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Safety has come a long way over the years, and consumers are more invested than ever in picking the safest vehicles. Earning the praise of critics or being awarded a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS helps reassure buyers that they are making the right choice. This isn’t always an easy feat to accomplish, but the 2021 Mazda3 has managed to do both.

What does it take to become an IIHS Top Safety Pick+?

A gray Mazda3 at the Mazda stand during the 42nd Bangkok International Motor Show 2021
The 2021 Mazda3 | Guillaume Payen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Earning the IIHS Top Safety Pick, or the more illustrious Top Safety Pick+, really helps a vehicle stand out. If two competitors are neck and neck when it comes to which you should buy, and only one earns the attention of the IIHS, then that’s more than enough to earn the win. But how exactly does a vehicle go about earning this title?

According to the IIHS, for a vehicle to be awarded the Top Safety Pick+, it must have “good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.” The IIHS goes on to explain that “advanced or superior rating for available front crash prevention — vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations” is a must. Finally, a score of “acceptable or good headlights standard” will seal the deal.

To earn the Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must meet all the same criteria, except the headlights which are a little more relaxed. The score for this is acceptable or good.

Before determining if a vehicle has met the rather strict criteria, the IIHS puts each vehicle through a series of crash tests. This is not cheap by any means because not only does the manufacturer have to build a vehicle that will ultimately be destroyed, but the IIHS must utilize crash test dummies that can cost up to $500,000. This puts a lot of pressure on automakers to deliver as earning a high score raises their chances of selling more vehicles.

As it happens, the 2021 Mazda3 earned a high score.

The Mazda3 has what it takes to beat out hybrids

RELATED: A Used Mazda3 Is a Great and Affordable Choice for Your Teen Driver

EVs and hybrids are slowly but surely making their presence known, and giving their gas-guzzling brethren a run for their money. This is especially true when it comes to critics like MotorTrend. Saving the planet tends to have that effect on people.

The Mazda3 has done what no other compact gasoline-powered vehicle has managed to do, however, by earning a Top Safety Pick+. This includes both the sedan and the hatchback models. This means that no matter which vehicle you choose to go with, you’ll be sure to feel safe. With that being said, MotorTrend recommends the sedan model, which has superior visibility.

The Mazda3 is loaded with safety features

Many moons ago, decent safety features on a car meant seat belts that didn’t snag when you pulled on them and doors that locked automatically. The auto world has come a long way since then, and now there are vehicles that blast Italian music at pedestrians, to warn them you’re driving by.

While many automakers are taking advantage of these new and vastly improved safety features by charging extra for them, Mazda isn’t taking that route. Many of the safety features at its disposal are offered standard.

Some of the features that really helped the Mazda3 impress the IIHS include automatic emergency front braking, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, lane departure warning with a lane-keep assist feature, and LED headlights. The only feature that Mazda made optional is the blind-spot monitoring, which is available on higher trims. If that’s not enough to make you excited, then the starting price should. The 2021 Mazda3 has an MSRP of $20,500, making it one of the cheapest new sedans on the market. 


Can You Count on the 2021 Mazda3 to Keep You Safe?