Safety isn’t a subject on which I claim to be an expert, but Co-op Insurance thinks it knows what the safest used car is and has even invented an award for it. I won’t keep you in suspense: it’s the Volvo V40.
The V40 wasn’t plucked out of thin air; it was chosen in collaboration with Thatcham Research. After the V40 with Driver Support Pack, the next two safest cars are Volkswagen’s Golf and the Nissan Qashqai.
Well, that’s a healthy line-up of fairly modern cars, all with five-star Euro NCAP crash test ratings and used prices of around £15,000 – the upper end of the ‘real world’ used car budget. The cars were all rated on crashworthiness, which included ratings for adult, child and pedestrian protection and the availability of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). Golly.
So the V40 got the nod because its crash test scores are still the highest ever recorded by the safety assessment institute. So that’s a deserved victory and exactly what the nervous used car buyer wants to hear.
For some of us, though, buying used means trying to lessen the impact of depreciation to the point where the cost is irrelevant. So for a few thousand quid we want a car that is not only reliable but also as safe as it can be – for the money.
We can debate safety all day long and go on about the nut behind the wheel. All cars were potential death traps prior to the 1990s, depending on which model you had. Indeed, the safest car in the old days that wasn’t a Saab or a Volvo had a Jaguar badge. The XJ6 was a large hunk of car and the Department of Transport stats from the old days suggest it was the safest set of wheels on the road.
However, most cars from the late 1990s onwards have anti-lock brakes, airbags and traction control and they won’t pass the MOT test if those things don’t work, so there’s no excuse if you buy without checking.
With £3000 to spend on protecting your loved ones, a Volvo S80 from as recently as 2007 is yours, and that’s got everything you could wish for on the safety list, from Isofix child seat mounts to whiplash protection and seatbelt pre-tensioners, plus good old electronic brake force distribution.
The S80, then, is a new-school Volvo for just a few thousand quid. Then again, a 2009 Vauxhall Insignia in SRi trim has arguably an even longer list of safety kit, including curtain airbags, a sophisticated seatbelt pre-tensioner system and straight-line stability control, for the same sort of money.
So there’s no excuse for not buying a cheap, safe used car, is there?