Some new cars on the market are vulnerable to keyless thefts, tests have revealed.
Latest security ratings for seven models you can buy in showrooms today have been released by Thatcham Research, an independent automotive research centre.
Of the seven vehicles reviewed, four were found to offer ‘poor’ resistance to relay crimes that have spiraled in the last few years.
Vulnerable: The £21,500 DS 3 Crossback was one of four cars Thatcham Research says is ‘poor’ at resisting keyless car theft
As with the first consumer ratings released in March, many of the assessed cars do not have sufficient defences in place to prevent criminal exploitation of the keyless entry and keyless start systems.
Of the seven vehicles tested, two were SUVs were rated as ‘poor’: the
Thatcham’s rating scale for vehicles is based on their vulnerability to thieves and has five category scores for security, descending from ‘superior’ to ‘good’, ‘basic’, ‘poor’ and finally ‘unacceptable’.
The mixed bag of results suggest that customers have to choose wisely if they want to avoid being susceptible to tech-savvy car thieves.
Thatcham Research’s new car security ratings for 2019
Audi e-tron: Superior
BMW 7 Series: Superior
BMW X7: Superior
DS 3 Crossback: Poor
Ford Mondeo: Poor
Hyundai Nexo: Poor
Jaguar XE: Superior
Kia ProCeed: Poor
Land Rover Evoque: Superior
Lexus UX: Poor
Mazda 3: Poor
Mercedes B-Class: Superior
Porsche 911: Superior
Porsche Macan: Superior
Suzuki Jimny: Unacceptable
Toyota Corolla Hybrid: Poor
Toyota RAV-4: Poor
Volvo S60: Poor
*Models in bold are those that have most recently been tested
While the Mazda 3 (priced from £20,500) comes with a key fob that can be switched off when not in use, it still scored a ‘poor’ rating because it didn’t turn off automatically
Toyota’s RAV4 SUV – which starts from £30,000 – was another model given a ‘poor’ rating by Thatcham Research
All drivers could suffer from keyless crime wave with higher premiums
Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, warned that the rise of keyless car thefts was not only causing upset for those who fall victim to the crime but would soon hammer the back pockets of all drivers through higher premiums.
That’s because insurers are paying out around £1.2million a day for vehicles that are being stolen on a daily basis.
‘Theft claims paid by insurers in the first quarter of this year were at their highest for any quarter since 2012, with a payment made to a car crime victim every eight minutes,’ Billyeald explained.
‘These figures demonstrate why the automotive industry must move to secure keyless entry and keyless start systems, many of which offer criminals the chance to quickly and silently circumvent otherwise robust physical security.’
He added: ‘Were it not for the keyless entry and start vulnerability, all the cars assessed would have earned a ‘good’ rating or better.’
The rise of keyless thefts has resulted in Britons falling victim to car crime every 8 minutes
The Volvo S60 is a near-£40,000 premium saloon, but it still isn’t well protected from keyless car thieves, Thatcham Research said
How some manufacturers are preventing keyless theft
Thatcham went on to explain what features the ‘superior’ rated vehicles had that earned them the top ranking for resisting relay theft.
The BMW 7 Series, BMW X7 and Porsche 911 all scored top marks because they had motion sensor enabled fobs.
If the sensor detects the fob hasn’t moved for a short period, it idles and goes into a sleep mode which prevents criminals using Relay Attack kits from communicating with – and replicating the signal of – the fob to remotely gain access to the car.
While the fob for the Mazda 3 – rated as ‘poor’ – could be manually switched off when not in use, Thatcham said only systems that did not require active participation from the driver could earn the highest ratings.
BMW models received high praise from Thatcham Research because their keyless systems had built-in features to prevent the fobs from being hacked remotely by criminals
The remaining model to get a ‘supreme’ rating from Thatcham Research was the latest Porsche 911
Billyeald added: ‘BMW and Porsche have acted decisively to secure vulnerable keyless entry and keyless start systems.
‘Fixes are not exclusive to premium cars, there are fixes coming through on the big-sellers too, with Ford recently announcing that it has introduced a new, more secure fob for its latest Fiesta and Focus model ranges.
‘We’re seeing solutions applied to some new cars, let’s see them applied to all.’
Earlier this year the Audi e-tron, Jaguar XE, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes B-Class and Porsche Macan were also given Superior ratings, which can only be achieved when a solution to the keyless entry and keyless start vulnerability is in place.
Laurenz Gerger, motor policy adviser at the Association of British Insurers, said: ‘With car crime hitting new highs this year, a vehicle’s resistance to innovative thieves should be front of mind for any consumer looking to buy a keyless car.
‘We hope that today’s results will encourage manufacturers and consumers alike to take action to thwart the growing issue of keyless car crime.
‘Whilst progress has been positive, Thatcham’s ratings show that, for many vehicles, there’s still a long way to go to reduce the £1.2 million that is currently paid out every day for all car thefts.’
How drivers can prevent their cars being stolen remotely
A faraday pouch you can purchase online
Keyless entry and keyless start is frequently offered by carmakers as an additional cost option but can also be standard-fit.
For motorists who are worried they are vulnerable, they should request to a dealer that their vehicle does not have the feature.
Buyers who do want it for the added convenience of not having to use a fob to unlock the doors or start the engine should check the Thatcham ratings or ask the salesman what systems are in place to block remote thefts.
Owners can also protect their fob with a faraday shielding pouch, which can be purchased online for as little as £8.