The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is known for its vigorous tests and checks of mass-produced vehicles, and the resulting ratings the agency yields can have the design panel of a certain car back at the drawing board. At the end of the year, the institute has released its latest slate of safety picks — the cars that it recommends based on their performance in testing.
“We’ve made it more difficult for manufacturers this year,” IIHS President Adrian Lund said. “Following a gradual phase-in, the small overlap crash is now part of our basic battery of tests, and good or acceptable performance should be part of every vehicle’s safety credentials. We also felt it was time to offer extra recognition to manufacturers that are offering a proven crash avoidance technology.”
Some automakers have found the small overlap crash test to be quite challenging, although it’s one of the more common crash scenarios. However, the companies are finding ways to make it work, and cars are as safe now as they ever have been.
Safety technology is also becoming more affordable overall, and the IIHS is pushing for a greater adoption of crash-avoidance systems to mitigate risk in the first place. Here’s a list of 12 cars for 2014 that were tested by IIHS and were award the Top Safety Pick+ designation — with base MSRPs that also fall under $30,000.
Disclaimer: Each vehicle listed managed its safety scores when equipped with crash prevention systems, which may result in the total price being more than $30,000.
1. Honda Civic
Honda’s (NYSE:HMC) venerable Civic has been awarded a Top Safety Pick+ designation and starts at $18,390. It manages 30 miles per gallon in the city and 39 on the highway.
2. Honda Accord
Honda’s popular Accord sedan is also one of the safest in its class. It starts at a base price of $21,995 and can return 27 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on the highway. All told, Honda and Acura had seven vehicles with the Safety Pick+ designation, more than any other automaker.
3. Honda Odyssey
Honda’s people carrier and its $28,825 base price make for the third and final Honda under $30K with the IIHS’s top award. It gets 19 miles per gallon in the city but can push 28 on the highway.
4. Ford Fusion
Ford’s (NYSE:F) new Fusion sedan doesn’t just look good, it has the safety chops needed to back it up. It starts at $21,900 and gets 22 miles per gallon in the city (34 on the highway). No word on how the hybrid model fared during testing, though.
5. Mazda CX-5
Mazda has done exceptionally well with its new line of vehicles, and the CX-5 is testament to that. On top of its top safety laurels, the CX-5 costs a reasonable $21,395 and manages 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway — not too shabby for a small crossover utility vehicle.
The Mazda3 offers the same combination of top safety ratings and great fuel economy, as it delivers 29 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on the highway. It starts at $18,945 for the hatchback pictured above but just $16,945 for the sedan model.
Mazda’s larger sedan is competitively priced at a base MSRP of $20,990, and its 25 mile per gallon rating in the city and 37 on the highway will help lessen the pain at the pump, as well.
8. Subaru Legacy
The Subaru Legacy starts just below the Mazda 6, at $20,295 for the largest sedan in Subaru’s stable. However, due to its standard all-wheel drive, highway miles weigh in at 32 per gallon and 24 in the city — but we’ll forgive it for being a safe, well-appointed, all-wheel drive sedan for just more than $20K.
9. Subaru Outback
If you like the idea of the Legacy but need some extra cargo space, the Outback might be your best bet. It, too, has standard all-wheel drive and starts at $23,495. Highway mileage is rated at 30, and the city economy is the same as the Legacy at 24 miles per gallon.
10. Subaru Forester
Subaru finishes its safety streak with the Forester (though the Impreza and Crosstrek were Top Safety Picks, they didn’t get the “+” part), its capable and efficient crossover. The Forester starts at $21,995 and returns the same mileage as the Legacy — 24 in the city, 32 on the highway.
11. Mitsubishi Outlander
Mitsubishi’s flagship SUV already offers pretty good value with its $22,995 base MSRP, but the value gets a whole lot better with the IIHS’s blessing and a Top Safety Pick+ rating. It can get 25 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway.
12. Toyota Prius
As if the Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius didn’t have enough going for it — good mileage (51 city and 48 highway), a versatile interior, and affordable entry price ($24,200) — the car is also one of the safest cars you can buy, and the proud recipient of IIHS’s top honor.