The nine safest cars of 2014

Safety is a top priority in the decision to buy a car these days, and a bad safety rating is hard to hide. Read below for the safest cars of 2014, all models with top marks in federal crash test ratings. 

Carlos Osorio/AP/File
The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu is unveiled on Belle Isle in Detroit last year. Despite safety issues with older models, the 2014 was one of the safest cars manufactured this year.

If you're reading this, chances are the next time you shop for a new vehicle, safety is going to be one of your top priorities.

And with federal crash-test scores printed on vehicle window stickers, and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash-test ratings now a common bragging right in advertising, bad crash-test results are a lot harder to miss than they used to be. Automakers have tuned into the idea that shoppers really do care about safety, and the safety agencies are challenging automakers to engineer better occupant protection in their vehicles—all while they need to trim weight and conform to tougher fuel-efficiency standards.

Once you're aware of the potentially life-saving differences between a three-star rating and a five-star rating, or the range from 'poor' to 'good' (these all correspond to forces, or likelihoods of injury), it's tough to settle for anything but the best.

Besides, there are plenty of variables that you don't have as much control over. Fatal accidents are more likely to happen within 25 miles of where you live than farther away—even adjusted for mileage—and more likely to occur in the afternoon-commute or evening hours than in the morning. Some data supports cars that are black and other darker colors being more accident-prone. Again adjusted for mileage, those under 30, and those 70 and older, are far more likely to be involved in an accident. And, as you should know by now, those who are distracted with texting, food, or fatigue, are a hazard to themselves and everyone else on the road.

Auto insurers know all that. They also know the claims frequency of your particular model. Of course that all relates back not just to the safety of the vehicle, but the kinds of people who buy that model.

And it also comes back to you—how well you fit in the car, whether you can see out of it, whether you find the technology in the car useful, and whether you feel at ease driving it.

That's a separate evaluation you'll need to make; in the meantime, we took a look at how well automakers are doing on their 'standardized tests'—those crash tests from our two U.S. agencies.

For each of the models in the list following, you'll find The Car Connection's Safety-section takeaway, as well as details on what exactly makes these models top achievers. They all earn a perfect '10' from us, although every single one of them leaves at least a little room for improvement.

Volvo S60
“Active safety devices and strong crash-test scores give unparalleled confidence and protection.”

Is the 2014 Volvo S60 the safest car on the market? If you read U.S. safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the federal government, it might just be. With top 'good' ratings in all areas from the IIHS, as well as their 'Superior' frontal crash prevention rating (for its incredibly long and effective list of active-safety measures, now even including cyclist detection), plus a perfect flush of five-star ratings from the federal government, the Volvo S60 is the paragon of safety if you give props to crash-test scores. And as accident records and insurance claims will attest, it has a pretty great record out in the real world, too.

Chevrolet Malibu
“Improved, top-tier IIHS results, great federal scores, and an excellent list of safety equipment add up to one of the most secure affordable mid-size sedans you could choose.”

The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu breaks from the past in safety, and that's a good thing. It's now a top performer for safety, according to the federal government(all five stars except rollover) and the IIHS (all 'good' ratings, even in small overlap). And to get the best safety in the Malibu—as it earns an IIHS 'Basic' rating for front crash prevention—you'll also want the package adding forward collision alert, lane departure warning, a blind-spot monitor, and cross-traffic alert.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class
“The M-Class has earned the IIHS' Top Safety Pick+ award--Mercedes' first.”

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz M-Class earns top 'good' ratings in all categories of testing from the IIHS—including small overlap—and it gets five-star federal NCAP ratings in all but rollover. Additionally, it's an IIHS 'Superior' frontal crash prevention performer. In addition, you get a host of other safety extras that might just prevent an accident—such as Attention Assist, which takes tabs on your driving style to help identify signs of drowsy driving and if so, flash you a coffee-cup icon. The M-Class is also one of the most widely adjustable vehicles for driving position, so those of all sizes can get comfortable in this model—and that's a big part of staying safe.

Subaru Outback
“The 2014 Subaru Outback is again one of the safest family vehicles you can get, with top ratings from both agencies.”

