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2014 Safest Cars, SUVs and Minivans With IIHS Top Crash Ratings

by Ryan ZumMallen on

Cars are safer than they ever have been before, thanks to new technology that ranges from crumple zones and high-strength steels to stability control and accident avoidance. But there will always be some that are better than others, and the crash tests and ratings administered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are an excellent way to determine the cars that can best protect you in an emergency. That’s why we’ve used their findings to determine our annual list of the safest vehicles on the road for 2014.

Last year, there were more than 100 cars named an IIHS Top Safety Pick or more prestigious Top Safety Pick+, and 29 in the Small Car segment alone. This year, there were 38 cars named TSP or TSP+. Total. The rules have changed. Who has kept up with the times to offer the safest vehicles in America? Here are all of this year’s winners, with one car in every segment singled out as our top recommendation. All vehicles listed are an IIHS TSP, and TSP+ vehicles can be found in bold.

2013 IIHS Safest Vehicles     2012 IIHS Safest Vehicles

Minicars

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autoMedia Pick: Chevrolet Spark: Because of their short wheelbases and diminutive nature, it’s difficult for small cars in this segment to score well in the IIHS tests. In fact, the Spark is the only car out of dozens to achieve a Top Safety Pick rating, and none were named Top Safety Pick+ (last year, five cars made it). While the 2014 Spark is a winner by default, it does have an impressive list of safety features to give owners peace of mind. Chevrolet constructed more than 62% of the under body and 42% of the upper body out of high-strength steels, and bolstered the car’s front-end structure to safely absorb and distribute any crash energy away from the people inside. At a starting price of $12,170 MSRP, the 2014 Chevy Spark is by far the most affordable car on this list and a solid option if you need reliable and safe transportation.
Small Cars

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autoMedia Pick: Mazda3: Well, Mazda sure made this choice easy on us. The 2014 Mazda3 is probably our top choice in this segment regardless of safety, but the fact that it scored the highest possible rating in every IIHS crash test just seals the deal. Available as a sedan or hatchback, the 2014 Mazda3 rated “Good” in every test, including the difficult new Small Overlap Front, and earned extra marks for its advanced crash prevention systems like available Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring and more. Grab yourself a base model for as low as $16,495 MSRP or spring for a loaded Mazda3 s Grand Touring at $26,495 MSRP. With these driving dynamics and quality fit and finish, in a safe package, you can’t go wrong.

Honorable Mention: Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Scion tC, Subaru Impreza, Subaru XV Crosstrek

Midsized Moderately Priced

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autoMedia Pick: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord: We’re picking two, here. Well, actually three, because the Accord made the list in both its two-door and four-door iterations. But we can do that because it’s our list, and because both the Fusion and the Accord are an excellent buy. Both the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord coupe scored Good in four of the IIHS crash tests, and Acceptable in the Small Overlap Front test. The Accord sedan, though, scored Good in every single test. The Fusion has excellent performance for the class with a smooth ride and upscale cabin, while the Accord has sporty handling and great fuel economy at 27/36 MPG. You really can’t go wrong with any of the TSP+ picks in this segment, but the Fusion and Accord are definitely at the head of the pack.

Honorable Mention: Mazda6, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outlook, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat

Midsized Luxury

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autoMedia Pick: Volvo S60: Surprised to see a Volvo at the top of our picks? You must be new to Earth. For years, Volvo has been the go-to choice if you placed a premium on safety and the 2014 S60 does not stop that trend. Not only did the 2014 S60 score a perfect Good in every single IIHS crash test, it also ranked Superior when it came to optional Front Crash Prevention. Two of the big reasons why are City Safety, which from 2.5-30mph can apply the brakes if a collision is imminent, and Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake which also has cyclist detection. They are two of the biggest emerging safety features that will soon begin trickling into other cars, as well, and combine with a ton of standard safety equipment that works extremely well if you do get into an accident. By the way, the 2014 S60 is also a blast to drive and extremely comfortable – its seats are probably the best you can have for under $100,000. With a starting price at $32,400 MSRP, this was a no brainer.

