Safety isn’t usually the first priority on car buyers’ lists—until it is.
Those of us lucky enough to escape a serious crash can’t forget how vital passenger protection can be in a crash. We seek out the safest new cars because we can’t imagine life without them.
This year, the top cars on our list for safety all have one thing in common: automatic emergency braking on every model.
It’s lifesaving tech that could be the biggest leap forward for new car safety since seat belts, airbags, and stability control systems, which have saved hundreds of thousands of lives already. Automatic braking is so vital, in fact, that nearly every automaker has agreed to install the system on every car sold from 2021 forward.
To ace our safety scale, cars not only need to have a spotless crash-test scorecard but also standard automatic emergency braking, good outward vision, and available active safety extras.
Only four vehicles aced our criteria, and nearly 20 earned safety scores of 9.
As vehicles evolve and crash-avoidance technology becomes more common, we sincerely hope that new car buyers seek out these systems when shopping—and then never need to use them.
2019 Lincoln Continental
The flagship sedan from Lincoln not only has great outward vision but also federal and independent testers agree that it’s safe in a crash.
The Top Safety Pick+ award is reserved for higher trims with an optional headlight package, which the IIHS rated as “Good.” Thankfully, automatic emergency braking is standard on all trim levels and active lane control was added for 2019.
The Continental is proof that bigger luxury SUVs crossovers aren’t necessarily safer.
2019 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Normally, high-dollar luxury cars aren’t comprehensively crash-tested by both major safety rating organizations because automakers can hide behind their relatively small sales numbers. The E-Class has nothing to hide.
It aced our safety scale for its superlative scorecard and its available driver-assistance tech that reduces fatigue on long drives and can help the sedan safely change lanes that costs about $2,300.
The IIHS rated the standard headlights on the E-Class as “Acceptable,” but a spend-up package that includes other premium features many luxury car buyers will consider was rated “Good” by the safety organization.
2019 Acura RDX Advance
The first crossover on our list has an ace up its sleeve for safety. The Acura RDX includes standard headlights that the IIHS rates as “Good” and earn the vehicle a Top Safety Pick+ nod when considered with its active safety features and crashworthiness.
Many automakers ask for more money to get better-rated headlights, and we appreciate Acura’s willingness to include the vital tech in most trims of the RDX. (Oddly, the Advance package swaps in LED lights that the IIHS rates as “Acceptable.”)
Unlike most crossovers, the RDX has good outward vision despite its thick roof pillars.
2019 Honda Pilot
Honda’s best vehicle for large families is also one of its safest. The Honda Pilot earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, and five-star overall rating by federal testers.
The Pilot’s small demerit is an “Acceptable” rating from IIHS testers for its passenger-side small overlap protection, which is a relatively new test from the agency. That should improve in the next few years.
Every Pilot is equipped with automatic emergency braking and active lane control as standard equipment from the factory. Top trims, Elite and Touring, get headlights that the IIHS rated as “Good,” and the rest of the trims get headlights rated as “Acceptable.”
2019 Honda Insight
The new Honda Insight hybrid sedan gets an honorable mention as the most affordable car that we rated at 9 (the Kia Optima does too, and it costs just $60 more in base trim). The Insight is equipped with standard active safety features and every car from the factory is a Top Safety Pick+ award winner—not many new cars can say the same.
2019 Toyota Camry
The Toyota Prius, Camry, and Highlander are among the most popular models sold by one of the world’s largest automakers—and they’re among the safest.
All three are equipped as standard with a raft of active safety features, including automatic emergency braking, on every model.
All three were safe in a crash, according to federal and independent testers, which is important to their owners and new car shoppers. Toyota has helped lead the way for other automakers by putting the life-saving tech on its new cars and that’s worth a tip of the cap.
2019 Honda Accord
Like the Camry, Honda’s best-selling sedan is a safe pick in any configuration. Every trim level gets active safety features and we expect more Honda models in the future will adopt the same approach.
6 things to know about the 2019 Subaru Ascent
Most of the family vehicles from Subaru scored highly on our safety scale thanks to good outward vision, standard automatic emergency braking, and impressive crash-test scores. The Impreza and Crosstrek narrowly missed this cut because they don’t offer standard automatic emergency braking on base models, something we expect the automaker to change soon.
The rest of the 9s: