Fewer than four examples of every 1,000 cars on the road such as the Toyota Avensis, Renault Laguna, Ford Focus and Citroen Xsara were stolen. More popular fleet cars, like the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra were mostly at low risk, although certain trim levels like the Mondeo LX or Vectra LS, SRi or GLS were at medium risk - between five and 21 cars per 1,000 on the road were stolen.
The fitting of more security measures like alarms and immobilisers as standard is seen as a key factor in protecting newer vehicles from thieves. A statement from the Home Office said: 'Improved levels of security, fitted by manufacturers to new cars, will partly explain why the index shows newer cars are at a lesser risk of being stolen, whereas older cars are at a higher risk.
'However, the risk may change over time as thieves catch up with new technology, or when particular makes of car become more desirable, or when there is a demand for second hand parts from older cars.'
Some popular fleet cars at the prestige end of the market reflect this trend, with most six-cylinder BMW 3-series models and the high performance M3 at high risk (more than 21 cars per 1,000 stolen). Many larger BMWs are at medium risk along with large Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi models.
The index was compiled with data for 1999 from the Police National Computer and information provided by the DVLA on the number of cars on the road, and showed a fall in the incidents of vehicle theft.