Light truck sales, which include SUVs, now eclipse passenger car sales on the U.S. market, and the higher concentration of large vehicles is behind the average fuel economy holding steady or declining. For now, cheap oil is keeping this factor from denting the wallet of the consumers who are OK with less efficient vehicles as long as they offer more utility.
But what about the impact on safety? Glancing at the list of midsize sedans with IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designations, the segment is packed with cars that excel on safety. Even as crash tests standard get tougher, automakers are building automobiles that can handle or prevent accidents from any angle.
Consumers in the market for an affordable SUV will find almost as many models with the highest safety standards. Here are seven SUVs starting under $25,000 that were named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS for the 2016 model year.
1. Hyundai Tucson
In past versions of the Hyundai Tucson, the small front overlap test kept the compact SUV off Top Safety Pick lists. That changed with the 2016 edition ($22,700), which nailed all five IIHS crash tests and offers superior front crash prevention with optional equipment like the autobrake. Now the Tucson is a Top Safety Pick+ rather than an also-ran. It features 33 miles per gallon economy in highway driving.
2. Subaru Forester
With Subaru, the only question is which car will not win a Top Safety Pick+ designation. (The answer is none, outside of the BRZ built jointly with Toyota.) For 2016, the brand is back at it with the Forester ($22,395), the compact SUV that aced its safety tests and earned the top IIHS designation with superior front crash prevention tech. Peak highway economy is 32 miles per gallon. Since this vehicle debuted in 1999, it has scored the highest mark in every crash test the IIHS ever threw at it.
3. Fiat 500X
Who would drive a bumblebee yellow Fiat 500X? Zoolander, that’s who, and the automaker’s first SUV comes in five trims that start at $20,000. Peak fuel economy stands at 34 miles per gallon in the base (1.4-liter turbo) model. On top of acing each of the five IIHS crash tests, the 500X offers advanced front crash prevention with optional equipment. This combination earned it the highest safety rating.
4. Toyota RAV4
With superior front crash prevention tech available and perfect scores in each of the IIHS tests, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 ($24,350) landed its first Top Safety Pick+ designation yet. Economy in the standard model peaks at 30 miles per gallon on the highway. New for this model year is the hybrid ($28,370) that achieves 34 miles per gallon in city driving.
5. Mazda CX-5
Mazda has steadily built its reputation for performance and economy at reasonable prices, and the CX-5 crossover hits again with 35 miles per gallon on the highway, highest on this list, in the 2.0-liter model ($21,795). On the safety front, the IIHS gave the CX-5 its top rating in each of the five crash tests. Front crash prevention is rated superior with available equipment.
6. Mitsubishi Outlander
Mitsubishi saw huge sales gains in 2015 with the Outlander ($22,995) and Outlander Sport ($19,595) SUVs leading the way. The larger Outlander seats seven and can achieve 31 miles per gallon on the highway. It landed the Top Safety Pick+ designation for the 2016 model year by nailing every crash test and providing advanced front crash prevention options like low-speed (12 miles per hour and under) autobrake.
7. Honda CR-V
Last on this list but most popular on the U.S. sales charts (No. 7 in 2015), the Honda CR-V continues to set the pace for small SUVs with for the 2016 model year ($23,745). The CR-V delivers 33 miles per gallon in highway driving and has available front crash prevention tech rated superior by the IIHS. Added to the perfect marks for each of the five crash tests, Honda landed its second consecutive Top Safety Pick+ designation.