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Car Safety Ratings

Last updated 25th Nov 2022

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, 2020 and 2021 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.

Small cars

  • 2021 Honda Insight 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Honda Civic 4-door hatchback
  • 2020 Honda Civic 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Hyundai Elantra 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Hyundai Elantra GT 4-door hatchback
  • 2020 Hyundai Veloster 2-door hatchback
  • 2020 Kia Forte 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Kia Soul 4-door wagon
  • 2020 Mazda 3 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Subaru Crosstrek 4-door wagon
  • 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid 4-door wagon
  • 2020 Subaru Impreza 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Subaru Impreza 4-door wagon
  • 2020 Subaru WRX 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Toyota Corolla 4-door sedan

Midsize cars

  • 2020 Honda Accord 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Hyundai Sonata 4-door sedan
  • 2019 Kia Optima 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Mazda 6 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Nissan Altima 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Subaru Legacy 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Subaru Outback 4-door wagon
  • 2020 Toyota Camry 4-door sedan

Midsize luxury cars

  • 2020 BMW 3 series 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Lexus ES 350 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Tesla Model 3 4-door sedan
  • Volvo S60 4-door sedan

Large cars

  • 2020 Volkswagen Arteon 4-door hatchback
  • 2020 Kia Stinger 4-door hatchback

Large luxury cars

  • 2020 Audi A6 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Audi A6 allroad 4-door wagon
  • 2020 Genesis G70 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Genesis G80 4-door sedan
  • 2020 Genesis G90 4-door sedan

Small SUVs

  • 2020Chevrolet Equinox 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Ford Escape 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Honda CR-V 4-door SUV
  • 2019 Honda HR-V 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Hyundai Kona 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Hyundai Tucson 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Hyundai Venue 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Kia Sportage 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Lincoln Corsair 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Lexus UX 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Mazda CX-3 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Mazda CX-30 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Mazda CX-5 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Subaru Forester 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Toyota RAV4 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Volvo XC40 4-door SUV

Midsize SUVs

  • 2020 Ford Edge 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Ford Explorer 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Hyundai Palisade 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Kia Sorento 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Kia Telluride 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Mazda CX-9 4-door SUV
  • 2021 Subaru Ascent 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Toyota Highlander 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan 4-door SUV

Midsize luxury SUVs

  • 2020 Acura RDX 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Cadillac XT6 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Hyundai Nexo 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Lexus NX 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Lexus RX 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Lincoln Aviator 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Volvo XC60 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Volvo XC90 4-door SUV

Large SUVs

  • 2020 Audi e-tron 4-door SUV
  • 2020 Audi Q8 4-door SUV


  • 2021 Honda Odyssey minivan

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.

About the Author - Car Safety Ratings

Moneyzine Editor

Moneyzine Editor