Honorable Mention: Infiniti Q50, Lincoln MKZ, Acura TL

Large Luxury

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autoMedia Pick: Acura RLX: One of the more polarizing new models to debut for 2014, the Acura RLX earned praise for its engine and many standard features but drew ire for resembling a gussied up Honda Accord to some. In a class where direct competition from Audi, Cadillac and Jaguar start below the $46,002 MSRP of the RLX, that made it a hard sell. But none of those cars were named TSP, let alone TSP+. The RLX was, thanks largely to an Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) structure that directs frontal crash energy away from the passengers inside. Vehicle Stability Assist and intelligent braking are standard on the 2014 RLX, giving the only front-wheel drive car in its class an instant leg up on models you’ll have to equip with similar tech. The Volvo is a strong choice here as well, but the RLX deserves its shine.

Honorable Mention: Volvo S80

Small SUV

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autoMedia Pick: Subaru Forester: Another category with strong competition, but the 2014 Subaru Forester wins out on this list and is winning out in the hearts of U.S. buyers lately, too. Part of the reason is standard all-wheel drive, a spacious interior and excellent fuel economy at 24/32 MPG. Subaru paid attention to safety from the ground up, with thought put into the entire structural integrity of the car as well as good outward visibility and airbag placement. The result was the 2014 Forester being named the very first vehicle to ace the new IIHS test when they began implementing it last year. Lane Departure and other intelligent safety features are available as well, making the 2014 Forester the smartest among its competitors too. Motor Trend named it their 2014 SUV of the Year a few months back because of its value and performance – autoMedia.com is naming it the pick of its class today because of a comprehensive approach to making the safest vehicle possible.

Honorable Mention: Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Midsize SUV

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autoMedia Pick: Toyota Highlander: This crowded segment produced only one TSP or TSP+ vehicle, and it’s the all-new 2014 Toyota Highlander. With a new emphasis on lightness and handling, the Toyota Highlander is a much more engaging drive than it has been in the past. Advanced airbags, ventilated brakes and a ton of available active safety features bring the Highlander to a new level of safety, but at the core, that new commitment to being more driveable has made the Highlander safer in the process. High-strength steel is used extensively in the body, increasing rigidity and decreasing weight. Available features in the Safety Star System include Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution and Smart Stop. Without the tech, the 2014 Highlander still earned an Acceptable rating in the front overlap crash test and a Good rating in every other test. Just another thing to like about the new SUV beyond its soft interior and gutsy ride.
Midsize Luxury SUV

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autoMedia Pick: Mercedes-Benz M Class: Get up into these high-priced luxury SUVs and the technology is sure to impress. Blind Spot assist, Lane Keeping assist and DISTRONIC radar cruise control all make sure that the Mercedes stays rolling in the right direction. Even if things go sour, the M Class has proven an inherent ability to respond appropriately. It aced very single IIHS test with the highest possible Good rating. The MDX and XC60 did the same, and deserve a look, but the Benz deserves the win for its variety of styles, trims, features and available torque-pumping diesel engine. It also seamlessly integrates technology into a beautiful cabin and offers cargo space by the acre. The Mercedes-Benz M Class, from base ML350 to the ML350 BlueTec and monster 518 horsepower ML63 AMG, knows how to protect and look good doing it.

Honorable Mention: Acura MDX, Volvo XC60, Volvo XC90

Minivans

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autoMedia Pick: Honda Odyssey: The IIHS has tightened up their scoring system this year, but that didn't pose any threat the 2014 Honda Odyssey’s reputation as one of the safest cars on the road today. The minivan scored a perfect Good in all five crash tests for a TSP+ ranking while its competition couldn’t come up with another TSP entry. The Odyssey is already perhaps the best value you can find in the segment, and its safety features take that to the next level. It sports the same ACE structure in the Acura RLX, plus Electronic Brake Distribution, intelligently placed airbags throughout and a ton of other electronic aids that keep the Odyssey safe on its journey. Starting at $28,825 with a wide array of trims that range from the safe and basic to the loaded and expensive, the 2014 Honda Odyssey brings a lot to the table. Muscle is now up to 248 horsepower. Fuel economy is a solid 19/28 MPG. The minivan may have changed a lot over the past decade or two, but the 2014 Odyssey proves that they still have their priorities in order.

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