Victoria’s Safest Cars for 2020

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 09 February 2021

RACV’s inaugural Victoria’s Safest Cars awards reveal the safest vehicles on the market.

The Toyota Yaris light hatchback is the safest car you can buy for under $30,000, according to RACV’s inaugural Safest Car Awards.

The Yaris took the honours as the safest vehicle in the under-$30,000 passenger-car category in RACV’s 2020 Victoria’s Safest Car awards, thanks to its five-star ANCAP safety rating and healthy list of standard safety features. 

RACV vehicle experts collaborated with the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) to compare crash-safety ratings and data to find the safest new cars in each of four consumer categories. Drawing on ANCAP results, the RACV judges found Mazda’s CX-30 is the safest SUV under $35,000, the Land Rover Defender is the safest SUV over $35,000, and the Mercedes-Benz CLA takes honours as the safest passenger car over $30,000.

ANCAP tests about 95 per cent of all new cars sold on the Australian market, awarding each a safety rating out of five stars, based on rigorous assessments across four key areas – adult-occupant protection, child-occupant protection, vulnerable road-user protection and safety assist. Only those cars that perform to the highest standard across all crash tests and assessments achieve five-star status.

Just 39 vehicles tested since 2018 have been awarded five stars and these were the cars considered for RACV’s Victoria’s Safest Cars awards. Due to a recent change in ANCAP protocols, cars tested in 2020 were subject to more demanding criteria, so RACV judges factored this into their comparisons. 

Car safety has come a long way since Victoria became the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce mandatory seatbelts 50 years ago. Head-protecting airbags have been a requirement to meet Australian safety standards since 2004, and in 2011 Victoria once again led the world in mandating electronic stability control in new cars, following lobbying from RACV. 

Meanwhile, as buyers increasingly prioritise safety when considering their next car, vehicle manufacturers have responded by offering more and better safety features, even in their basic models. The introduction of ANCAP’s stringent testing program and published star-safety ratings in 1993 gave manufacturers another compelling reason to improve the level of standard safety equipment in their vehicles.   

These days even some of the more affordable cars on our roads come with advanced driver-assistance systems that help avoid crashes or running off the road.   

Features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which applies the brakes when the system detects an object such as another car, a cyclist or a pedestrian ahead, are increasingly offered as standard on most new-model passenger cars and SUVs. RACV has strongly supported the technology for many years and now the federal government has signalled its intention to make AEB mandatory from mid-2022. Other new safety technology includes lane-keeping aids, which provide gentle steering assistance to prevent the car veering off course, and fatigue-detection systems which monitor the driver’s attention levels and drowsiness through cameras and sensors – and sound an alarm when needed.  

But while a greater focus on safety by both buyers and manufacturers has driven significant  advances even over the past 10 years, some models are ahead of the pack when it comes to keeping drivers, passengers and other road users safe. 

And the safest cars are...

Safest passenger car under $30,000

The Toyota Yaris beat out a pair of impressive small cars to take the title as the safest of the more affordable cars on the Victorian market. Toyota launched the fourth-generation Yaris in August last year, ushering in significant changes including all-new underpinnings, the option of a hybrid powertrain and a greater focus on safety. Pricing the latest model at $7000 more than its previous iteration, Toyota claims the new Yaris is “the world’s safest compact car”. 

As well as eight airbags, including segment-first front-row centre airbags, all Yaris variants offer, as standard, safety features including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection (day and night) and cyclist detection (day), lane-keeping aid with lane centring, adaptive cruise control and a secondary-collision brake system. In its ANCAP crash test, the Yaris scored highly in all four areas, especially adult and child-occupant protection, and it was tested against the more demanding 2020 protocols.

Second in the under-$30,000 category is the impressive Mazda3 hatch and sedan range. Tested by ANCAP in 2019, the Mazda3 excelled in the adult-occupant protection test, scoring 98 per cent. The Mazda3 comes standard with AEB, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning and a speed-assist system.

The Kia Cerato sedan and hatch range came third, with a five-star rating from early 2019 for all variants except the entry-level S and Sport (which are rated four-star because the more advanced AEB system is offered only as part of an option pack). The Cerato received a score of 90 per cent in adult-occupant protection, and comes with lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning as standard features.

Toyota Yaris being ANCAP tested
Yellow Toyota Yaris

The Toyota Yaris light hatchback is the safest, most affordable new car to buy in Victoria, according to RACV’s Safest Car Awards for 2020.

