With the quest for improved safety having an effect on almost every aspect of car design, you’d think it would be safe to assume that you could buy almost any new car on sale and be protected to the same degree.

However, while all cars now come with airbags, anti-lock brakes and all of the other safety kit we take for granted, the rise of active safety technologies such as lane assist and pre-braking mean that a gulf still exists between otherwise comparable cars.

Euro NCAP, the independent body which assesses almost every new vehicle on sale and gives it a star rating, is constantly adapting its testing to include emerging safety technology, and has announced the seven safest cars from the most popular categories, released in 2013.

So, if the safety of you and your family ranks high on your list of priorities when choosing a new car, you could do a lot worse than choose from the following:

Supermini: Renault Zoe

Aside from flying the flag for emissions-free motoring, the all-electric Renault Zoe has been crowned the safest Supermini of 2013 – the most popular type of car in the UK. Euro NCAP was particularly impressed with the levels of occupant protection and active safety tech on offer, though the limited range offered by the Zoe’s on-board battery means it will only really suit urban users.

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Small family: Qoros 3 saloon

Emergent Chinese brand Qoros has yet to start selling cars in the UK, but their first forays into the European markets have yielded impressive results. Not only does the 3 saloon feature discreetly handsome design, it scored very highly for adult occupant protection. It also does well at minimising injuries to pedestrians. When it does eventually arrive on these shores, the Qoros 3 will rival established favourites such as the Skoda Octavia and Ford Focus.

Large family: Lexus IS 300h

We drove the IS300h last year and found it to be a supremely well finished left-field example to the usual German offerings. Now we’ve got something else to praise the compact Lexus for, as it is the safest car in the large family category. It offers great protection for people both inside and outside of the car, but doesn’t have as much active safety tech as some rivals.

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Small off-road 4×4: Jeep Cherokee

While the new Jeep Cherokee’s ‘toothy’ styling has proved divisive, it has benefitted from a raft of quality improvements, which has seen it become a more credible rival to the popular Audi Q5 and BMW X3. It’s also loaded with safety kit, too, including such reassuring niceties as knee airbags, so you can be safe in the knowledge your legs will be protected in the unfortunate event of a prang.

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Small MPV: Kia Carens & Ford Tourneo Connect

Two newcomers to the MPV sector in 2013 tied for the top spot in the safety ratings. Both scored very highly for occupant protection, with whiplash from minor rear-end shunts particularly well minimised. We’ve driven both and other than a vaguely van-like driving experience in the Tourneo, there’s very little to separate the two other than their respective styles.

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Executive: Maserati Ghibli

Yes, Euro NCAP really does crash test expensive premium motors, and in 2013 the stylish Maserati Ghibli came out on top. It’s a particularly safe place to transport children and has a plethora of tech designed to keep you out of ditches. Its chic Italian design will also make you stand out in the office car park.

Search for a used Maserati here