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Top 10 Safest Sedans

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author photo by Nick Palermo June 2014

For many new-car shoppers, finding a model with excellent safety is a priority. We depend on our vehicles for transportation, but we also need them to protect us in the event of a crash. Today's cars and trucks are certainly safer than ever, thanks to government-mandated safety features such as airbags and anti-lock brakes, as well as newer technologies including collision-warning systems.

Shoppers can review safety features when selecting a new car, but crash tests are perhaps the best way to find the safest models. To find the safest sedans available, we researched crash-test ratings from the two major groups that conduct crash tests and assign ratings based on the results.

At its website Safercar.gov, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists safety ratings for many new vehicles on its 5-star scale. The privately funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also performs crash tests. It designates the safest vehicles as Top Safety Pick+ and lists its ratings at IIHS.org. Only 10 2014 sedan models achieved the highest possible rating from both of these agencies, making the following vehicles the safest sedans on the market today.

2014 Chevrolet Malibu

Like all the sedans on this list, the latest Chevy Malibu is available with forward-collision warning, a system that alerts the driver of a slow or stopped vehicle ahead. The technology must be available for a model to earn the Top Safety Pick+ designation from IIHS. The Malibu also scored the highest rating on the new small-overlap front-crash test, a demanding new component to IIHS testing. Pricing for the midsize Malibu starts at $22,965.

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2014 Ford Fusion

Ford's competitor to the Malibu matches the Chevy in overall ratings but scores slightly lower on that tough new small-overlap crash test. Still, the Ford Fusion may be better suited to avoiding a crash, especially in bad weather. It's available with all-wheel drive, while the Malibu is strictly a front-wheel-drive model. The base price for the 2014 Ford Fusion is $21,970.

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2014 Honda Civic

Two Honda sedans earn both 5-star ratings and Top Safety Pick+ designations: the compact Civic and the midsize Accord. Only the 4-door Civic is a Top Safety Pick+; the 2-door version comes up short of that highest IIHS rating. A backup camera is standard, improving safety in driveways and parking lots. A base price of $18,390 makes the 2014 Honda Civic one of the most affordable models on this list.

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2014 Honda Accord

For Honda buyers who need a bit more space, the midsize Accord matches its smaller sibling's commendable overall safety ratings. In fact, even the 2-door Accord is 5-star rated and a Top Safety Pick+. Again, a backup camera comes standard, and Honda's LaneWatch feature helps drivers avoid obstacles hidden in the passenger-side blind spot. Pricing for the 2014 Accord starts at $21,995.

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2014 Infiniti Q50

The new-for-2014 Infiniti Q50 is a luxury sedan with impressive available safety technology. Instead of a basic forward-collision warning system, Infiniti's predictive forward-collision warning system can sense not only the speed and distance to the car immediately ahead of the Q50 but also the next vehicle farther down the road. IIHS rates this system as Superior, while systems in most other vehicles are rated only as Basic. The price: $37,150 for the base model.

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2014 Lincoln MKZ

One safety feature you'll find on the MKZ sedan and nowhere else on this list is inflatable rear seat belts. The technology, similar to an airbag inside the shoulder belt, spreads the force of the belt onto a wider area of a passenger's torso to minimize injury. Like the Fusion, the MKZ offers all-wheel drive. Pricing for the luxury midsize sedan starts at $34,190.

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2014 Mazda3

In addition to the Honda Civic, the Mazda3 proves that small cars can offer outstanding safety, too. Totally redesigned for 2014, the Mazda3 earns top scores in crash tests and offers a forward-collision warning system called Smart City Brake Support (SCBS). IIHS rates the system as Advanced thanks to an automatic braking function that intervenes should the driver fail to respond. SCBS only works at speeds up to 19 miles per hour, but collision warning is active up to highway speeds. Five-door-hatchback versions of the Mazda3 match the sedan's safety ratings. Prices start at $16,945.

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2014 Mazda6

The larger, midsize Mazda6 is also available with forward-collision warning and Mazda's low-speed automatic braking function. While it still achieves top overall ratings from both NHTSA and IIHS, the Mazda6 does not outperform the smaller Mazda3 in frontal crash tests. It earns an Acceptable rating in the IIHS small-overlap front-crash test, compared to a Good rating for the Mazda3. In NHTSA testing, it scores four stars in the frontal-crash test versus five for the smaller car. The 2014 Mazda6 is priced from $21,190.

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2014 Subaru Legacy

When it comes to safety, Subaru stands out. Every 2014 Subaru model that NHTSA tested earned a 5-star rating. And three of its models -- including the midsize Legacy sedan -- earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS, thanks to an optional forward-collision warning system that Subaru calls EyeSight. Equipped with an auto braking function, EyeSight is rated Superior by IIHS. All-wheel drive is standard for the Legacy, and prices start at $20,295.

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2014 Volvo S60

Volvo remains at the forefront of advancing safety technology, and the S60 is a showcase for its achievements. IIHS rates its forward-collision warning system as Superior thanks to an auto braking function. In addition to detecting other vehicles, Volvo's pedestrian- and cyclist-detection feature scans the road for other potential accidents and applies brakes if necessary. The 2014 S60 is priced from $32,400.

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Top 10 Safest Sedans - Autotrader