You don’t need to raid your retirement savings for a safe, practical vehicle these days. You may be surprised to learn many affordable cars come with active safety systems that were out of reach for budget-minded shoppers just a few years ago — we’re talking about things like blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning and rear-view cameras. Add in the number of airbags in modern cars and the better construction overall, and it’s easy to see the makers of even low-priced new vehicles take passenger safety very seriously.
Here are 10 affordable new vehicles — from most to least-expensive base price — deemed the safest on the market by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. After rigorous crash testing, each of these vehicles earned a rating of Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, the insurance industry’s highest safety recommendation. To qualify for the rating, a vehicle must earn “good” ratings in the small-overlap front, moderate-overlap front, side, roof-strength and head-restraint tests, as well as an advanced or superior rating for optional front-crash prevention.
10. 2016 Mazda CX-5
With a starting price of $25,025, the CX-5 delivers a fun, practical ride that doesn’t skimp on safety. The CX-5 comes standard with anti-lock brakes, dynamic stability control, traction control and brake assist. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert come standard in the higher GS and GT trims, while Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control are available with the Technology Package in the top-of-the-line GT trim, which starts at $36,925. The CX-5’s front-collision prevention system was given a “superior” rating by the IIHS after the CUV was able to avoid a collision in the 19 km/h test, and the CX-5’s impact speed was reduced by 35 km/h in the 40 km/h test.
9. 2016 Fiat 500X
Fiat’s new compact crossover starts at $22,995 for the Pop trim and rises to $31,990 for the Trekking Plus. The Italian-built 500X comes with seven airbags, electronic stability control, tire-pressure monitoring, four-wheel anti-lock brakes and active front head restraints. It also offers an array of available safety tech on higher trims, including front-collision warning with active braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection, and a rear-view camera. The IIHS reported that in the small-overlap front crash test, the 500X’s driver space was maintained reasonably well, and the dummy’s head contacted the front airbag, but the head moved to the left side, leaving it vulnerable. The CUV achieved an advanced rating for its optional front crash-prevention system. The 500X was able to avoid a collision in four out of five runs at 19 km/h.
8. 2016 Mini Cooper
The subcompact Cooper two-door hatch, which starts at $21,490 and comes with seven airbags and dynamic cruise control, earned the Top Safety Pick+ rating after changes were implemented last November to improve the car’s side-curtain airbags. The changes earned a “good” side crash-test rating from the IIHS and improved protection for rear seat occupants. This was a big achievement for the small Mini, which was recalled after its redesign for the 2014 model year failed the government side test. The Top Safety Pick+ rating only applies to hardtop two-door models of the Cooper.
7. 2016 Volkswagen Golf
The Golf starts at $20,995 for the Trendline four-door trim. Even in this base trim, there is an impressive list of standard safety tech, including automatic post-collision braking, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-pressure distribution, electronic stability control and a standard rear-view camera. The compact hatchback also earned an “advanced” rating for its optional front crash-prevention system. Available on the Highline trim is an adaptive cruise-control system, lane-keep assist and an autonomous-braking system that can stop the car at low speeds before a collision happens.
6. 2016 Subaru Impreza
Long known for its reputation for safety, Subaru’s Impreza earned the coveted Top Safety Pick+ ranking in 2014 with the addition of a front crash-prevention system on the 2015 model. Starting at $19,995 for the four-door sedan, the Impreza earned “good” rankings in all five of the institute’s crash tests, and a “superior” ranking for its optional EyeSight crash-prevention system, which includes pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lane-sway warning. In IIHS tests, the system worked to avoid collisions at both 19 and 40 km/h. EyeSight is only available on Impreza Sport and Limited package models with the technology option.
5. 2016 Mazda3
Mazda’s compact sedan starts at $17,280 and comes with six airbags and whiplash-reducing front-seat headrests. In the higher GT trim, which starts at $25,350, buyers can add Mazda’s i-Activsense safety technology package. This safety add-on includes rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and Smart City Brake Support, which detects objects ahead of the car and automatically applies the brakes at low speed if the driver takes no action. The Mazda3 achieved “good” ratings in the IIHS’s five crash tests and an “advanced” rating for its optional front crash-prevention system.
4. 2016 Toyota Yaris Sedan
Starting at $16,995, the Yaris Sedan, also known as the Scion iA in the U.S., is one of the least expensive new cars to attain the IIHS’s top safety rating. The Yaris Sedan earned a “good” rating in the small-overlap crash test, with the institute noting the dummy’s movement was well controlled in the test and the airbags worked well to protect the head. “Measures taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of significant injuries in a crash of this severity,” the IIHS reported. The Yaris Sedan also comes with six active safety technologies, including dynamic stability control, anti-lock braking, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and brake override system.
3. 2016 Honda Civic
Honda’s best-selling compact sedan got an extensive redesign for its 10th generation, and safety was kept at the top of the priority list. Starting at $16,155, the Civic achieved a “good” rating in all five IIHS crash tests. It also achieved a “superior” rating for frontal crash prevention when equipped with the Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist technologies, which includes collision-mitigation braking, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and more. Honda Sensing is available as a standalone option on LX, EX, EX-T and EX-L trims, and comes standard on the Touring trim.
2. 2016 Volkswagen Jetta
The Jetta starts at $15,995 and comes standard with a rear-view camera, electronic stability control, anti-lock braking and automatic post-collision braking, which prevents the car from veering into traffic after a crash. Redesigned in 2011, the Jetta incorporates a “safety cage” into its body design, which has hidden pillars on the sides of the car that form a safety cell around the cabin to help reduce the risk of injury or death. In addition to getting a “good” rating in all five IIHS crash tests, the Jetta received an “advanced” rating for its front crash-prevention system, which is available on the Highline trim.
1. 2016 Nissan Sentra
The compact Sentra starts at $15,898, making this the least expensive safe new car on this list. It comes with optional blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert systems. In the top-line SL trim, which starts at $25,998, forward emergency braking comes standard. This system earned the Sentra a “superior” rating in the IIHS’s front crash-prevention testing, with the Sentra avoiding a collision at 20 km/h.
— Postmedia Network Inc. 2016