Car Safety Ratings

Annually, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety chooses car models to win its Top Safety Pick award.  This award recognizes car designs that provide for the best protection in front, side, and rear collisions.  The award is based on a series of safety tests the institute performs.

Safe Cars

In this article, we're going to provide the award list, along with information from the federal government and their top rated cars in terms of safety.  As consumers, we should expect cars to deliver us at least two benefits.  The first is to reliably move us across the roadways.  The second is that a car should be a safe one to drive.  In this instance, safety includes both performance and protection.

Avoiding Accidents

In terms of safe performance, we're talking about equipment installed in cars that result in the vehicle being able to hold the road, which helps drivers to avoid accidents.  We talk about these features at the end of this article.

Protecting Drivers and Passengers

In terms of protection, we're talking about how well an automobile is able to protect those riding in the vehicle.  In other words, does the car's design help to prevent passengers in the vehicle from sustaining serious injuries?

These two elements are important when designing a vehicle.  In fact, if a car could be designed to avoid accidents in the first place, then manufacturers wouldn't have to worry about protecting passengers involved in accidents.

Safety Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an organization dedicated to reducing the losses from highway accidents.  The institute was established by automobile insurance companies that were interested in taking a scientific approach to reducing the loss of life and property on the roadways of America.

Top Safety Pick Awards

Based on the protocol developed by the Institute, 2019 and 2020 model cars were tested and rated to develop a Top Safety Pick award.  The following lists of cars are considered the safest on the road today, based on the findings of the Institute.

2019 Minicars

  • Hyundai Accent 4-door sedan
  • Kia Rio 4-door sedan
  • Kia Rio 4-door hatchback

2019 Small cars

  • Honda Insight 4-door sedan
  • Hyundai Elantra 4-door sedan
  • Hyundai Elantra GT 4-door hatchback
  • Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid 4-door hatchback
  • Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid 4-door hatchback
  • Hyundai Veloster 2-door hatchback
  • Kia Forte 4-door sedan
  • Kia Niro hybrid 4-door wagon
  • Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid 4-door wagon
  • 2020 Kia Soul 4-door wagon
  • Kia Soul 4-door wagon
  • Mazda 3 4-door sedan
  • Mazda 3 4-door hatchback
  • Nissan Kicks 4-door hatchback
  • Subaru Crosstrek 4-door wagon
  • Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid 4-door wagon
  • Subaru Impreza 4-door sedan
  • Subaru Impreza 4-door wagon
  • Subaru WRX 4-door sedan
  • 2019-20 Toyota Corolla 4-door hatchback
  • 2019-20 Toyota Corolla 4-door sedan
  • Toyota Prius 4-door hatchback
  • Toyota Prius Prime 4-door hatchback
  • Volkswagen GTI 4-door hatchback

2019 Midsize cars

  • Honda Accord 4-door sedan
  • Hyundai Sonata 4-door sedan
  • Kia Optima 4-door sedan
  • Mazda 6 4-door sedan
  • 2019-20 Nissan Altima 4-door sedan
  • Subaru Legacy 4-door sedan
  • Subaru Outback 4-door wagon
  • Toyota Camry 4-door sedan

2019 Midsize luxury cars

  • Audi A3 4-door sedan
  • Audi A4 4-door sedan
  • BMW 3 series 4-door sedan
  • Lexus ES 350 4-door sedan
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4-door sedan

2019 Large cars

  • Kia Cadenza 4-door sedan
  • Kia Stinger 4-door hatchback
  • Toyota Avalon 4-door sedan

2019 Large luxury cars

  • Audi A6 4-door sedan
  • BMW 5 series 4-door sedan
  • Genesis G70 4-door sedan
  • Genesis G80 4-door sedan
  • Genesis G90 4-door sedan
  • Lincoln Continental 4-door sedan
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4-door sedan
  • Volvo S90 4-door sedan

2019 Small SUVs

  • BMW X2 4-door SUV
  • Honda CR-V 4-door SUV
  • Honda HR-V 4-door SUV
  • Hyundai Kona 4-door SUV
  • Hyundai Tucson 4-door SUV
  • Lexus UX 4-door SUV
  • Mazda CX-3 4-door SUV
  • Mazda CX-5 4-door SUV
  • Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 4-door SUV
  • Mitsubishi Outlander 4-door SUV
  • Subaru Forester 4-door SUV
  • Toyota RAV4 4-door SUV
  • Volvo XC40 4-door SUV

2019 Midsize SUVs

  • Honda Pilot 4-door SUV
  • Hyundai Santa Fe 4-door SUV
  • Hyundai Santa Fe XL 4-door SUV
  • Kia Sorento 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Kia Telluride 4-door SUV
  • Mazda CX-9 4-door SUV
  • Nissan Pathfinder 4-door SUV
  • 2019-20 Subaru Ascent 4-door SUV
  • Toyota Highlander 4-door SUV

2019 Midsize luxury SUVs

  • 2019-20 Acura RDX 4-door SUV
  • BMW X3 4-door SUV
  • BMW X5 4-door SUV
  • Hyundai Nexo 4-door SUV
  • 2019-20 Infiniti QX60 4-door SUV
  • Lexus NX 4-door SUV
  • Mercedes-Benz GLC 4-door SUV
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 4-door SUV
  • Volvo XC60 4-door SUV
  • Volvo XC90 4-door SUV

2019 Large SUVs

  • Audi e-tron 4-door SUV
  • Audi Q8 4-door SUV

2019 Minivans

  • Chrysler Pacifica minivan
  • Honda Odyssey minivan

2019 Large pickups

  • Honda Ridgeline crew cab pickup

Note: Where applicable, includes optional front crash prevention.

Testing Cars

The institute evaluates a car's safety performance based on frontal offset impacts at 40 miles per hour, a side impact test, and two rear impacts at 20 miles per hour.  Injury is determined by examining two dummies, one in the driver's side, and a second in the rear seat behind the driver.  A vehicle also needs good performance in a roof strength test, which is used to measure protection in a rollover.

Government Vehicle Safety Ratings

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also publishes a list of cars with excellent safety ratings.  In fact, they even have a database that allows users to do a search based on make and model year.  The NHTSA evaluates cars and light trucks in three areas:  frontal crashes, side impacts, and rollover ratings.

Safety Features

Consumers that are really trying to find a safe car to drive might also want to check out our article:  Car Safety Features, which has additional information on the different types of equipment available in today's cars.


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