When looking for your next new car, safety is most likely one of your priorities. However, with the plethora of safety features on most modern cars, the choice can be a little overwhelming.
Safety equipment such as anti-lock (ABS) brakes, seat belts, electronic stability programs, airbags and child seat mounts are mandatory on all new cars. But many of the leading manufacturers simply don’t stop there and a host of advanced safety features are rapidly becoming auto mainstream.
So how do you know which cars have the most effective technology and can be confidently classed as amongst the safest on the road? We take a look at what are considered to be 15 of the safest cars money can buy right now to help you decide your next ride.
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Criteria for Safety
Each year the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) awards its sought-after seal of approval for the safest new cars on the road. As an independent not-for-profit, the IIHS works from its test center in Virginia, where they put all the major car brands through their crash test paces. For 2019, the IIHS tested 165 different models of cars, awarding 57 their top safety award. The strict test criteria for 2019 included testing the impact strength on the front and side of a car, roof strength, headlight effectiveness and seat head restraints.
Our 15 safest cars – including small, medium and large cars as well as SUVs – all come from the IIHS’s top pick list for 2019 so that you know our final selection has been tried and tested.
This sleek compact car from Hyundai received one of the highest ratings in the IIHS 2019 report, scoring top in five out of the six safety tests, with the Elantra also receiving a superior rating for front crash prevention. Its safety credentials are in place and as a good-looking smaller family car, the Elantra gives a smooth and comfortable ride. For the price you get decent safety spec for your money, including rear-view camera, blind spot monitoring, collision warnings and pedestrian detection as well as lane assist and adaptive cruise control. While this may not be the most exciting car to drive, it comes with the peace of mind that you and your precious cargo are more than adequately protected.
With impressive fuel economy, smooth styling and comfortable interior, the hybrid Honda Insight already shapes up to be a good option for your next family-friendly mid-sized car. With a 1.5 liter inline-4 and electric motor combination, it isn’t the fastest, but speed isn’t everything. And, with the thumbs up from the IIHS, this is a car to take seriously when it comes to safety. You get the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech as standard, which is a boon when it comes to both traffic and difficult driving conditions. A collision mitigation braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane assist and traffic sign recognition to name just a few of the additional safety features – you know you’re getting an intelligent car when it comes to keeping you safe on the road.
Despite its compact car status, there’s a surprising amount of room in the Kia Forte, making it a good option for day-to-day motoring. The ride has been reported as average but as a neat-looking car that’s also good on the gas, there’s a lot to like about the Forte. Add in the fact that this family car made the 2019 IIHS top safe cars list and you’ll see the Forte in a whole new light. Not all the safety spec list is available on every model, so you may need to upgrade but even as standard you get some nice safety tech. As well as all the mandatory safety features you also get a rear camera display, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, a driver monitor, automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning.
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This mid-sized sedan ticks all the boxes for an easy-to-use car that’s also easy on the eye. There’s plenty of interior space to give you and your passengers a comfortable ride and depending on the engine size, enough punch to its drive. But as a safe family car, how does the Sonata fare? Another IIHS top scorer, it has the right standard safety features for your next car option list, with extras added depending on the model you choose. As standard you get a high strength frame with crumple zones, rear view camera, auto-emergency braking and pedestrian detector while upgrades include rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and lane change assist.
The second of three Kias on our safest cars list, the Optima is a striking auto that makes the most of technology to keep all its passengers protected. As a mid-sized saloon, it’s roomy and has an easy-to-use infotainment system to keep the kids happy. Not a total standout for its driving experience, but when it comes to safety spec, this is a car to be noticed. From front and side airbags to crumple zones, the Optima has all the passive safety systems you would expect. And with a 5/5 from the IIHS, you also get some cool driver-assist extras, known as the Kia Drive Wise suite. And with auto emergency braking, rear traffic alert and forward collision warnings just a few of the standard features, you’re in safe hands.
A reliable mid-sized car, the Legacy has a standard look that will fit in anywhere and makes a solid vehicle for a busy family. There’s plenty of interior space to house your humans, big and small and the comfort level is high. And while it may not be a total head-turner, it is safety where the Legacy excels. One of the highest performers in the IIHS’s 2019 report, the safety features of the Legacy impress, although you will need to go for add-ons if you want Subaru’s full suite. Rearview camera as well as Subaru’s Eyesight system – which includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, pre-collision braking and lane assist – all come as standard. Plus, you can choose to upgrade for more advanced features.
Add some lux to your daily commute with the redesigned Lexus ES, which not only smashes it in the style stakes, but also scoops the IIHS top pick safety accolade for all six safety tests. The ES gives a super-comfortable and quiet ride, and the handling is a joy – as you’d expect for its $39,000 entry-level price tag. But do you get premium safety features to boot? Well, the standard list is a long roll call, with pre-collision sensors, vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detectors, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, rearview camera, lane and steering assist just some of the features in the Lexus Safety System bundle. Add-ons such as blind spot monitoring and parking sensors can then complete your tailored Lexus safety package.
Moving up to larger cars, the Toyota Avalon easily parks itself in our 15 safest cars list as it’s not only a roomy and enjoyable car to drive, but it’s also one of IIHS’s safety score high-flyers. Scooping five out of five stars, this is a solid-looking, reliable car for families or for drivers who regularly clock up those miles.
