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10 of the safest cars you can buy

In its summer round of testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has certified 10 more models as keeping occupants safe in a crash.

To get a Top Safety Pick rating, a vehicle must get a score of at least Acceptable in crash tests that cover front and side impact and rollover accidents. In addition, if a well-rated vehicle also offers accident prevention systems such as automatic braking, it gets the maximum Top Safety Pick Plus rating.

Two of these 10 cars -- the small-car Chevrolet Sonic and the small hybid Prius C -- came back for another try at the tests with a redesign after an initial Poor rating.

Read on for a look at how these 10 vehicles, from pickups to SUVs to small cars, fared in the crash tests.

Ford F-150


Ford's new aluminum-body pickup got a split decision. The Crew Cab version got good ratings in all the crash tests. However, the extended-cab version, called SuperCab, got a marginal rating in the difficult small overlap frontal test -- which approximates one corner of the vehicle hitting a tree or utility pole. The combination still earned the F-150, which is the best-selling vehicle in America, a Top Safety Pick ranking.

"Consumers who wondered whether the aluminum-body F-150 would be as crashworthy as its steel-body predecessor can consider that question answered," says David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. In the small overlap test, the crew cab kept its cabin intact, while the extended cab would have likely allowed injuries to the legs of the driver.

The IIHS also weighed in on another controversial aspect of the first pickup to use an aluminum body: repair costs. The Institute projects that repair costs will be 26 percent higher for the aluminum body than for the 2014 steel-body F-150.

Audi Q5


With strong crash-test performance and an optional crash prevention system, this midsize luxury SUV gets the maximum Top Safety Pick Plus rating. In the small overlap test, the Q5 did a good job of protecting the driver and indicated a low risk of any injuries in such a crash. Reviews compiled by U.S. News praised the Q5 for lively acceleration and athletic handling.

Audi Q3


This small SUV performed well in the crash tests. But unlike its larger sibling Q5 (previous page), it doesn't offer crash prevention systems, so it gets a Top Safety Pick rating (without the Plus). In the small overlap test, there was minimum intrusion into the driver's cabin, and movement by the driver's dummy was well-controlled. The Q3, just introduced with the 2015 model, won reviewers' praise for its responsive handling and attractive interior. But some test drivers said its acceleration compared poorly with competitors such as the BMW X3.

Nissan Murano

John Murphy, John Murphy Photography

This midsize SUV not only got good crash-test ratings. IIHS singled out its automatic braking system for performing particularly well in tests. That got the Murano a Top Safety Pick Plus. In the small overlap test, the Murano protected the driver's seat dummy well and indicated a low risk of serious injuries in such a crash. Reviewers praise the redesigned 2015 Murano for is nimble handling and comfortable ride.

Ford Flex


The Ford Flex did not perform in crash tests as well as the Nissan Murano (previous page), but it still gets a Top Safety Pick rating. Reviewers say the Flex has nimble handling for a midsize SUV and offers a comfortable ride. The Flex comes standard with a V-6 engine.

Other midsize SUVs in this round of testing didn't fare so well. The Jeep Wrangler and Cherokee, the Dodge Durango and Journey, and the Hyundai Santa Fe all failed to garner a Top Safety Pick ranking. The Dodge Journey was the worst, with such problems as the side air bag failing to deploy.


Mike Ditz

IIHS tested the 2016 version of the Mazda6 and gave it a Top Safety Pick Plus. Among other improvements, the new Mazda6 has added a rollover sensor, which deploys side air bags if its detects an impending rollover. The automatic braking system made the car eligible for the Plus rating.

Reviewers say the nimble handling and responsive brakes of the Mazda6 make it more fun to drive than most midsize sedans.

Toyota Prius C


The Prius C, the smallest of three sizes of the hybrid Prius, came back for a second try at the small overlap test and scored well enough to get a Top Safety Pick. Toyota made structural improvements to the C for better occupant protection. The Good rating applies only to cars manufactured after May 2015.

Even with the improvements, the small overlap performance was not ideal. The safety belt allowed the dummy's head and torso to move too far forward, and the head hit the instrument panel. However, an improved side air bag did deploy, helping the Prius C get an Acceptable rating, the minimum required for Top Safety Pick.

The Prius C is all about gas mileage, with its 53 MPG city, 46 highway one of the highest ratings available. But test drivers say that thrifty gas-electric hybrid power plant provides only sluggish acceleration, especially on the highway.

Chevrolet Sonic


Like the Toyota Prius C (previous page), the small-car Sonic passed the small overlap crash test on its second try. Chevrolet made changes to the Sonic's structure and air bags, allowing it to qualify for a Top Safety Pick. The changes helped make it unlikely that the driver would suffer leg injuries -- a reversal of the first test. The safety rating applies to Sonics built after February 2015.

Test drivers praise the Sonic for its responsive steering and comfortable ride. They suggest, however, going for the optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers both good acceleration and a healthy 27 MPG city rating, 37 on the highway.

Volkswagen Golf


The 2016 Golf got a Top Safety Pick Plus rating when equipped with the optional front-collision warning system. Golf scored the best possible rating, of Good, in all the IIHS crash tests, rating for low likelihood of serious injury.

Reviewers ranked the Golf high among affordable small cars. Nimble handling, a comfortable cabin and large cargo space all add up to an attractive package. Golfs are also available in a turbodiesel version, known as the TDI.

Volkswagen GTI


The GTI is the sporty, performance version of the Volkswagen Golf (previous page). Like the Golf, it gets a Top Safety Pick Plus rating with available collision warning,

Reviewers love the acceleration with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the GTI. That power, combined with sharp handling make it fun to drive on twisting roads. But the GTI also can deliver a comfortable ride at highway speeds.

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