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The 9 Safest New Cars for 2014

Thanks to decades of advancements in automotive safety and engineering, new vehicles have never been safer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency that crash-tests new cars and rates motor vehicle safety, continues to raise the bar with more rigorous standards for its 5-star safety ratings. While NHTSA does not crash-test every new vehicle, the majority of the most popular models undergo its regimen. Those tests include frontal and side crash tests along with a rollover assessment.

Under the 5-star rating system, a top overall score suggests that a particular vehicle offers the best protection for occupants in the event of a crash. But not all 5-star ratings are the same. Dozens of models earn the highest overall rating, but only nine new vehicles ace the frontal, side and crash tests that contribute to the top rating and earn five stars in every section of NHTSA testing. This group — which includes sedans, coupes and a hatchback but no SUVs, crossovers or trucks — represents the safest new cars for 2014.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a privately funded organization, also performs crash tests and publishes new-vehicle safety ratings. Like NHTSA, IIHS has improved its testing methods and ratings system to urge auto manufacturers to continue pushing for better safety. IIHS added a small overlap front crash test to its program and created the Top Safety Pick+ rating for the vehicles that perform best overall. Five of the nine vehicles on this list have been tested by both NHTSA and IIHS.

2014 Audi A4/S4

2014 Audi A4/S4

The Audi A4 sedan and its high-performance sister model, the S4, both aced each category in NHTSA crash testing to earn 5-star overall ratings. Base front-wheel-drive versions and those with optional Quattro all-wheel drive each earned 5-star ratings in frontal and side crash tests and rollover protection. Audi also offers optional safety technology recommended by NHTSA, such as forward collision warning.

But IIHS ratings for the $33,800 Audi A4 fail to match up. The A4 is the only vehicle on this list that received a Poor rating in one IIHS category, the small overlap front crash test. Because that test is new, automakers will likely respond to low marks with design changes that improve their vehicles’ performance in the test. Find an Audi A4 for sale or Find an Audi S4 for sale

2014 Cadillac ATS

2014 Cadillac ATS

Another small luxury sedan, this one from Cadillac, also earned 5-star ratings across the board. Like the A4, the Cadillac ATS offers top-rated safety in every category for both front- and all-wheel-drive models. Two advanced safety technologies recommended by NHTSA are available: forward collision warning and lane departure warning. But shoppers will have to select the optional Driver Awareness package on top of the $33,065 base ATS to get the extra safety features. Find a Cadillac ATS for sale

2014 Chevrolet Camaro

2014 Chevrolet Camaro

The latest Camaro proves that safety and performance aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the same characteristics that make a car sporty — sharp steering and powerful brakes, for example — can also help make it safe by helping drivers to avoid accidents. Of course, crash testing isn’t about avoiding crashes. Its goal is to determine how well occupants fare when a crash does occur. For the hardtop Camaro coupe, 5-star ratings in frontal, side and rollover crash tests suggest excellent occupant protection. Interestingly, the convertible version of the car also aces the rollover test, but NHTSA hasn’t yet tested the ragtop in the other two categories. Find a Chevrolet Camaro for sale

2014 Ford Focus Electric

2014 Ford Focus Electric

NHTSA has tested and rated all three versions of the Ford Focus, and has awarded each with a 5-star overall safety rating. But only one, the Ford Focus Electric, aced all three of its test categories. The conventional, gasoline-powered Focus sedan and hatchback each received four stars in the front and rollover tests. The plug-in Focus Electric hatchback, meanwhile, outdid its sister models. The electric version of the Focus is pricier than the gas models, but it comes with more features and is cheaper to operate. Plus, Focus Electric buyers may qualify for federal and local incentives for EV buyers. Find a Ford Focus Electric for sale

2014 Honda Accord Coupe

2014 Honda Accord Coupe

Like three other models on this list, the Honda Accord Coupe can boast top ratings from both NHTSA and IIHS. In addition to a 5-star rating in every NHTSA test category, the 2-door Accord gets the Top Safety Pick+ designation from IIHS. The 4-door Accord sedan, meanwhile, gets a 4-star rating in NHTSA’s front crash test but still earns five stars overall. Interestingly, the sedan actually performs better than the Accord Coupe in IIHS ratings, though both earn a Top Safety Pick+. Find a Honda Accord Coupe for sale

