Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Car Safety: the 21 Safest Cars in America

Consumer Reports (CR) just updated its lists of safest and most dangerous cars in America. CR uses crash and rollover test data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), as well as its own data on wet and dry braking distances and emergency handling, to rate vehicles.
image by JaseMan
The best small cars are:
  • the Kia Soul 
  • the Mazda3
  • the Subaru Impreza/ Outback Sport
  • the Toyota Prius
While the Mazda3, the Impreza and the Prius have been perennial favorites among small cars, and have been recognized as outstanding performers in many other respects, the Kia Soul is a surprise, and shows the progress made by Kia in the past few years.

The safest family/upscale sedans are:
  • the TL and TSX by Acura
  • the A3 and A4 by Audi
  • the BMW 3 series
  • the Chevy Malibu
  • the Honda Accord
Kudos to Chevy for scoring high in the category!  The Audi A3 and A4 score high in safety, although their reliability record has been abysmal in the past few years, while, on the other hand, the BMW 3 Series has scored relatively higher in reliability among German-built cars (although only slightly above average when compared to other cars in the American market). The Accord, of course, carries an impeccable overall quality record, as do its deluxe cousins the TL and TSX by Honda upscale brand Acura (this writer has been driving an Acura for the past 18 years).

The safest small SUVs are:
  • the Honda CR-V
  • the Mitsubishi Outlander
  • the Nissan Rogue
  • the Subaru Forester
Another Asian surprise there with the Mitsubishi entry.  The Honda CR-V and the Subaru Forester have a well known quality record and score at the top in functionality. While Nissan has seen ups and downs in reliability with some of its recent models, so far the Rogue has scored well, and represents good functionality in the category.

The safest mid size SUVs are:
  • the MDX and RDX by Acura
  • the Audi Q5
  • the X3 and X5 by BMW
  • the Buick Enclave
As usual, Acura has a great showing, and its models also show excellent reliability, but the MDX does not rate well in overall capabilities in the category. The German builders score well in safety as well, but their quality records in these categories are poor, and their overall functionality rating is mixed (the Q5 scores nears the top, the X3 is OK, the X5 mediocre). Buick succeeds in placing a car among the top performers at the high end.

The disappointment here is that, overall,  the mainstream mid-price models that have scored highest in functionality and reliability have not scored as well in safety. The safest models are almost all found in the high-end of the price curve or low in functionality/ usability. Where are the Ford Fusion and Focus, the Toyota Corolla, Camry, Highlander and RAV4, the Scions, the Honda Civic and Pilot, the Nissan Altima, and many others?  While many of these models actually score OK in safety, consumers, to a certain degree, will have to chose between safety, functionality and value.

Want to see for yourself? Check out these amazing crash test videos!

Nice job by Consumer Reports in this new edition of their Safest Cars report.

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