Few people cruise the showrooms thinking "Is this the car in which I will have a major crash?" With car accidents claiming the lives of over 40,000 Americans each year, perhaps they should.
Crash tests are performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA -- front, side and rollover-resistance tests) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS -- front, side and rear impact testing). Of the cars that performed the best, I've picked 10 favorites.
The all-wheel-drive Acura RL is one of the few cars to nab 5 stars on all IIHS tests, including front impact, side impact and rollover resistance. The IIHS has only subjected the RL to a front impact test, but it earned a score of "good" -- which, despite not sounding particularly enthusiastic, is the IIHS' top rating.
Even though they are mechanically identical under the skin, the IIHS tested the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego independently -- and both scored top marks for front and side impact tests. The NHTSA saw similar results: Five stars for front and side impacts, four stars for rollover resistance for both cars. I'd say that about proves it!
The redesigned Civic debuted with a host of safety features including side curtain airbags and Advanced Compatibility Engineering, or ACE, a fancy marketing buzzword that means the Civic won't get pulverized when it collides with a larger car. Honda even showed us journalists a Civic that had an offset head-on tangle with a two-ton minivan. The passenger cell was perfectly intact. No surprise that the Civic is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick.
Hyundai's redesigned Sonata earned 5 stars for government front and side impacts and 4 stars for rollover resistance; IIHS crash test results earned it the highest rating for front impact and next-to-highest for side impact. What I like about the Sonata is that electronic stability control is standard in all models, which means that the Sonata drivers are more likely to avoid accidents than drivers of cars without ESC.
5. Lincoln Town CarNot only is the big Lincoln built like a tank, but it protects you like one, too. When an IIHS crash test of the Town Car in 2003 showed a high possibility for head injuries, Lincoln tweaked the airbag deployment characteristics and cars built after May, 2003 now achieve IIHS' highest ratings. IIHS has not performed side-impact tests, but NHTSA gives the Town Car 5 stars on all tests, including rollover resistance.
Saab. Safety. Saab. Safety. Even the words go together well! Along with being lots of fun to drive, Saabs are also extraordinarily safe cars, skilled at both accident avoidance and accident survival. The 9-3 with side curtain airbags is yet another IIHS Top Safety Pick, with top marks for front and side impact.
The SUV-like Forester is known for its car-like driving manners and car-like crash performance: Along with its IIHS Top Pick award comes a car-like four-star rollover resistance rating from NHTSA. Yet another reason to love this flexible little wagon from Subaru!
The only thing better than surviving an accident is avoiding it in the first place. The all-wheel-drive Legacy excels at both, and has the IIHS Top Pick and NHTSA five-star ratings to prove it. The Legacy is also great fun to drive and is a nice alternative to more mainstream mid-size cars.
Is there anything the Camry can't
do right? The redesigned 2007 Camry swept 5 stars in NHTSA front and side impact tests, four stars in rollover resistance. IIHS gave the Camry top marks for front and side impacts, and has not performed a rear-end collision test. The high marks also extend to older models: IIHS also gives top marks to the previous-generation Camry for the years 2004-2006.
The Avalon's 2005 redesign not only gave the car a welcome dose of luxury, it also gave it a welcome dose of safety: Top scores in both IIHS and NHTSA front- and side-impact collision tests, and a solid four-star rollover rating. All this in a car we really, really love.