Automobile Safety Archive

Safest Family Sedans for 2015: Part III

Safest 2014-2015 Sedans for your Family:

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 also typically better fuel economy than sport utility vehicles.

As with the SUVs and minivans, we have similar basic requirements to trim the long list of very safe vehicles to a select few vehicles that stand out from the pack:

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2014 or 2015
  • 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 3000 lbs. curb weight

The finalists below are 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.  Models designated with an asterisk (*) have an optional autobrake front crash prevention system and earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award for 2015.  The IIHS made some changes to it’s award system for 2015.

  • 2014-2015 Chevrolet Volt
  • 2015 Subaru Impreza/XV*
  • 2014-2015 Chevrolet Malibu
  • 2015 Chrysler 200 (updated)*
  • 2014-2015 Honda Accord
  • 2015 Hyundai Genesis (all new)*
  • 2104-2015 Mazda 6*
  • 2015 Subaru Legacy (all new)*
  • 2015 Toyota Camry (refreshed)*
  • 2015 Volkswagen Jetta
  • 2015 Audi A3*
  • 2014-2015 Volvo S60*
  • 2014-2015 Infiniti Q70*

Selecting the winners wasn’t too difficult.  Perfection was the key.  The very safest sedans earned the top “Good” rating in every IIHS crash test, every single sub-category rating and earned the top “Superior” frontal crash prevention rating by avoiding crashes in high and low speed testing.  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.  Only two sedans made this very difficult cut to become our winners:

Safest sedans for 2015 (Tie):

2015 Hyundai Genesis.  Looking for luxury?  You may not think to look at a Hyundai, but you’d be wise to do so.  The new Genesis excelled at every test from the IIHS and NHTSA, something none of its luxury competitors could match.  It’s one of a handful of vehicles to earn all 6 points in the Front crash prevention test from the IIHS.  You must opt for the Tech Package to get this rating, driving the cost to over $46,000.  It’s also an excellent upscale sedan overall, receiving accolades from many automobile and consumer publications.

2015 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 around $25,000, you can get a full array of advanced safety features that, like the Genesis, 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.


2015 Chrysler 200.  Also a perfect set of IIHS crash test ratings, but fell just short of the winners with an excellent 5-point “Superior” result in the IIHS front crash prevention test, avoiding a crash in one of the two tests.  The 200 also earned a perfect set of NHTSA crash test results, though even with a very low 10.7% rollover risk it barely missed a 5-star rollover rating.  Unfortunately, the SafetyTec package that must be equipped to earn that IIHS rating is optional only on the top 200C trim level and is bundled with the navigation and lighting packages, driving the price up to just over $30,000 MSRP.  It’s a shame that Chrysler made some nice updates in the safety department for 2015, but didn’t make SafetyTec and its great array of crash avoidance features as a stand-alone option on lower trim levels.  AWD is optional on the 200C as well, driving the price to roughly $35,000 MSRP with SafetyTec.

Safest 2015 5-passenger SUVs for Families: Part II

Safest Family SUVs for 2015

In Part I, we awarded the safest 3-row vehicles.  In this part, we will look at 5-passenger SUVs for families who don’t need a 3rd row of seating for one reason or another.

As with the larger vehicles, we have the same basic requirements to trim the long list of very safe vehicles to a select few that stand out from the pack:

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2014 or 2015
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • Must not have any individual NHTSA crash test results of 3-stars or less

All five finalists are among the safest vehicles on the road and meet the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ criteria for both 2014 and 2015 (with optional equipment packages).

  1. 2014-2015 Mercedes Benz M-Class
  2. 2014-2015 Volvo XC60
  3. 2015 Subaru Outback (all new)
  4. 2014-2015 Mazda CX-5
  5. 2014-2015 Subaru Forester

Safest SUV for 2015:

2015 Subaru Outback.  Some may argue that this is not a true SUV, but rather a glorfied station wagon version of the Legacy sedan we reviewed, and that is a reasonable debate. Even so, the EPA puts the Outback in the same vehicle class as the XC60 with similar size and specs.  You certainly can’t argue with Outback’s luxury-class safety at a reasonable price.

Subaru is to be commended for offering a full set of advanced safety features on a lower trim level model. Notably, the EyeSight system that earns the Top Safety Pick+ award also received the highest possible “Superior” rating by the IIHS in their front crash prevention rating and is one of only a few vehicles to actually prevent a collision altogether in both of their tests.  The M-Class (with Distronic Plus in the Driver Assistance Package) couldn’t quite match this, and the XC60 (with City Safety and Technology Package) only avoided a crash in one of the two tests.  What’s more impressive is that the Outback 2.5i Premium trim can be equipped with automatic transmission and the excellent EyeSight Safety System for under $30,000 MSRP.

