authority on car safety and with crash-tests and independent assessments on the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold in the UK, it has become a key part of encouraging safety improvements to new car design.

Fiat 500 ('07- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety rating

The Fiat 500 may only be tiny, and its cute looks may not immediately mark it out as a strong vehicle, but this little city car has a tough side to it, and it achieved a superb 5-star result when it was crash tested in 2007. It achieved this thanks to its ABS braking system with electronic brake force distribution, electronic stability programme and a whole host of driver, passenger, side and window airbags.

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Toyota iQ ('08- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

When the iQ was first crash tested in 2009, the majority of the motoring press was flabbergasted at the result. 5 stars for a car that is less than 3 metres long? 91 % adult occupant safety? Surely not! Toyota themselves weren't surprised however, they'd fitted the iQ with a multitude of safety features to ensure it was given the maximum rating. ABS and electronic brake force distribution are both standard features, as is emergency brake assist, which automatically applies extra force to the brakes during harsh braking. Traction control keeps you on the straight and narrow, and there's no fewer than 9 airbags are crammed in to keep you safe in the accident. There's a drivers airbag, a passengers airbag, a driver's knee airbag, front and rear curtain airbags, side airbags and a passenger seat cushion airbag.

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Volkswagen Up! ('11- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

The Volkswagen Up! has won all sorts of awards (on top of its 5-star Euro NCAP score) since it appeared on the city car scene in 2011. Starting with Top Gear Small Car of the Year 2011, it has since won WhatCar? Car of the Year 2012, CarBuyer Best City Car 2012, World Car of the year 2012, and it also took top spot in the 2014 JD Power Driver Satisfaction Survey. Safety is provided by the obligatory ABS and driver/passenger airbags, but the Up! adds height adjustable 3-point front seatbelts, hydraulic brake assist, hill hold control, electronic stability programme, driver/front passenger side airbags and front curtain airbags. A tyre pressure warning system will warn you if you've got a flat or under-pressurised tyre. The Up!'s sister cars, the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii, all come with exactly the same safety features too.

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Ford Fiesta ('09- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

Britain's newly crowned bestselling car of all time really does have all the bases covered, including safety. Zetec models include both an electronic stability programme and traction control to keep you on the straight and narrow, while ABS and emergency brake assist will help you avoid collisions by improving stopping distances. Driver and passenger airbags and 3x 3-point rear seat belts will keep children safe in the back.

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Vauxhall Corsa ('06- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

Vauxhall really wanted to shake up the supermini market when it launched the Corsa 'D' back in 2006, and it was one of the first superminis to gain a 5-star recommendation from Euro NCAP, and it achieved this thanks to a range of safety gadgets and gismos not previously seen on a mainstream family hatchback of this size. Dual-stage passenger and driver airbags were just the start, the front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters help to keep the occupants strapped into their chairs during an impact, meaning that the strengthened cabin is left to do its job and stay strong during a crash. Side body and head airbags complete the Corsa's safety package, along with ABS and emergency brake assist.

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Mazda 2 ('07- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

Mazda's 2 is a good looking alternative to the likes of the Fiesta and Corsa, and it matches them for safety features too. You'd be surprised at the amount of technology that can go into the humble seatbelt, but the front ones in the Mazda 2 combine seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters for maximum effectiveness. Regular driver and passenger airbags are present, as are side body and head airbags. The lack of a driver's knee airbag was not enough to penalize the Mazda 2 below 5 stars, thanks to the rigidity demonstrated by the passenger cabin during crash testing.

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Suzuki Swift ('10- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

While the previous version ('05-09) of the Suzuki Swift may have only been a 4 star car (still a decent result in 2005), improvements to the safety systems and an increase in the number of airbags resulted in the 2010 version being awarded the coveted full 5-star rating. That number is now 7, with one placed specifically to protect the driver's knee in case of an accident. Others protect the side of the driver and passenger's body and head, and an electronic stability programme is standard across the range. ISOFIX child seat anchorages are present in the rear of the car, and, interestingly, the Swift comes with 'foot-protecting' brake and clutch pedals.

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MINI Cooper ('07-13)

he MINI may only be small but it is tough. Upon its launch, it utilized the very latest in German build quality and technology to ensure that it was as safe as possible. On Cooper models, electronic control was plentiful. Traction control, cornering brake control and dynamic stability control was all standard, as were anti-lock brakes and emergency brake assist. 3 point seatbelts with pre-tensioners were present, as was something called a crash sensor, which activates the hazard and interior lights automatically, and unlocks the doors so that the passengers can exit the vehicle safely. A fuel cut off safety device stops fuel rushing to the engine, reducing the risk of a vehicle fire after an accident. There's a whole host of airbags including ones for the driver and passenger, and side head and body airbags to protect occupants in the event of a 'T-Bone' collision. ISOFIX is also present in the rear of the vehicle.

