Despite being a relatively new innovation, the evolution of automobiles has been swift and significant. Just compare a Ford Model T (1908) and a Tesla Roadster (2008) — both are a revolutionary vehicle for its time, yet they are hardly the same machine.
While eco-friendliness, gas mileage and modern technology are excellent and necessary advancements, by far the most important improvement in the history of the automobile is in its safety features.
A Not-So-Safe Start
When automobiles first became available to middle-class America in the early 1910s, traffic-related deaths soared. Uncontrolled driver behavior, poor road configuration, and automobile design were all to blame, yet it took far too long for Americans to connect the dots with vehicle design and safety. It wasn’t until the late 1920s that safety concerns took hold in manufacturing and upgrades started on things like brakes, windshields, and body structure.
Though cars were getting needed improvements, we wouldn’t see today’s bare-minimum standards like seat belts and airbags for another thirty years in the early 1950s. And still, it wasn’t mandatory to actually wear a seat belt until 1984 — and that only applied in certain states.
Stepping Up the Safety Standards
Vehicle safety has come a long, long way and yet every year, approximately 1.35 million people die in car crashes and an additional 20-50 million suffer non-fatal injuries. It may be better than it was, but that is still too many lives lost.
Rest assured, cars are getting safer every year. And as technology and research drive advances to safety features, it raises the bar for safety standards. To analyze which manufactures and models are making strides in vehicle safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) releases an annual report detailing the safest vehicles for the given year.
For the 2020 edition, 23 vehicles earned a Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS and another 41 earned Top Safety Pick. To earn a spot on the list, a vehicle must score the highest level of “good” on all six crash assessments, including a passenger-side crash test that evaluates the safety of passengers when there is a small overlap between cars involved in a crash. 2020 is the first year a “good” rating for all six tests has been required to make the list.
Vehicles on the list also had to score “good” or “acceptable” for headlight performance and had to score an “advanced” or “superior” rating for available front crash prevention in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations.
Hyundai Motor Group, which includes vehicles under the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands, had 14 total vehicles on the list — the most of any other automaker.
Mazda had more Top Safety Pick+ winners than any automaker with five vehicles in top spots, including the Mazda CX-3 SUV and the Mazda 3 hatchback and sedan. Subaru was close behind with four vehicles in top spots, including the Subaru Forester SUV, the fan-favorite Subaru Outback and the new Subaru Crosstrek hybrid.
What didn’t make the list? Minivans and pickups. The noticeable absence was “due to the vehicles’ lack of automatic emergency braking in pedestrian detection,” according to USA Today.
Without further ado, here are the safest vehicles of 2020:
The safest small cars:
Honda Insight sedan – Top Safety Pick+
Mazda 3 hatchback – Top Safety Pick+
Mazda 3 sedan – Top Safety Pick+
Subaru Crosstrek hybrid – Top Safety Pick+
Honda Civic coupe
Honda Civic hatchback
Honda Civic sedan
Hyundai Elantra sedan
Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback
Hyundai Veloster hatchback
Kia Forte sedan
Kia Soul wagon
Subaru Crosstrek wagon
Subaru Impreza sedan
Subaru Impreza wagon
Subaru WRX sedan
Toyota Corolla hatchback
Toyota Corolla sedan
The safest midsize cars:
Mazda 6 – Top Safety Pick+
Nissan Maxima – Top Safety Pick+
Subaru Legacy – Top Safety Pick+
Subaru Outback (built after October 2019) – Top Safety Pick+
Toyota Camry – Top Safety Pick+
Honda Accord sedan
Hyundai Sonata sedan
Nissan Altima sedan
The safest midsize luxury cars:
Lexus ES – Top Safety Pick+
Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan – Top Safety Pick+
Tesla Model 3 – Top Safety Pick+
BMW 3 series sedan
Volvo S60 sedan
The safest large cars:
The safest large luxury cars:
Audi A6 – Top Safety Pick+
Genesis G70 (built after December 2019) – Top Safety Pick+
Genesis G80 – Top Safety Pick+
Audi A7 hatchback
The safest small SUVs:
Mazda CX-3 – Top Safety Pick+
Mazda CX-5 – Top Safety Pick+
Subaru Forester – Top Safety Pick+
The safest midsize SUVS:
Mazda CX-9 – Top Safety Pick+
Hyundai Santa Fe
The safest midsize luxury SUVs:
Acura RDX – Top Safety Pick+
Cadillac XT6 (built after October 2019)– Top Safety Pick+
Hyundai Nexo – Top Safety Pick+
Lexus NX – Top Safety Pick+
Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (built after July 2019) – Top Safety Pick+
The safest large SUVs:
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