Is your new car safe? Thatcham rates keyless entry systems

  • Research company Thatcham rates 11 new cars for 2019 
  • Is your keyless entry and keyless start system safe? 
  • Is Thatcham's research fair? 

Is your new car safe? Thatcham Research has issued ratings on 11 new cars for 2019 regarding their safety, and says that six of those are ‘poor’.

The assessment looked at the general security of the cars in question, with specific attention on keyless entry and keyless start.

With vehicle thefts on the rise, the research concentrates on the safety of keyless entry and keyless start, and whether measures to address such system’s vulnerabilities have been undertaken by manufacturers. Judging by the results, it seems there’s a long way to go before brands can regain customers’ trust in keyless systems.

Here’s the list of the cars assessed and their ratings from Thatcham:

Model Security rating
Audi e-tron Superior
Ford Mondeo Poor
Hyundai Nexo Poor
Jaguar XE Superior
Kia ProCeed Poor
Range Rover Evoque Superior
Lexus UX Poor
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Superior
Porsche Macan Poor
Suzuki Jimny Unacceptable
Toyota Corolla Poor

The ratings took into account what security measures were in place to combat the so-called ‘relay attack’ technique recently adopted by thieves, when keyless entry and keyless start was added as an option. Of the six cars rated ‘poor’, the rating would have achieved ‘good’ if the keyless option was not taken.

Chief technical officer at Thatcham Research Richard Billyeald commented: ‘Security has come a long way since vehicle crime peaked in the early 1990s. But the layers of security added over the years count for nothing when they can be circumvented instantly by criminals using digital devices.’

Four of the 11 cars were rated as ‘superior’, showing progress has been made in protecting cars and their owners from debilitating car thefts.

Billyeald continued: ‘We are really pleased to see that the latest Audi e-tron, Jaguar XE, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes Benz B-Class were all awarded ‘Superior’. These carmakers have made significant strides in addressing keyless entry/start vulnerability, by either switching to a more secure wireless technology or introducing key fobs that go to sleep when idle. This demonstrates that there are solutions and fixes to the problem, which we expect other manufacturers to include on their future models.’

Is Thatcham’s safety research fair?

The Suzuki Jimny was rated ‘unacceptable’ in this latest research; however, the car does not have keyless entry and keyless start. Parkers questioned why the Jimny was rated in this research when it doesn’t feature the very safety systems they are concerned with; a spokesperson for Thatcham said: ‘The assessment is of the vehicle’s general security and we’re specifically pulling out keyless entry/start as an issue.’ Which doesn’t exactly clarify the situation.

Suzuki has responded to the research findings, stating: ‘Suzuki takes its vehicle security very seriously and acknowledges the independent testing carried out by Thatcham. However, Suzuki would like to confirm that its Jimny model does not have keyless entry / keyless start and therefore is not at risk of theft from ‘external relay attack’ which is the subject of their press release.

‘Secondly, the vehicle steering column on the Jimny model has a mechanical lock rather than an electronic type so is not vulnerable to override via external relay attack either.’

There are concerns about Thatcham’s research, and the safety ratings, in the car industry.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: ‘We have serious concerns about this new consumer guidance system, which has been developed in isolation and appears to be at odds with Thatcham’s own insurance classification. It does not compare like with like, failing to differentiate vehicles with keyless and traditional entry systems in a combined rating and failing to distinguish between different model grades and specifications.

‘It confuses rather than simplifies a very complex issue and will not help consumers, rather offering a signpost to thieves and increasing the risk of targeted criminal activity. This is not the rigorous professional approach to evaluation that industry has come to expect from Thatcham.’

Read more about your safety with our guide to surveillance capitalism