Compact, fuel efficient cars are becoming more and more relevant to new car shoppers than ever before. First we have the burden of future economic uncertainty, constantly wavering gas prices and the ever appealing lure of just downsizing your life. And if you buy the right model they can be a lot more fun to drive than that SUV you don’t need.
But in the back of many people’s minds they worry about the safety of compact cars especially considering our roads are clogged with SUVs, Big-Rigs and pickup trucks. Can small cars really cope in an impact with a larger vehicle? Well, you’d be surprised at how well most compact cars fare both in crash tests and in the real world. In fact, they truly are safer than ever.
To find out which models were safest we turned to the IIHS (The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) since their crash test and rating system is the most difficult to pass as it more standards than the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Do keep in mind that the NHTSA is still a great resource for crash test results on any number of models.
To get the best rating of “Top Safety Pick” from the IIHS, the following compact cars had to pass front, side, rear and rollover testing with a top mark of “Good.” These vehicles were also tested for rear impact whiplash protection and must have some form of standard electronic stability control. As follows are five of the top choices.
Honda Civic EX-L (4-Door Model)
This, unfortunately, is the lowest priced Civic model to offer Electronic Stability Control and as customers expect the best from Honda it should be standard. Otherwise the same Civic virtues of roominess, economy and being very fun to drive all still count in its favor. Also, the leather that Honda offers in the Civic is better than you will find in any competitor so why not splurge for the EX-L model? You know you want to.
2010 VW Golf (4-Door Model)
Sometimes coupes or two door cars don’t perform as well in side impact crash tests. That still shouldn’t turn you off from looking at a 2010 VW Golf, however, as this is one of the most classically stylish compacts in recent memory. The interior is amazing too and you can also buy one with an efficient diesel.
2010 Kia Forte
After some adjustments to how the side airbags worked, Kia managed to score a “Top Safety Pick” award for its stylish new sedan. The manual shifter, while not as crisp as a Honda’s, offers plenty of fun and is easy to use. And the interior of the Forte is Kia’s best yet as long as you don’t order the purple hued interior. I know it isn’t supposed to be purple but it looks purple.
2010 Nissan Cube
For some reason cars that look like boxes do really well in crash tests. The Cube just makes you smile (or retch) every time you see one on the road. It is polarizing, it has an interior designed to be as comfy as your living room and you just have to give Nissan the credit for selling it here.
2010 Kia Soul
Yet another boxy car but the Soul is definitely the most classically handsome. The Soul is the boxy compact car none of your friends would question. Mostly they would say, “That’s a Kia?” Then they would ask how much it cost, of course. Good thing they are tremendous values. Plus that 10 year warranty never hurt.
(Note: The following small cars were also Top Safety Picks according to the IIHS but were deemed by AllCarAdvice.com to be boring, no fun to drive or in some other way not competitive with these class leaders. They are the Toyota Corolla, Subaru Impreza and Scion XB.)