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Safest Small Cars and Crossovers

© IIHSSafest Small Cars and Crossovers
A common misconception goes like this: the bigger the car, the safer the occupants. Although there’s some validity to this notion, it’s not the only factor to consider when shopping for a safe new vehicle. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, several small cars and crossovers on the U.S. market can help avoid crashes or offer protection if one becomes inevitable. The IIHS rates cars for crashworthiness and highlights those that earn top scores and offer some level of crash-avoidance technology.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceIIHS Vehicle Ratings
To be called an IIHS Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must achieve “Good” ratings in six crashworthiness tests, as well as score an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating for front-crash prevention. For the 2020 model year, the IIHS added an additional requirement for a vehicle to gain ultimate distinction as an IIHS Top Safety Pick+. To earn this top award, a vehicle must be available exclusively with Good or Acceptable headlights on all trim variants. What follows are this year’s safest small cars and crossovers that earn a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS.

© General Motors2020 Chevrolet Equinox
Top Safety Pick
Chevrolet’s second-best-selling vehicle after the full-size Silverado pickup, the Equinox stands out in the crowded crossover market with projector-beam headlights, LED running lights, wider horizontal taillights and LED taillights for upper trim levels. Inside, the Equinox features a down-and-away instrument panel with a low windshield base for improved outward visibility. Two engine choices for Equinox are a 170-horsepower 1.5-liter turbo or a 252-horse 2.0-liter turbo teamed with a 9-speed automatic transmission. All trims of the Equinox come with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision alert, lane-keeping assist and IntelliBeam headlights as standard equipment.

© Ford Motor Company2020 Ford Escape
Top Safety Pick
Ford introduced an all-new Escape for the 2020 model year that is lower, wider and longer than its predecessor, sporting looks that are a considerable departure from the previous generation. The front end features an all-new grille surprisingly similar to those on the Focus and Fusion passenger cars, rather than Ford SUVs. The 2020 Escape is available with a choice of four engines; the standard unit is a 3-cylinder 1.5-liter EcoBoost producing 180 horsepower. Ford brought back the Escape Hybrid — the 2020 model is available as a standard hybrid as well as a plug-in version. All 2020 Ford Escapes come with Ford Co-Pilot 360, a suite of advanced driver-assist technologies. This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, a rearview camera, post-collision braking, cross-traffic alert and automatic high beams.

© American Honda Motors2020 Honda Civic
Top Safety Pick
The tenth-generation Civic debuted early in 2017, built on a new vehicle architecture with improved driving dynamics and a more spacious interior. Last year Civic received a light refresh and a range of new features, as well as the new Civic Sport trim. The Honda Sensing safety system is now standard on all trims, which includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Honda CR-V
Top Safety Pick
The best-selling vehicle in the Honda lineup, the CR-V’s success lies in its ability to offer consumers a comfortable, small crossover with great utility and excellent fuel economy. For 2020 Honda refreshed the CR-V’s exterior styling and added the first hybrid to the CR-V lineup. Similar to the Honda Accord Hybrid, the all-wheel-drive CR-V Hybrid uses a 2-motor hybrid powertrain that teams two electric motors with a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine for a combined output of 212 horsepower, making it the most powerful variant in the CR-V lineup. All 2020 Honda CR-Vs are equipped with Honda Sensing, a suite of advanced safety and driver-assist features. These include automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlights.

© American Honda Motor Co., Inc2020 Honda Insight
Top Safety Pick+
Last year Honda returned an Insight to the lineup for a third time — and this may be the best version yet. The extremely efficient hybrid sedan also scores at the top for all IIHS crash tests in its first years on the road. All Insights come with the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety features as standard equipment, including automatic emergency braking with forward collision warning, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning and lake-keeping assist. The Insight achieved the best score possible on vehicle and pedestrian avoidance.

© Hyundai Motor America2020 Hyundai Elantra
Top Safety Pick
Hyundai gave its best-selling Elantra a complete styling update last year that included a new hood, front fascia, grille and headlights. For 2020 Hyundai added more standard equipment; however, the base price remains below $20,000. The least expensive SE comes well equipped with dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, projector headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a 5.0-inch touchscreen display, forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning. Look for an all-new Elantra arriving for the 2021 model year.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Hyundai Kona
Top Safety Pick
In a market of cookie-cutter crossovers, the Hyundai Kona features styling that stands out from the crowd. Kona is one of the lowest priced all-wheel-drive vehicles available in America, and it was also the recipient of the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award in 2019. Offering a roomy interior with plenty of utility, even Kona’s basic trims come well equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rearview camera and LED headlights. The base-level Kona SE comes with forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning; higher level trims add rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist and blind-spot collision warning.