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Ford Focus ('11- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

The Ford Focus is the bestselling family hatchback in Britain - fact (the Fiesta and Corsa are classed as superminis). It wouldn't have become this nationwide sales phenomenon had it been unsafe, so Ford were desperate to recreate the 5-star performance by the previous model focus in 2004. It did so with ease, achieving 92% for adult occupant safety when it was tested in 2012. Front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters are again present, and driver, passenger, side head and body airbags are all present. ABS and electronic brake force distribution is also standard, as are electronic stability control, traction control and emergency brake assist.

When the car came out of the factory, every Focus could also be specified with a system called Active City Stop, which scans the road 50 times every second looking for potential collisions, and automatically applies the brakes if an impending impact is detected - mitigating or totally avoiding the accident. Another option on the Focus from new was Ford's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). This useful piece of technology utilizes radars situated in the rear quarter panels of the vehicle, which in turn identify when a passing vehicle enters the driver's blind spot. An indicator light is then illuminated on the corresponding wing mirror, letting the driver know that there is a car in the blind spot and not to pull out. You should look out for these options when you're looking for a used Focus, to ensure you find one that is as safe as possible.

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Volvo C30 ('06- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

Volvo has a long safety-related history, and it continued when they entered the family hatchback market in 2006 with the innovative C30. It's a good-looking, stylish and practical model, but rest assured that Volvo always has an eye on safety when they design and build a car. The C30 is no different, and dual-stage driver and passenger airbags will keep you safe in the event of an impact. An inflatable curtain and side impact airbags also offer protection to the occupants. Seatbelt pre-tensioners are standard both in the front and in the rear, and Volvo's Dynamic Stability and Traction Control systems aim to keep you on the road by preventing skids and killing oversteer electronically. The steering-wheel is also designed to move forwards in case of an accident, moving it away from the driver and reducing the potential harm for the driver. There's plenty of models in our used classifieds for under £10,000, ranging from the 1.6 S model to the top-spec 2.0 diesel R-Design models, complete with an aggressive body kit (though this has no bearing on safety!).

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Vauxhall Astra ('04-10) + ('10- ) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

Both the current and previous generation Astras achieved 5 star Euro NCAP safety ratings, so if you're on a real budget you can pick up a very safe 2004 Astra from as little as £2,000 in our classifieds. Even those models came with a whole host of safety technology, including ABS, emergency brake force distribution, cornering brake control and emergency brake assist. The cockpit was surrounded by a reinforced passenger safety cell, which contributes to a body that is 'extremely stable' and 'provides good protection for occupants' according to the safety boffins at NCAP. The side impact protection beams and integral protective door padding do a sterling job of protecting the occupants from that angle, and the brake and clutch pedals are designed to break away, reducing the potential for driver foot injuries.

The 2009 generation Astra moved the safety game on further, achieving a remarkable 95% for adult occupant safety during its crash test. Curtain and side airbags complement the electronic stability control and anti-lock braking system as well as 3x3 point rear seatbelts to maintain the 5-star capability. The Astra scored maximum points for adult occupant safety during a frontal impact, such is the stability and strength of the car's structure.

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Peugeot 207/207CC ('06-12) - 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

Like Volvo, the French have always had a passion for innovation when it comes to safety. The 207 was to be Peugeot's most popular car, and as such it simply had to be as safe as possible. The brakes are certainly up for the job, and ABS, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist are standard across the range. Curtain airbags, side airbags and driver/passenger airbags will protect the occupants during an impact. Height adjustable front seatbelts ensure a good fit, and the pre-tensioners and force limiters will keep you strapped in and safe. This safety technology also stretches to the 207CC, so you can also drive around in both style and safety, with the roof down if you so wish.

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Honda Civic ('09-12) 5 Star Euro NCAP Safety Rating

The Honda Civic certainly looks futuristic, and it's bang up to date with its safety technology too. The Civic was crash tested in 2006, when it was launched, and only achieved 4 stars. Honda then went back to the drawing board and modified the timing of the front seatbelt pre-tensioners, as well as replacing the single-stage airbags with dual-stage units. Though there was a marked improvement, the 4-star rating remained until 2009, when the civic was tested again in line with NCAP rules changes and strangely, the Civic was then awarded 5 stars - despite the car being unchanged, though proving that the car was safe enough all along. It does have all the required features, ABS, EBD, emergency brake assist, dual side SRS airbags and curtain airbags in the front and rear. Extras out of the norm include 5x three point seatbelts, and active front headrests.

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Special Mentions

Both the Nissan Juke and Nissan Qashqai are 5 star cars, so if you're looking for the safest crossover we'd make sure those two are on your list. Manufacturers such as Kia and Hyundai have made giant improvements to the safety of their cars of the years, and the Cee'd and i30 are both examples of vehicles that achieved maximum points during NCAP crash testing (this includes both the current and previous generations of both cars). If you want a bit more style in your life, the Citroen DS3 is a 5-star car, as is the Renault Megane CC from 2004.

The cars selected were rated 5 star by Euro NCAP as of 20 September 2014. Some cars have been tested with safety equipment that may not be available in regions outside Europe, therefore, the star rating may not always apply in your country. The content of this blog is for information only. Evans Halshaw and Euro NCAP will in no event be responsible for damages of any nature whatsoever resulting from the use or reliance to the information contained in this post.