Outback aced the IIHS crash tests with “Good” results in every test and sub-category of each test.  The Outback also received a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA with 5-star results in all five crash test evaluations and a 4-star rollover rating.  Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a backup camera are standard on all trim levels.  Plus, you get their excellent AWD system standard and very reasonable fuel economy at 25 city, 33 highway on regular gas.  Not bad for a 3,500 pound SUV with all-wheel-drive standard!

Runners Up:

The Mercedes M-Class and Volvo XC60 are also exceptionally safe.  “Runner-up” hardly does them justice, but we had to pick a winner somehow.  The XC60 base level trim earns a Top Safety Pick+ and an Advanced frontal crash prevention rating starting around $36,000.  To add AWD and the more advanced full autobrake system to compete with Subaru’s Eyesight, you must step up to the Premier trim with Technology Package, bumping the price up to $43,000.   Meanwhile, the ML350 and ML250 BlueTEC start at a whopping $48,000 with only a basic frontal crash prevention rating to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award.  Sadly, to match the lowly Outback for AWD and an advanced autobrake system, you must add the 4Matic and Driver Assistance Packages, forcing you to also add the Premium 1 Package and bumping the cost to a whopping $58,000, almost twice as much as the Outback:-(


While the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 are technically compact vehicles, making them the smallest of the group, they still offer excellent crash safety and accident avoidance features at more reasonable prices.  The Forester can be equipped with the top rated EyeSight system for under $25,000, making it the least expensive model on this list to get the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.  The CX-5’s front crash prevention system is not nearly as effective as EyeSight and you must buy the Touring trim and Moonroof/Audio Package to get the Technology Package with Smart City Brake Support, driving the price to nearly $30,000 to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Together, the 2015 Subaru Outback, 2014-2015 Mazda CX-5 and 2014-2015 Subaru Forester join the 3-row 2014-2015 Mitsubishi Outlander and 2014-2015 Honda Odyssey as being a standout group of vehicles with a nice array of advanced safety features and very good safety ratings that all sell for around $30,000 or less with the necessary safety equipment.  You no longer need to buy a pricey luxury-class vehicle to keep your family as safe as possible!

Stay tuned for our Safest Family Sedans for 2015 Award!


Safest 2015 SUVs and Minivans with Three Rows of Seating for Families

Safest Family Vehicles with a 3rd Row of Seating for 2015

Are safety and seating more than a couple kids your top considerations in selecting a new vehicle?  You aren’t alone!  Our last winners, the 2011-2012 Honda Odyssey and 2010-2012 Buick Enclave (Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia) are very safe vehicles, but the landscape has changed a bit.

In particular, the IIHS has added a new crash test, the small overlap front crash test.  In addition, they now give credit for vehicles that have available frontal collision warning systems.  These systems are not all created equally, some are only basic warnings, while advanced ones can actually brake in emergency situations and possibly avoid a crash.

There are plenty of very safe vehicles.  Most midsize crossover SUVs and minivans provide excellent protection for occupants, likely better than anything on the road 10 years ago.  Side curtain airbags and stability control are now standard features.  In addition to frontal crash protection systems, advanced safety features like emergency crash notification, lane departure warning, cross traffic warning and blind spot warning systems are becoming more common on non-luxury models.

So how do we filter the list of so many family vehicles that have earned safety awards?  It’s pretty easy:

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2014 OR 2015
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • No  individual NHTSA crash test results of 3-stars or less
  • Must have at least 6 passenger seats

The qualifiers?  At the time of this writing, It’s a pretty exclusive list. (Models marked with an asterisk (*) meet the 2015 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ requirements.)

  1. 2014-2015 Acura MDX*
  2. 2014-2015 Toyota Highlander*
  3. 2014-2015 Honda Odyssey
  4. 2014-2015 Mitsubishi Outlander*
  5. 2015 Toyota Sienna* (refreshed)
  6. 2015 Kia Sedona

And the winner is?

2014-2015 Acura MDX.  What’s not to like?  It not only received an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ with the optional Advance Package, but it also received a “Good” result in every single IIHS test AND sub-category of each test.  Extremely impressive, and the only 3-row vehicle to do so.  Its frontal crash mitigation system earned an “Advanced” frontal crash protection rating from the IIHS as well, but you must opt for the pricey MDX Advance Package to get a full set of advanced safety features.   In every trim are four full LATCH seating positions for carseats, plus a 5th top tether anchor, an area where many SUVs and minivans skimp.