2014 Kia Optima and Optima Hybrid

2014 Kia Optima and Optima Hybrid

Available in both hybrid and conventional versions, Kia’s midsize Optima matches the Accord Coupe with top ratings across the board in NHTSA testing, bolstered by a Top Safety Pick+ designation from IIHS. Unlike the Honda, neither advanced safety technology recommended by NHTSA — forward collision warning or lane departure warning — are available on the Optima. Still, the $21,500 Optima offers excellent safety at a price that no other vehicle on this list can beat. Kia Optima for sale

2014 Subaru Legacy

2014 Subaru Legacy

Just as it does on all but one of its models, Subaru provides all-wheel drive as standard equipment for its midsize Legacy sedan. The improved traction and handling could help some drivers to avoid accidents altogether. Should an accident occur, crash tests suggest that the Legacy protects occupants with the highest levels of safety. In addition to 5-star NHTSA ratings in every category, this Subaru earns an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and offers both forward collision warning and lane departure warning. Only the pricier Volvo S60 can match these credentials. Find a Subaru Legacy for sale

2014 Tesla Model S

2014 Tesla Model S

The second all-electric vehicle on the list of safest 2014 vehicles is the Tesla Model S, a luxury car with a $70,000 price tag. Although the Model S has been the subject of a few highly publicized instances of fire and a recent safety recall, the EV scored at the top of every category of NHTSA testing. Neither forward collision warning nor lane departure warning are available, which is a surprise considering the Tesla’s price. Shoppers who want an EV for the economic benefit, but who don’t want to compromise on safety, may be better off with the Focus Electric. Find a Tesla Model S for sale

2014 Volvo S60

2014 Volvo S60

Volvo has long been recognized for building safety into its models, and the new S60 is no exception. It earned 5-star ratings in every NHTSA crash-test category, earned a Top Safety Pick+ designation from IIHS and includes forward collision warning as standard equipment to help all S60 drivers avoid crashes.

Dig deep into the S60’s NHTSA ratings and you’ll find a nearly flawless safety report. Side crash ratings, for example, are based on three different results, and the S60 aced every one. Both front- and all-wheel-drive versions received the top scores, so shoppers prioritizing safety can confidently choose any S60 model. Find a Volvo S60 for sale

Of course, there’s more to safety than just crash-test ratings. NHTSA and IIHS tests are performed under strictly controlled conditions. Far more variables come into play in real-world collisions. Plus, not all new vehicles have been tested, so this list misses some vehicles that will later earn top marks. But for now, these 5-star crash-test ratings offer shoppers a good benchmark for safety. By that measure, these nine vehicles reflect the best occupant protection currently available among 2014 models.

What it means to you: Shoppers who include safety among their top priorities should consider one of these nine cars that aced each category to earn a 5-star overall safety score from NHTSA.


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  1. Love how tesla gets a back handled compliment even though it got a highest safety numbers Any car has ever gotten ! EVER.

    Yet they talk about the highly publicized 3 incidents of car that caught on fire – yes in ever case NO one was injured. The car warning system told to drivers to park the car and exit.
    And tesla has since then added a 1/2 thick metal plate on the bottom improve this issue.
    – also if we reported the number of times these other ” Safe” catch on fire – it’s orders of magnitude higher %es. And yes % , not absolute # because some may argue there’s only a few teslas out there.

    I guess i forget who the sponsors are for sites like this. Tesla get your act straight – you need to learn this all works… Give some $$ to sites like this for “ads” and you’ll be surprised how they’ll stop making backhanded compliments 🙂

  2. Nice to see Volvo on the list! They are safe and rarely get recalled.
    This is one of the reasons my family and I drive Swedish cars.

    Volvo makes the best automobiles in the world. They last forever, are incredibly safe, cheap to repair and maintain, cheaper to fill up at the gas tank than anything ($20 thanks to GasBuddy), only cost around 25/month to insure (from 4AutoInsuranceQuote.. woohoo!), and are simply pleasures to drive.

    Would rather drive my Volvo and feel safe than feel like I’ve wasted money on a Toyota Prius that’s about to break down. Not helping your image here, Toyota!

    • The only thing I would like to see fixed about the Volvo is the turning radius. I love my Volvo, but it has caused me to get a little too close to accidents

    • They’re not that cheap to maintain. Though our XC90 only gets oil change once a year, it will cost you $150 at the dealership off warranty.  Parts and labor aren’t cheap for European cars.

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