When you look for safety in a rental car, you are likely looking for roadworthiness, crime prevention features and durability in a collision.
You are definitely on the right track. These are the larger concerns. What comes next is matching your particular safety needs to the journey you are planning.
First, you should consider what type of driving you will be doing and what type of weather conditions you expect. You may need a vehicle for a long road trip from Cape Town to Hermanus and you will need the car to be able to make the distance and be able to handle the curving mountain roads. Apart from checking for ABS and 4 wheel drive on paper, remember to check the car in the lot to make sure it has a spare tyre and jack and check the number of kilometres already racked up on the odometer to judge if it can make the distance.
If you plan on staying in the Mother City then you may also need a car that stands fast against strong winds and can easily be parked in the city centre. You may consider an automatic over a manual to assist with the steep roads on the way to Table Mountain. There are many factors to consider when keeping you and your passengers safe and it is not always the case that a larger SUV with a durable, sturdy carriage will meet all your travel safety requirements, but we agree, the SUV has a great track record.
Another car with a great track record is Toyota Corolla. It has always been one of the top cars when it comes to family and safety. The car is equipped with the Star Safety System for braking and traction and is extremely fuel efficient for long distances.
If you are looking for more of a luxury class vehicle then look to the Mercedes GLE. This SUV made Forbes list for one of the safest cars of 2017. The Mercedes GLE has a forward auto-braking feature, extra air bags and stability control.
When considering safety, a good tip to remember is that you are not familiar with the rental car. Before you drive out of the lot, make sure you know how to shift gears, put the car in reverse, use the hand brake, the parking assist and how to find your favourite radio station. Trying to figure out these features as you pull onto the highway may seem like a good idea in theory, but in practice it could spell disaster. Always make sure you are comfortable and you feel safe before you leave the lot.