Safe six: TCC's best-performing models for safety in 2017

January 4, 2017

For most drivers, safety becomes their first priority only moments before they need it.

Thankfully, most automakers have taken a proactive approach to vehicle safety and have evolved with more stringent testing, regulations, and consumer expectations.

That's the good news. The better news? There are well-established agencies that ensure that we're not alone if things go pear-shaped on the road. Both the IIHS and the NHTSA have rigorous testing programs that evaluate a car's overall safety in a crash—presumably so drivers don't have to.

This year, the IIHS added a tougher standard to achieve its coveted Top Safety Pick+ status. Last year's headlight test was added to the regimen, requiring new cars to have better than a "Marginal" rating for headlight efficacy to achieve the highest marks.

CHECK OUT: The best new car features of 2017

In addition to more stringent standards by the IIHS, automakers have responded to a growing battery of federal tests that include front-, side-, and rollover-crash protection.

High scores on those tests, plus available advanced safety equipment and good outward vision help propel a car to the top of our new, tougher safety scale.

Only three cars aced our safety rating for 2017—three more came so close—and we're hoping all of them stay in one piece over the next year.

(It's worth noting that all six have something in common: they're not big, heavy SUVs. Contrary to popular belief, bigger doesn't always mean safer.)

2017 Genesis G80

2017 Genesis G80

2017 Genesis G80

One of two new vehicles for the luxury brand, the 2017 Genesis G80 had the benefit of a spotless safety scorecard when it made the switch from Hyundai this year. The luxury sedan aced both federal and IIHS tests and this year comes equipped standard with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and active head restraints.

2016 Subaru Legacy

2016 Subaru Legacy

2017 Subaru Legacy

Subaru's Legacy has the enviable record of being a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS for more than a decade, and has been a Top Safety Pick+ by the agency since 2013. This year's sedan offers Subaru's camera-based EyeSight safety system, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, on all models except the base Legacy for less than $1,500. Subaru's EyeSight system has the additional benefit of being higher on the car, behind the windshield, to help shield the system from adverse weather, which can hamper some advanced systems.

2016 Honda Accord Coupe

2016 Honda Accord Coupe

2017 Honda Accord Coupe

Honda's Accord Coupe not only aced the federal and IIHS battery, but it also looks aces according to us. Honda's suite of advanced safety technology, dubbed Honda Sense, includes automatic emergency braking system, forward-collision warnings, lane-departure warnings, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control, and it's available on every Accord—including the base model. That helps propel the Accord past many mid-size competitors, who only offer the systems on higher-level trims.

2017 Nissan Maxima

2017 Nissan Maxima

2017 Nissan Maxima

The four-door sports car has a largely ignored legacy as one of the safest sedans on the road. With a spotless federal scorecard and a Top Safety Pick+ nod from the IIHS, the Maxima ticks all the right boxes for crash-test scores and available safety features. What's more, the Maxima includes one of our favorite features on any car: a surround view camera system. In top-level, the automaker adds moving object detection that can help keep the car and pedestrians safe when backing out of a driveway or parking spot.

2017 Volvo S60

2017 Volvo S60

2017 Volvo S60

The only thing stopping the S60 from acing our safety score amounts to a $30 webcam mounted on the trunk as standard. Even without the standard rearview camera, the Volvo S60 manages to be timeless in its safety scores. Federal testers gave it five stars (out of five) across the board, and it was an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ again for 2017, an award that the sedan has won every year the IIHS has given it out. Volvo is famous for acing safety tests that haven't yet been designed, and if the S60's performance so far is any indication, the sedan should be a safe pick in 2037.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

A lone four-star score on the federal rollover test (a calculation, rather than an actual test) kept the new Chrysler Pacifica from acing our safety score. The Pacifica was not only our Best Car to Buy 2017, but it's also the only minivan currently to be rated as a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS. The ace up this minivan's sleeve: nearly half of the cabin are windows, so outward visibility is excellent.

2017 Toyota RAV4

2017 Toyota RAV4

Honorable mention: Toyota Safety Sense

Last year, Toyota announced it would make automatic emergency braking standard on most cars by the end of 2017—a promise that few other automakers are willing to make. For its mass-market approach to active safety systems, Toyota earns a nod on our list for jumping in to the pool with both feet.

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