© Hyundai Motor America2020 Hyundai Tucson
Top Safety Pick
Hyundai introduced the latest version of the Tucson in 2018 when it received updated styling as well as a range of new features and powertrains. This 5-occupant crossover comes well equipped with a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, multiple USB ports, a rearview camera and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Forward collision-avoidance assist and lane-keeping assist are both standard as well, with additional safety and technology features available such as blind-spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Two engines are available, including a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder unit producing 181 horsepower.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Hyundai Veloster
Top Safety Pick
An all-new Veloster rolled out last year with a refreshed design as well as other improvements. The sporty coupe continues to stand out with its unique 3-door configuration: one door on the driver side, two on the passenger side. The base Veloster 2.0 is motivated by a 147-horserpower engine and features a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, a rear spoiler, a 6-speed manual transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels. All Velosters have forward collision avoidance, driver attention warning, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist and a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines as standard equipment.

© Hyundai Motor America2020 Hyundai Venue
Top Safety Pick
Hyundai added to its SUV lineup this year with the all-new Venue. Now Hyundai’s smallest crossover, the Venue brings its own unique style to the brand. All trims are front-wheel drive, powered by a 1.6-liter engine producing 121 horsepower, teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission. The base-level Venue S features air-conditioning, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, an AM/FM/HD audio system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity. All Venues come with Hyundai SmartSense as a standard feature, which includes forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning.

© Kia Motors America2020 Kia Forte
Top Safety Pick
Redesigned last year with new styling and updated features, the Kia Forte is powered by a 2.0-liter 147-horsepower engine matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox and rates an impressive 37 mpg on the highway. Standard equipment on this small sedan includes air-conditioning, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera with dynamic parking guide, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning and driver attention warning.

© Kia Motors America2020 Kia Soul
Top Safety Pick
Ten years ago Kia joined a trend toward small, boxy people movers when introducing the Soul, and in its 2020 iteration the diminutive Soul remains the only boxy model on the road. The Soul retained its iconic shape for 2020 yet received a modern edge with slim headlights, LED daytime running lights and boomerang-shaped taillights that frame the rear window. Soul is also new under the skin, thanks to a lighter-weight platform designed to reduce road noise while improving handling and comfort. Sold in a number of trim levels, Soul is available with a turbocharged powerplant or as a fully electric vehicle. All Kia Souls come with advanced safety features including forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, lane-change assist, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

© Kia Motor America2020 Kia Sportage
Top Safety Pick
The Sportage was all new for the 2020 model year, featuring updated exterior styling, a sporty S trim level and new available driver-assistance features. A more aggressive exterior design includes new headlights, redesigned projector-beam fog lights, available LED headlights, as well as a new grille, front bumper and wheel designs. The Sportage is available in three trim levels with two 4-cylinder engine choices: a 2.4 liter that produces 181 horsepower, or a 2.0-liter turbo GDI that produces 240 horsepower. Available driver-assistance features include driver attention warning, lane-keeping assist, smart cruise control with stop and go, forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, and high-beam headlight assist.

© Toyota Motor Sales USA2020 Lexus UX
Top Safety Pick
Lexus joined the growing compact luxury crossover market last year with the introduction of the all-new UX. The UX is the first Lexus vehicle to use the brand’s Global Architecture — Compact platform, providing the small crossover with a rigid structure and low center of gravity designed to deliver both agile handling and improved ride comfort. The exterior styling is similar to the larger NX and RX models but more aggressive, with a large spindle grille that dominates the front view. The UX is offered with a choice of powertrains: a 169-horsepower 2.0-liter engine or a fourth-generation hybrid drive system. The hybrid uses the Lexus E-Four all-wheel-drive system that adds an additional electric motor at the rear axle. All Lexus UX trims come safely equipped with forward collision avoidance with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and intelligent high beams.

© Ford Motor Company2020 Lincoln Corsair
Top Safety Pick
Lincoln has been quickly revamping its entire SUV lineup, and one of the newest to join the group is the 5-passenger Corsair. Replacing the MKC, the new Corsair is easily recognizable as a Lincoln thanks to styling cues borrowed from the larger Nautilus and Aviator models — specifically similar grille and headlight treatments. However, the Corsair does have an overall style all its own with deep contouring along the side panels, which adds depth to the overall design. The Corsair may be an entry-level model in the Lincoln lineup, but inside it features upscale materials to create a premium feeling within the cabin. Pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, blind-spot information systems, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams and a rearview camera are standard on every Corsair.