Safest SUV under $35,000

Mazda took the top spot in this category with its CX-30 small SUV, which ANCAP tested in 2020 according to the tougher protocols. Mechanically related to the Mazda3, the CX-30 blitzed ANCAP’s adult-occupant test with a 99 per cent score and achieved 80 per cent in the vulnerable road-user test. AEB (city, interurban and vulnerable road user), lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning and an advanced speed-assistance system are all fitted as standard across the range.

Following the Mazda are a pair of mechanically related light/small SUVs. The Volkswagen T-Cross was tested in 2020 and ranked second in the category, with high scores across all tests, especially adult-occupant protection. The Skoda Kamiq achieved similar scores to its VW cousin, but was tested in 2019 against the less demanding ANCAP criteria. Both models come with a generous list of safety gear as standard for all variants, including AEB, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning. 

Red Mazda CX-30

The Mazda CX-30 took the top spot for safest SUV under $35,000.

White Volkswagen T-Cross

With high scores across all tests the Volkswagen T-Cross came second.

Safest passenger car over $30,000

This category was dominated by premium brands, with Mercedes-Benz taking top honours with its CLA four-door coupe (all variants except AMG CLA 35). Tested in 2019, the CLA scored more than 90 per cent for adult and child occupant, and vulnerable road-user protection. Just some of the standard features include AEB, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning and a blind-spot monitor. 

Ranking second is the all-electric Tesla Model 3 sedan, tested by ANCAP in 2019. As well as high marks for adult-occupant protection, the Tesla scored 94 per cent for safety assist. Standard equipment includes AEB, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, emergency lane-keeping, and an advanced speed-assistance system.

BMW’s 3 Series (2.0L variants) medium sedan and wagon was assessed as third safest in this category. Tested by ANCAP in 2019, it excelled in the adult-occupant test and is fitted with AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, driver-fatigue reminder and lane-keep assist.

Blue Tesla Model 3

The all-electric Tesla Model 3 sedan came in second for the safest passenger car over $30,000.

Land Rover’s new-generation Defender 4x4

RACV’s safest SUV over $35,000 is Land Rover’s new-generation Defender 4x4.

Safest SUV over $35,000

RACV judges found the safest SUV over $35,000 is Land Rover’s new-generation Defender 4x4 (all 110 variants). The previous Defender, with its utilitarian design based on the original 1948 Land Rover, was famously in production for decades. The new model is technologically advanced and packed with safety gear, including AEB (car-to-car, vulnerable road-user and junction assist), a lane-support system with lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning and emergency lane-keeping, and advanced speed assistance.

The Defender was tested in 2020 and rated highly for adult and child-occupant protection against ANCAP’s tougher criteria. 

Kia’s all-new Sorento large SUV (all diesel variants) ranked as the second safest in this category. Tested by ANCAP in 2020, it lost some points for vulnerable road-user protection, but scored highly for safety assist and child-occupant protection. Standard features include AEB, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and driver-fatigue detection. 

Ranking third in this category is the Tesla Model X electric SUV, which was tested according to 2019 protocols. Tesla and Mazda are the only two brands with two models named in the awards. The Model X scored highly for adult-occupant protection (98 per cent) and safety assist (94 per cent). Similar to the more affordable Tesla Model 3, the Model X is offered with AEB, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning and emergency lane-keeping as standard.

For a detailed crash safety report of each of these models, head to the ANCAP website.

Safest passenger car under $30k

1. Toyota


All variants

From $22,130 before on-road costs

2. Mazda


All variants

From $25,590 before on-road costs

3. Kia


All variants except S and Sport

From $29,540 before on-road costs

Safest passenger car over $30k

1. Mercedes-Benz


All variants except AMG CLA 35

From $62,600 before on-road costs

2. Tesla

Model 3

All variants

From $68,425 before on-road costs

3. BMW

3 Series

2.0L variants

From $69,900 before on-road costs

Safest SUV under $35k

1. Mazda


All variants

From $28,990 before on-road costs

2. Volkswagen


All variants

From $28,390 before on-road costs

3. Skoda


All variants

From $26,990 before on-road costs

Safest SUV over $35k

1. Land Rover


All current 110 variants

From $74,500 before on-road costs

2. Kia


Diesel variants only

From $48,850 before on-road costs

3. Tesla

Model X

All variants

From $159,400 before on-road costs