Slightly more expensive than others in its category, the driver’s experience is at the heart of the Avalon and boasts an impressive array of assist features as standard. You not only get rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, but you also get the Toyota Safety Sense Plus as standard. This suite of features gives you adaptive cruise control and a host of assist features to keep you in lane, on track and alert to pedestrians and other cars. if that’s still not enough, you’ve the option to upgrade for more tech, including surround view camera and parking sensors. In short, the Avalon has it covered.
BMW 5 Series
Mixing luxury, power and drivability with the iconic BMW brand, the 5 Series is a covetable car that has a built-in instinct to keep you and your passengers safe. A top player in the 2019 safety tests, this is a handsome car that’s both spacious and agile, without compromising on road safety. Yes, you will pay a premium price but as a safe car that’s also a joy to drive, the 5 series delivers.
In the IIHS tests, the 5 Series cored high in all six categories as well as being a top rating for front crash prevention, so the BMW safety tech is bang on the money. The standard features list is long, and all designed to work with the driver to keep everything on the straight and safe. From rearview cameras to pedestrian protection, auto braking to lane assist, it’s all there. Plus, you also get BMW’s Active Protection System which readies your car if it senses an impending collision.
Giving the Beamer a run for its money when it comes to lux-style and safety is the Genesis G80, with the 2019 model ticking all the pass boxes in the IIHS crash safety tests. Not only is the G80 cheaper than the BMW 5 Series but it largely matches it for safety tech.
As a highly drivable and handsome car, the G80 doesn’t disappoint, with smooth styling, spacious interior and a quiet ride. And its standard safety tech list is generous and well-thought out. With the G80 you get forward collision warning and auto braking as well as adaptive cruise control. Add to this pedestrian detectors, high beam assist, rain sensors, lane assist technology, traffic alert and blind spot sensors and you can rest easy and drive safe in your new G80.
Flexible and adaptable, it’s no wonder the SUV is one of the most popular styles of car and the Mazda CX-5 is no exception. The CX-5 is an athletic beast and will keep up with the demands of the most active family, while its top IIHS rating means that it’s a safe bet.
As a compact SUV, the cargo space is on the smaller side, but the cabin is spacious and the drive smooth. And the efficient engine will give you a decent return on your fuel. As a 5/5 rating in the IIHS tests, the CX-5 also comes with a good safety reference. The standard list is a little limited compared to some others in this review, but you do get some top-quality spec – a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and low-speed auto braking. For an upgrade, you can also add more tech to sense traffic, keep you in lane and help you to park as well as cruise control.
The Kia Sorento is a hugely popular SUV and its success in the top safety cars for 2019 tests cements its reputation. Although the cargo hold is small, this is a versatile car that is a winner when it comes to a family vehicle. But with your little ones as your passengers, you need to be reassured they are protected. While the Sorento standard safety tech list is limited – as well as the mandatory safety features, you also get a rearview camera in all models – you can choose an add-on package or upgrade from the basic model to get the full safety feature hit. Available safety tech for the Sorento include driver monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, pedestrian detectors and forward collision warnings. So, for a little extra you can make the most of that IIHS-safety rated reputation.
The largest of Subaru’s SUV range, the Ascent is an awesome car, with rugged looks and a classy, spacious interior. The Ascent is cool to handle and has a good track record on fuel economy. With SUVs a popular family choice, safety is paramount, and with the Ascent you get the reassurance that comes with a five-star IIHS rating. Coming in at an entry price of around $32,000, this is slightly above average for similar SUVs but when it comes to safety, the Ascent gives a lot as standard, plus with upgrade models you can add even more. As a starter you get the Subaru Eyesight suite of driver assist and safety technology as well as rearview camera, auto braking and adaptive cruise control. Upgrade your model and the spec increases, with more detecting technology and an all view camera on offer.
Swerving into luxury SUV territory, the Acura RDX is a stunning car that packs a lot of safety spec into its sumptuous yet practical design. The result is an eye-catching SUV that has five stars in the IIHS crash tests. This is a car that handles superbly, takes the road in its stride while cosseting its passengers for a spacious, lux-comfort ride. And its approach to safety also seriously impresses. You get the AcuraWatch safety suite as standard, with adaptive cruise control, collision warning, auto emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. Add to the standard pack an impressive rearview camera and upgrade features including heads up display, blind spot and parking sensors and you have an SUV that works hard to keep you and yours safe.
And so, to our final car in this ‘15 safest cars your money can buy now’ list – the Mercedes-Benz GLC. The build and design of this SUV oozes quality, matching lux styling with award-winning safety features. The GLC is built for comfort and support, with its roomy, plush interior enhanced by its rugged yet stylish exterior. And as a top pick in the IIHS safety report, the GLC will tick all your boxes for performance, style and safety.
The standard package is pretty impressive, with rearview camera, driver monitor and active brake assist. Add into the mix the Pre-Safe suite of features which works to protect occupants in the event of an imminent collision (seat belt tightening and auto-wind up of windows) and this is a reassuringly good car. Additional safety features such as active park assist, blind spot and pedestrian detectors as well as auto emergency braking are also available to make this one of the safest cars currently around.