© Mazda North American Operations2020 Mazda CX-3
Top Safety Pick+
The CX-3 is the smallest crossover in the Mazda lineup. Introduced for the 2016 model year, the CX-3 received headlight improvements for 2020 that help it earn the Top Safety Pick+ rating. Mazda CX-3 boasts a dynamic design, signature Mazda sporty driving characteristics and an available sophisticated i-ACTIV AWD system offered for all three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The CX-3 comes with Mazda’s i-ACTIVSENSE, which includes a range of advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist and adaptive front lighting.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Mazda Mazda3
Top Safety Pick+
All new for the 2020 model year, the Mazda3 features the latest evolution of the company’s KODO design. Available as a 4-door sedan or a hatchback — both achieving Top Safety Pick+ status — the new Mazda3 can be equipped with Mazda’s i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system. Equipped with the latest advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, the Mazda3 uses an infrared camera and infrared LED to observe the driver’s condition while driving, checking to see how wide open the driver’s eyelids are and the number of times he or she blinks, in order to determine the level of drowsiness or fatigue. It also monitors the driver’s line of sight and eye movements to determine inattention.

© Subaru of America2020 Subaru Crosstrek
Top Safety Pick
The latest-generation Crosstrek is longer and wider than the previous model, with styling that features the familiar hexagonal grille, “hawk-eye” headlights and an impressive 8.7-inches of ground clearance. Built on an all-new global platform, the Crosstrek has a lower center of gravity and more responsive steering to improve driving dynamics. The infotainment system features an 8.0-inch touchscreen display and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The company’s suite of safety features called Eyesight is standard on all Crosstrek variants equipped with the continuously variable transmission. Crosstrek is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine producing 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2020 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
Top Safety Pick+
Subaru introduced a plug-in hybrid version of the Crosstrek last year — the brand’s first plug-in for the U.S. market. The Crosstrek Hybrid comes with the latest version of EyeSight, Subaru’s innovative driver-assistance system that employs stereo forward-facing cameras as well as other sensors. With EyeSight, the Crosstrek Hybrid is available with automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. In the IIHS front crash prevention tests, the Crosstrek Hybrid performed at the highest level for both vehicle and passenger avoidance. The Crosstrek Hybrid has standard LED projector headlights; however, the non-hybrid does not — which is why the hybrid version gets the higher Top Safety Pick+ rating.

© Subaru of America2020 Subaru Impreza
Top Safety Pick
Subaru’s compact entry had a slight refresh for the 2020 model year while retaining its 2.0-liter Boxer engine that produces 152 horsepower directed to Subaru’s full-time all-wheel-drive system. The stylish small car is also fuel efficient, achieving up to 36 mpg on the highway when equipped with the continuously variable transmission. Standard features on the base-level Impreza include a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a split-folding rear seat, a rearview camera and a 5-speed manual transmission. The CVT adds $1,300 to the price, but CVT-equipped Imprezas also come with Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist technology.

© Subaru of America2020 Subaru WRX
Top Safety Pick
With the WRX, Subaru offers excellent performance in a very safe package. Motivated by a turbocharged 268-horsepower engine, the WRX features full-time all-wheel drive, a standard feature of every Subaru except the BRZ. For the 2020 model year the Japanese automaker made Eyesight standard on CVT-equipped WRX variants, which includes a full suite of safety features; most important is automatic emergency braking. As with other Subarus on this list, the WRX is also available with blind-spot detection, reverse automatic braking as well as rear cross-traffic alert.

© Toyota Motor Sales USA2020 Toyota Corolla
Top Safety Pick
Corolla is one of the most time-honored names in the Toyota lineup, and recently the company celebrated the 1 millionth Corolla built in the brand’s Mississippi assembly plant. Toyota introduced an all-new Corolla for the 2020 model year which features updated styling with a wider stance, as well as signature LED headlights and a range of new features. Three powertrains are available, including a very efficient hybrid system that has a U.S. EPA rating of more than 50 mpg. Toyota equips all Corollas with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. This suite of advanced safety features includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beam headlights and road sign recognition.

© Toyota Motor Sales USA2020 Toyota RAV4
Top Safety Pick
One of the original compact crossovers on the American market, the RAV4 was completely redone last year with bold new styling, improved capability, better performance and an array of new safety and convenience features. In addition to the updated styling and efficient powertrains, every RAV4 now has automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane departure alert as standard equipment. Earlier this year Toyota added the 2021 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid to its lineup, offering better fuel efficiency as well as much higher performance.

© Volvo Cars North America2020 Volvo XC40
Top Safety Pick
Last year Volvo bolstered its premium crossover lineup with the introduction of an all-new XC40. Styling remains similar to its larger siblings, most notably the signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlights. Even the base XC40 Momentum comes with leather seat trim, an 8-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a power tailgate and 18-inch alloy wheels. Standard on all XC40 trims is City Safety, which features collision avoidance that detects vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and animals, and it can automatically apply the brakes as needed. Also standard is run-off-road protection and run-off-road mitigation, lane keeping and oncoming lane mitigation, and a whiplash protection system for front-seat occupants.

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Published on: October 8, 2020

Filled Under: Automotive Content Experience, Automotive Reviews

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