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Everything you need to know about ratings, features and more

Everything you need to know about ratings, features and more

Of course, performance and technology are important in a new car, but many buyers consider safety an even more important factor. For consumers everywhere, a car without strong safety ratings or certain safety features will be crossed off a shopping list. So how should you research a safe car, SUV or truck? Here’s what you need to know.

What are vehicle safety ratings?

Looking for the safest small SUV or midsize sedan? To determine which vehicles are the safest choice, start with NHTSA and IIHS crash test safety ratings.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a government agency under the United States Department of Transportation that rates vehicles against a five-star rating system. The more stars a vehicle earns, the smaller the chance of injury to its occupants in a collision. NHTSA conducts frontal and side impact tests, as well as a rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Road Safety (IIHS), an independent agency founded by a group of auto insurance associations, provides crash test ratings of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Bad. Tests include evaluations of the front, side, roof strength, and headrest and seat. In recent years, the agency has begun assessing the ability of autobrake systems to prevent a crash. Another recent addition to the IIHS program is the headlight test.

Beginning in 2022, vehicles earning the agency’s Top Safety Pick Award must receive a good rating in the crash test categories, an advanced or superior rating for front-end collision prevention, and an acceptable or good rating for available headlamps. The even more prestigious Top Safety Pick+ Award requires standard equipment for acceptable or well-rated headlamps.

Not only do car safety ratings provide critical information to car buyers, but they also motivate car manufacturers to keep improving the safety of their vehicles. Read more here:

What are the safest cars?

Many cars today earn strong safety ratings from both the IIHS and the NHTSA. Some of the safest cars on the market today include affordable models such as the Honda Accord and Mazda 3, as well as luxury offerings such as the Volvo S60 and Tesla Model 3. The safest SUVs consist of a similar mix, with the Hyundai Palisade, Nissan Murano, Acura RDX and Cadillac XT6 are among the top performers.

Safest cars for 2022:

  • Acura TLX
  • Audi A6
  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Genesis G80
  • Honda agreement
  • Honda Insight
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Kia K5
  • Kia Stinger
  • Lexus IS
  • Lexus ES
  • Mazda 3
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • Nissan Maxima
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Tesla Model 3
  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Sienna
  • Volvo S60 and V60

Safest SUVs for 2022:

  • Acura RDX
  • Audi E-Tron
  • Audi E-Tron Sportback
  • Audi Q5
  • Audi Q5 Sportback
  • Cadillac XT6
  • Chevrolet Trailblazer
  • Ford Bronco Sport
  • Genesis GV80
  • Hyundai Palisade
  • Mazda CX-30
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
  • Nissan Murano
  • Subaru Ascent
  • Tesla Model Y
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Volvo XC90/XC90 Charging

More on the safest vehicles available today:

Which car safety features are most important?

Today, car safety encompasses more than just airbags and anti-lock brakes. Active safety features, now common in both regular and luxury vehicles, can help prevent accidents. Other advanced features, such as automatic parking assist, help ease the burden of everyday driving. Here are some of the most important car safety features to consider on your next vehicle:

Automatic Emergency Braking activates the brakes automatically when it detects a risk of a crash. This braking can help prevent a crash or lessen its effects. We love this feature, also known as AEB, because it can reduce or in some cases eliminate the impact of collisions.

Blind Spot Monitoring detects the presence of other vehicles that the driver may not see in adjacent lanes. If a vehicle is in the driver’s blind spot as the driver attempts to change lanes, the system will provide an audible and/or visual warning. Upgraded systems can also manipulate the steering and brakes to avoid a crash. With the rise of SUVs and the large blind spots that many models have, blind spot monitoring can be useful for drivers who really pay attention.

Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist help the driver to keep the car in the designated lane. Lane Departure Warning warns drivers when they have drifted into another lane, usually with a beep or vibration of the steering wheel, while Lane Keep Assist uses steering corrections and brake input to prevent the car from crossing the other lane.

Adaptive cruise control maintains a certain speed set by the driver and keeps the car at a set following distance from the vehicle in front. Think about the potential of this feature to assist with stop-and-go traffic, and you’ll understand how the best versions of this technology can help drivers.

Adaptive headlamps react to changing road conditions to improve the driver’s visibility. Curve-adaptive headlamps rotate based on the vehicle’s direction of travel, while automatic high beam automatically switches between low beam and high beam in the presence of traffic to avoid dazzling other drivers.

Automatic parking assist controls steering, throttle and brake inputs to navigate a car to a parallel or perpendicular parking space. A related feature is the remote parking assist, which pulls the car in and out of a parking space while the driver stands outside the vehicle and presses a button on the key fob. Some of these features can quickly detect a space, making this a real convenience. Others, however, take too long and are more party tricks than practical additions.

Hill Descent Control navigates a vehicle down a slope without the driver having to brake. It works in tandem with the vehicle’s traction control and anti-lock braking system to reduce tire slippage and achieve a slow and controlled descent.

Which cars have self-driving functions?

The most advanced driver assistance system currently available is GM’s Super Cruise, but it still requires a driver to pay attention to the road at all times. The technology automatically steers, accelerates and brakes within a lane on many miles of US highways. Other advanced semi-autonomous driving systems include Ford’s BlueCruise, Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot and Tesla’s Autopilot.

Car Seat Safety: Which Vehicles Have the Best LATCH Ratings?

Installing a car seat is not always easy. That’s why the IIHS evaluates vehicles on the ease of use of their LATCH system, which consists of child seat mounting hardware. LATCH systems are rated as Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Bad based on criteria such as how easy it is to find the anchors, how much force it takes to attach to the anchors, and the presence of other hardware that could be confused with anchors.

The following 2022 model year cars and SUVs score high in the LATCH evaluation while also earning Top Safety Pick+ status.

Cars/minivans:

  • Acura TLX
  • Audi A6
  • Audi A7
  • Honda agreement
  • Honda Civic
  • Honda Insight
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Lexus IS
  • Lexus ES
  • Mazda 3
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • Nissan Altima
  • Nissan Maxima
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Sienna

SUVs:

  • Acura MDX
  • Acura RDX
  • Audi E-Tron
  • Audi E-Tron Sportback
  • Audi Q5
  • Audi Q5 Sportback
  • Genesis GV70
  • Hyundai Nexo
  • Lexus NX
  • Mazda CX-30
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Nissan Murano
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Subaru Ascent
  • Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Volkswagen ID4