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, 2016 and 2017 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.

2017 Mini Cars

  • Mini Cooper Hardtop 2-door
  • Toyota Yaris iA

2017 Small Cars

  • Acura ILX
  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Honda Civic 2-door
  • Honda Civic 4-door
  • Hyundai Elantra (sedan only; built after March 2016)
  • Lexus CT 200h
  • Mazda 3 (4-door sedan / 4-door hatchback)
  • Nissan Sentra
  • Subaru Crosstrek
  • Subaru WRX
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Prius (built after August 2016)
  • Volkswagen Golf 4-door
  • Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
  • Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen
  • Volkswagen GTI 4-door

2017 Mid-Sized Cars, Moderately Priced

  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Chrysler 200
  • Ford Fusion
  • Honda Accord 2-door
  • Honda Accord 4-door
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Kia Optima
  • Mazda 6
  • Nissan Altima
  • Nissan Maxima
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Prius v
  • Volkswagen Jetta
  • Volkswagen Passat

2017 Mid-Sized Cars, Luxury, Near Luxury

  • Audi A3
  • Audi A4
  • BMW 2 series
  • Lexus ES 350
  • Lincoln MKZ
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4-door
  • Volvo S60
  • Volvo V60

2017 Large Family Cars

  • Fiat 500X
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Infiniti Q70 (except V8 4-wheel drive models)
  • Kia Sportage
  • Toyota Avalon

2017 Large Cars, Luxury

  • Acura RLX
  • Audi A6
  • BMW X1
  • Genesis G80
  • Genesis G90
  • Lexus RC
  • Volvo S90

2017 Small SUVs

  • Mazda CX-3
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Subaru Forester (built after October 2016)
  • Toyota RAV4

2017 Mid-Sized SUVs

  • GMC Acadia
  • Honda Pilot
  • Hyundai Santa Fe (built after March 2016)
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • Kia Sorento
  • Nissan Murano
  • Nissan Pathfinder

2017 Mid-Sized SUVs, Luxury

  • Acura MDX
  • Acura RDX
  • Audi Q5
  • Buick Envision
  • Cadillac XT5
  • Infiniti QX60
  • Lexus NX
  • Lexus RX
  • Lincoln MKX
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
  • Volvo XC60
  • Volvo XC90

2017 Large SUV

  • Audi Q7

2017 Minivans

  • Chrysler Pacifica (built after August 2016)
  • Kia Sedona

2017 Large Pickup Trucks

  • Honda Ridgeline

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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