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Safest 2016 Cars for Families:

In Part I, we awarded the safest 3-row vehicles.  In Part II, we awarded 5-passenger SUVs.  In this part, we will look at sedans that have great safety and are also typically less expensive to buy and operate than sport utility vehicles.

As with the SUVs and minivans, we have similar basic requirements to trim the increasingly long list of very safe vehicles to a select few vehicles that stand out from the pack.  This year, we increase the curb weight requirement slightly, an advantage in head-on frontal crashes.  We also limit qualifiers to midsize or larger vehicles that tend to be wider and offer better compatibility for three children or carseats in the back.

  • 200CrashMust be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2016
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • Must not have any individual NHTSA crash test results of 3-stars or less
  • Must be over 3,200 lbs. curb weight, midsize class or larger vehicles only

The qualifiers below are all among the safest sedans on the road.  Many other very safe models just barely missed the list for one reason or another, or simply lacked a complete set of testing results.  For example, at the time of this update, models like the Volvo V60 and Toyota Prius V did not have complete NHTSA crash test results.  The IIHS made some changes for 2016, requiring a “Good” rating in the small offset crash test and a frontal crash prevention system rated “Superior” or “Advanced” to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award.  The 2016 finalists for safest family sedan:

  1. 2016 Chevrolet Malibu
  2. 2016 Honda Accord
  3. 2016 Hyundai Sonata (built after Oct. 2015)
  4. 2016 Kia Optima
  5. 2016 Mazda 6
  6. 2016_leg_photos_ext_102016 Subaru Legacy
  7. 2015-2016 Chrysler 200
  8. 2016 Nissan Maxima
  9. 2016 Toyota Camry
  10. 2016 Toyota Avalon
  11. 2016 Volkswagen Passat
  12. 2016 Lexus ES350
  13. 2013-2016 Volvo S60
  14. 2016 Audi A3
  15. 2016 Acura RDX
  16. 2016 Hyundai Genesis
  17. 2016 Infiniti Q70
  18. 2016 Audi A6

Selecting the winner wasn’t too difficult.  Perfection was the key.  The very safest sedans earn the top “Good” rating in every IIHS crash test, every single sub-category IIHS crash test rating and earned the best “Superior” frontal crash prevention rating by avoiding crashes in both high and low speed testing got 6 points total.  They also earned a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA and 5-stars in all five individual crash test ratings plus a 5-star rollover rating.  This threshold is admittedly very high, so any of our Runners-Up could claim to be just as safe on the road as our winner:

Safest family sedan for 2016:

EP-150px2015-2016 Subaru Legacy.  Significantly improved for 2015 to compete with the best of the affordable midsize sedans.  To get the Top Safety Pick+ rating, you must add the optional EyeSight system.  Fortunately, Subaru allows this on the 2.5i Premium trim.  For a mere $25,000, you can get a full array of advanced safety features that earn it the highest possible “Superior” rating of 6-points by the IIHS in their front crash prevention tests.  Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a backup camera are standard on all trim levels.  Plus, you get their excellent AWD system standard along with good fuel economy.  It aced every single crash test and sub-rating from both the IIHS and NHTSA, the only sedan to do so.  The Legacy is also more carseat-friendly than average for a midsize sedan.

Runners-Up:

Recommended-150pxThese models earned a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA and 5-stars in all 5 government crash tests.   They also did very well in all the IIHS sub-ratings for each crash test and earned “Superior” ratings for their front crash prevention systems:

The Acura RLX is a notable top performer in that every advanced safety feature including the Collision Mitigation Braking System is standard at the lowest trim level.  That is still uncommon, even for luxury models, and means you won’t have any problem finding a car equipped with these features at a dealership.   On the other end of the spectrum, you must buy top trim levels in the Chrysler 200C and Hyundai Sonata Limited and add an options package to earn the Top Safety Pick+ rating.  That pushes both models to around $33,000 to match the Legacy in safety.

Honorable Mentions:

Recommended-150pxThe 2016 Honda Accord performed extremely well in IIHS crash testing.  While it received a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA, like many other qualifiers it did not receive 5-stars in every government crash test and didn’t make our cut as a Runner-Up.  The ’16 Accord is still a standout for a couple reasons.  First, it tends to be better than the average midsize sedan for safely fitting three passengers or carseats in back.  And second, starting with the 2016 model, the excellent Honda Sensing system is available on the lowest LX trim level!  That makes it under $25,000 with a full set of advanced safety features, including a “Superior” front crash prevention system that aced the IIHS testing by avoiding both low and high speed crashes.

The 2015-2016 Hyundai Genesis was on our list last year, touting perfect performance in IIHS tests and an overall 5-star NHTSA rating and 5-star rollover rating as well.  It’s sole blemish is a 4-star result in the NHTSA side barrier rating for the driver.  This isn’t enough to remove this top performing luxury sedan from our Honorable Mention category.  The Genesis 3.8 with the Tech package is around $47,000, thousands less than the RLX for Top Safety Pick+ qualification.  The Hyundai Genesis will soon be under its own brand name, as the 2017 Genesis G80.

Unlike our midsize winners, no compact sedans have yet earned 5-stars in each of 5 NHTSA crash tests AND an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award with a Superior rated frontal crash prevention system.  Combined with their lower weight, smaller size and increased difficulty fitting 3-across carseats, none are awarded for 2016 at this time.

So many manufacturers still force consumers to buy the most expensive trim level(s) if they want a full set of advanced safety features, sometimes also requiring a pricey technology package on top of the high price of the premium model.  What good is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating if you can’t afford it or can’t find it on a dealer’s lot?  Kudos to Honda and Subaru for setting the trend to keep families safe at a reasonable price with Honda Sensing and Subaru EyeSight on most of their models.  Combine that with solid designs that perform well in crash tests and it’s no mystery why Honda and Subaru did so well in our 2016 awards for the safest family sedans, SUVs and minivans.

Looking for a less expensive used vehicle that is very safe?  Be sure to check out our list of the Safest Affordable Used Cars for Families and Teens coming next week.

Updated June, 2016

SafeDad writes about automobiles, carseats and traffic safety issues at CarseatBlog