In a country where 33,000 annual traffic fatalities is considered progress, safety ranks high in the list of priorities for auto consumers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Adminsitration (NHTSA) devotes itself to the improvement of safety standards by publishing data on crash tests and recalled vehicles as well as awarding grants to cities so they can address danger for pedestrians.
On the NHTSA SafeCar.gov site, the agency lists the results of its rigorous crash tests with breakdowns of ratings using a scale of one to five stars. Just because a car received a five-star crash rating overall doesn’t mean it notched perfect scores in frontal, side, and rollover crash tests. However, eight four-door sedans and hatchbacks of model years 2014 and 2015 notched perfect five-star ratings in each category, denoting exceptional performance drivers can expect if faced with collisions involving vehicles or objects on the road.
Here are the eight highest-scoring four-door cars bearing model years 2014 and 2015.
1. 2015 Volvo S60
It wasn’t long ago that the name Volvo was associated with all things safe and family-oriented. It turns out that image is still warranted in the automaker’s cars for the 2015 model year. In fact, Volvo has delivered impressive power and fuel economy alongside safety ratings with its E-Drive powertrains in the 2015 S60 models.
First, the overall five-star crash rating in both the all-wheel drive (AWD) and front-wheel drive (FWD) 2015 S60 models reflected perfect scores in front, side, and rollover tests. The NHTSA recommends available forward collision warning and lane departure warning for the ideal safety configuration. As for power, four-cylinder cars rarely have it this good. Volvo’s T5 Drive-E FWD ($33,300) offers 240 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque while delivering a remarkable 37 highway mpg.
2. 2014 Cadillac ATS
This compact four-door sport sedan from Cadillac landed its perfect five-star rating with top scores in the suite of NHTSA tests covering frontal, side, and rollover crashes. The 2014 Cadillac ATS ($33,065) can claim the feat for both its rear-wheel drive (RWD) and AWD models. Fans of the GM luxury brand will await word on the upcoming 2015 ATS Coupe.
3. 2014 Audi A4/S4
Volkswagen’s Audi brand performed the best out of any automaker with four-door cars in recent testing by the NHTSA. Both its 2014 A4 four-door sedan ($33,400) and S4 performance variant ($48,100) landed perfect five-star ratings in frontal, side, and rollover crash tests in FWD and AWD models. After winning 2014 World Car of the Year for its A3, it’s safe to say the state of the Audi brand is strong.
4. 2014 Subaru Legacy
Subaru has been showcasing its 2015 Legacy in U.S. auto shows, but the 2014 model ($20,295) remains one of the most crash-worthy vehicles on the road. The four-door standard AWD drive model landed a perfect five-star rating in frontal, side, and rollover crash tests by the NHTSA. It’s also a Top Safety Pick Plus. In the upcoming model, improved exterior styling will accompany this safety-first design.
5. 2014 Ford Focus Electric
The oft-forgotten electric vehicle offering from Detroit notched perfect five-star ratings in the three-part crash test suite by the NHTSA. The 2014 Ford Focus Electric ($35,170), one entry in the lineup of the best-selling global nameplate, outperformed its gas-powered siblings in the frontal and rollover tests to hit the perfect score. Tests on the 2015 Focus and Focus Electric are expected later in 2014 ahead of the new model releases by Ford.
6. 2014 Audi S6/A6
To be fair to Audi, the automaker has four 2014 cars that landed perfect scores in every crash test and could have filled four separate slots on this list. They are being grouped numerically with base sedan and sport variant together, in this entry featuring a photo of the 2014 Audi S6 ($73,400). In both FWD and AWD drive models, the 420-hp S6 received five-star scores in frontal, side, and rollover crash tests by the NHTSA. The 2014 A6 ($43,100) also received perfect scores in both FWD and AWD model sedans.
7. 2015 Kia Optima
Few have laid eyes on the 2015 Kia Optima, but the NHTSA awarded the upcoming four-wheel drive, four-door sedan its highest rating in frontal, side, and rollover crash tests. Details of the new offering by Kia have been scarce, but it is expected to arrive on U.S. shores in late 2014 and will likely share design aspects with the recently unveiled 2015 Hyundai Sonata. As a reference point, pricing for the 2014 Optima starts at $21,500.
8. 2014 Tesla Model S
Much has been written and tweeted since Elon Musk claimed the NHTSA awarded the Tesla Model S ($70,070) better than five stars in safety ratings, which forced the agency to clarify such a thing wasn’t possible. No matter: The 2014 Model S received a perfect five stars in frontal, side, and rollover crash tests by the NHTSA. It may not be better than perfect, but perfect should suffice for consumers who want a green performance car.
As Musk continued to remind safety regulators and consumers during the flap over the 2013 Model S battery fires that followed, no driver or passenger has died behind the wheel of a Tesla to date. Even though that fact may reflect the small volume of Tesla electric vehicles on the road, it’s the most important statistic of all with respect to traffic safety.