The 2014 Subaru Outback earns five-star federal ratings in all categories except for rollover; and its IIHS results have been nearly as good—except for a 'acceptable' small overlap rating. But with confident handling and all-wheel drive traction, plus a 'Superior' front crash result and the top-rated active-safety system in IIHS testing, Subaru's excellent EyeSight, we're willing to overlook that.

Mazda CX-5
“Rearward vision in the 2014 Mazda CX-5 isn't great, but it's a superstar in all other safety respects, with truly top-notch ratings from both agencies.”

The Mazda CX-5 earns top ratings from the IIHS for frontal offset and side impact, as well as for roof strength and rear protection, and in the new small overlap frontal test. It's also a five-star federal performer, with a top score in the side pole test, too; and it meets IIHS 'Advanced' frontal crash prevention standards with the Tech Package, bringing Smart City Brake Support, a system that will automatically brake for hazards at speeds up to 19 mph. We aren't thrilled by its lack of rearward visibility, but if you can work with that, this is the top-rated of the 2014-model-year compact crossovers for safety—and one of our favorites overall.

Cadillac XTS
“There are few luxury cars offering the level of security and advanced safety features you'll find in the 2014 Cadillac XTS.”

The 2014 Cadillac XTS is a spacious, comfortable, and very technologically advanced sedan—and that holds whether you want infotainment technology, or the kind of tech that keeps you safe and sound. The XTS earns all five-star results in federal NCAP testing, although its rollover ratings are four-star. Results from the IIHS have been top-tier so far, although there are no small overlap frontal results yet.

The IIHS gives the XTS its 'Superior' rating for frontal crash prevention, with a Driver Awareness Package that adds Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, as well as a Safety Alert Seat that vibrates on one side or another to 'point' out potential dangers; there's also an excellent adaptive cruise control, Automatic Collision Preparation, and Front and Rear Automatic Braking that can bring you to a full stop when moving at 20 mph or less (or reduce the severity of an impact at higher speeds).

Honda Accord
“There's an extensive list of available active-safety features; and a new, stronger structure contributes to crash-test ratings that are better than those of any other affordable mid-size sedan.”

It's definitely a little give-and-take for the 2014 Honda Accord Coupe and Sedan, if you look carefully at the safety ratings; but distilling it all down next to the ratings of other mid-size models, the Accord looks like one of the safest picks. The Accord Coupe gets five-star ratings in all the federal categories, while the Sedan earns four stars for frontal impact; meanwhile, the Accord Sedan gets the top 'good' rating from the IIHS in the tough small overlap frontal test and the Accord Coupe earns a lower 'acceptable' rating in that category. Both models meet the IIHS standards for 'Basic' frontal crash protection, which you can get by adding this model's active-safety package—Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Additionally, there's a cool LaneWatch Blind Spot Display that we find very useful in city driving.

Cadillac SRX
“Top ratings from both U.S. agencies and some standout accident-avoidance technology make the 2014 SRX a safety superstar.”

The sharp-looking, well-equipped 2014 Cadillac SRX doesn't quite manage perfect ratings from the federal government, but it does earn a five-star Overall rating, and in IIHS testing it's earned 'good' ratings for all but small overlap—as well as the 'Superior' rating for frontal crash prevention, with the suite of radar-, camera-, and sensor-based systems including adaptive cruise control, cross-traffic alert, and automatic front and rear braking assist. There's also Cadillac's safety alert seat, which helps nudge warnings through the seat cushion without loud (and potentially distracting) beeps and buzzes.

Honda Civic Hybrid Sedan
“The 2014 Honda Civic is one of the safest compacts you can get; and a standard backup camera leaves it without any significant safety shortcomings.”

The 2014 Honda Civic Sedan doesn't quite have the scores of some of these other vehicles on this list; although it's the top-rated affordable compact carwhen you look at how it fares versus most other models. With its top 'good' ratings from the IIHS—even in small overlap frontal protection—and its mostly five-star results from the federal government, it's a high achiever. And the Hybrid model is the one to get, as that's where you can opt for the available Forward Collision Warning system—which has performed well enough to earn the IIHS 'Basic' evaluation for front crash prevention.

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