In the NHTSA testing, it not only received a 5-star overall rating, but also received 5-stars in each of the five individual crash tests at Safercar.gov.  Also very impressive!  At 4,300 lbs., the MDX is going to have an advantage over many vehicles in a frontal crash.  Despite the weight, it is among the better handling midsize SUVs on the market and has received high praise from many automobile and consumer publications.  Perhaps the main drawback is the price tag near $55,000 with the Advance Package.  Premium fuel is required, but thankfully fuel economy increased considerably, from 16 city, 21 highway in 2013 up to 18 city, 27 highway for AWD trim in 2014-2015.

Runner Up:

2014-2015 Honda Odyssey.  For those not willing to spend over $50K on a vehicle, there’s actually one that is just as outstanding in terms of safety, but is also roomier for passengers, has more cargo space, better fuel economy and costs under $30,000.  It’s tough to beat a minivan!  Starting at $29,000, it offers a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS and a “Good” rating in each test starting in 2014.  It also received a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA and also earned 5-stars in each of the five crash tests.  It’s 4-star rollover rating was the same as the MDX, but Odyssey has a relatively low rollover risk of 12.7%.

Unfortunately, to get the forward collision warning system, you must step up to the $36,000 EX-L trim that received a Top Safety Pick+ rating, but only a “Basic” frontal crash prevention rating.  (Editors Note: After this article was published, the IIHS changed its rating system for 2015.  The Odyssey only qualifies as a Top Safety Pick+ rated vehicle for 2014, as it lacks an autobrake system and the related “Advanced” front crash prevention rating to qualify for 2015)  You also get lane departure warning at this trim level as well as LaneWatch (wide angle right-side mirror camera).  Bluetooth hands-free and a backup camera are standard on all trims. Fuel economy is quite good for an 8-passenger vehicle at 19 city, 28 highway.  But where the Odyssey really stands out from this pack  is space.

For fitting three carseats or passengers across the second row, the Odyssey is a hands-down winner for any minivan or SUV.  Combine that with a reasonably wide third row seat that is comfortable enough for adults and you have a winner in terms of seating flexibility.  Add the power sliding doors and cargo space that is far superior to any midsize SUV and you have a family hauler with interior and cargo space not matched by anything but the very largest monster truck-based SUVs.

Maybe you already have a minivan, or just want something smaller and easier to fit into a parking spot or garage?  Or with one or two kids, you simply don’t need the extra row of seating.  There are also some excellent 5-passenger SUVs and some top-performing sedans awarded in our next segments.


2015 Toyota Camry Video Preview

2015ToyotaCamry1The 2015 Toyota Camry isn’t “All-New”, but it is heavily refreshed.  It is one of the most comprehensive mid-cycle model refreshes in Toyota history.  Toyota claims about 1/3 of the vehicles’ parts are new and from the outside, only the roof remains unchanged from the 2014 model.  This major refresh is made necessary in part by strong competition from the all-new Hyundai Sonata and Subaru Legacy that are both vying for best-in-class honors this year.

The new gaping maw treatment  up-front on SE models is a more aggressive look than before, and the new XSE trim (photo, right) adds an upscale sport version that the Camry previously lacked.  Perhaps the black grill is a bit large and devoid of much detail other than mesh, but the treatment is definitely an improvement overall.  The LE and XLE versions are less aggressive, but more stylish and less bland than before.  Hybrid models (photo, below) are also carried over and offer exceptional fuel economy.



You can check out all the fine details at Toyota’s Camry webpage, but I want to focus on safety, carseats and kids in back.  One major drawback of this popular family sedan is that the full array advanced safety features is only available in the Advanced Technology Package on the XSE V6 and XLE V6 trim levels.  That boosts the price to nearly $35,ooo, a full $10,000 more than the least expensive 2015 Subaru Legacy with the top-rated Eyesight system of advanced safety features.  That’s really a shame, because the 4-cylinder LE model is otherwise quite competitive; great value, good fuel economy and a nicer front grille treatment than the SE/XSE trims.

On the plus side, the 2015 Camry has already secured a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, with top results in all their crash tests.  With the optional Technology Package, it earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating, though it has only a Basic frontal crash warning system.  It lacks an autobrake feature found on some competitive systems.  At this time, the government has not completed side impact testing on the 2015 Camry.  The NHTSA did complete the frontal crash testing and the new model earned 4-stars for the driver and 5-stars for the front passenger.

As for carseats, here’s a quick overview:

Thank you to Toyota USA for the preview of the Camry, Sienna and Yaris.