Any car crash can lead to serious injury or death. In some cases, this fate is unavoidable. However, drivers have ways to cut down on the chances of a fatal accident. You can start by avoiding driving at high speeds. Another thing to do is consider the type of car you drive.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), larger vehicles tend to be safer than smaller ones. Yet compact cars have made significant gains in recent years. In IIHS crash tests for 2018, small sedans actually landed more Top Safety Pick+ awards (the highest rating) than crossover SUVs.
Here are the five models that landed the top safety rating from the IIHS in the compact car segment. (Note: We excluded the Kia Niro and Subaru Crosstrek, which we define as crossover SUVs and included on another list.)
1. Subaru Impreza
Foreign automakers lead the pack in Top Safety Pick+ awards, and Subaru tied Kia for the most (5) in non-luxury segments for 2018. As has been the case for four straight years, the Subaru Impreza compact sedan received the top rating from the IIHS.
To get the safest model, consumers have to opt for Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist package and add on front-crash-prevention tech. Without the LED reflector lights that automatically switch to high beams, the IIHS isn’t giving Impreza its highest honor.
2. Kia Forte
Once upon a time, Kia made some of the deadliest cars on the road. These days, the Korean automaker (like its parent company Hyundai) is more likely to have almost all Top Safety Pick+ models in its lineup. That was the case for the 2018 Forte sedan.
Kia’s compact four-door car aced every crash test outside of an “acceptable” rating in the passenger-side small overlap front. Combined with crash-prevention tech and the headlights that come with the Premium Plus package, the Forte is one of the safest small cars you can buy.
3. Hyundai Elantra
If you’re shopping for the safest 2018 Hyundai Elantra, you need to find a model built after December 2017. From there, choose the Limited trim with Ultimate package for the right headlights as well as crash-prevention technology.
With that configuration, the redesigned Elantra nabbed the Top Safety Pick+ award for the second straight year. It nailed down top scores on every front except the passenger-side small front overlap test.
4. Kia Soul
While the Kia Soul has been around since the 2010 model year, the first edition to land the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award was the 2018. Superior front-crash prevention, HID projector headlights (in Primo Lit and Technology packages), and nearly perfect crash tests did the job this time.
Whether you think of a Soul as a tall hatchback, short SUV, or compact car, it’s one of the safer small vehicles you can buy. Consumer Reports feedback from owners on the Soul has been strong since the 2014 redesign.
5. Subaru WRX
A better choice of headlights moved the Subaru WRX performance car from a Top Safety Pick into the IIHS elite for 2018. (These headlights come with the Eyesight Driver Assist package.)
Beyond that, WRX’s perfect crash-test scores and superior crash-prevention tech put it with the four preceding models as the safest compact cars of the year.
As the IIHS points out frequently, just because you have a safe small car doesn’t mean you’re better off in a crash with a big car than another big car. But these cars give you the best shot at avoiding the crash in the first place.