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3 of the safest midsize sedans you can buy

Audi

If you're shopping for a sedan, you want to be sure your choice can keep you and your family safe. This summer the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given its top rating to three sedans that it classifies as midsize -- one luxury car and two from mainstream brands.

The 2017 Audi A4, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and the 2016 Ford Fusion all got the institute's Top Safety Pick Plus rating. The IIH definition of a safe car is expanding to include not only one that protects you in a crash but one that aims to avoid the crash altogether.

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To get a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, a vehicle must get a score of "Good" in crash tests that cover front and side impacts and rollover accidents. In addition, it must also offer accident-prevention systems such as automatic braking that earn a rating of advanced or superior. If a car with good crash test results has an accident-prevention system rated only as basic, it gets a second-tier Top Safety Pick rating (without the "Plus").

The crash-test rules for getting a Top Safety Pick Plus designation also have tightened this year. Before, a car could earn this rating with just an Acceptable score in the difficult small overlap front crash test, which simulates hitting a tree or utility pole with the front corner of the vehicle. Now that rating must be "Good" -- the same as for the other four crash tests.

Let's have a closer look at the midsize sedans with this summer's top safety ratings.

​2017 Audi A4

Audi

The redesigned 2017 A4 improved its protection for the driver in the so-called small overlap test. And its new front-end crash prevention system gets a top rating of superior and has become standard on all models.

Reviewers at Edmunds.com praise the redesigned A4 as being more enjoyable to drive and more comfortable to spend time in than its 2016 predecessor. And you'll get plenty-quick acceleration from the 258-horsepower turbocharged engine, which gets an EPA mileage rating of 25 MPG in city driving and 33 on the highway.

Competing with the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes-Benz C-class, the A4 starts at $37,300. The fully loaded top Prestige trim is priced at $45,900.

​2016 Chevrolet Malibu

Chevrolet

The Malibu, redesigned for 2016, moves up to the top safety rating by adding an option for automatic braking to avoid front-end crashes, which is graded as superior. Another option called city-speed front automatic braking is aimed at avoiding a collision with pedestrians in urban driving.

Reviewers surveyed by U.S.News ranked this Malibu the best midsize car for families. Test drivers praise its roomy cabin, especially its spacious rear seat, and comfortable ride. The touchscreen technology in the Malibu -- available in all trims above the base model -- is described as being as easy to use as a smartphone. And it will accommodate both Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which lets you display apps from the phone on the car's screen.

The Malibu's turbocharged four-cylinder engine is rated for 27 MPG in city driving and 37 on the highway. List prices for the Malibu run from $21,625 to $30,920.

​2016 Ford Fusion

Ford

A modified front-end structure gave the 2016 Fusion a better score at protecting the driver in the small overlap crash test. The addition of an optional automatic braking system to avoid front-end crashes also helped it move up to the top safety rating.

Reviewers praise the Fusion's athletic handling and stylish, spacious interior. However, they describe the base four-cylinder engine as underpowered for highway driving and suggest selecting the optional 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, which has better gas mileage ratings than the base engine at 24 MPG in city driving, 36 on the highway.

List prices for the Fusion run from $22,750 to $33,720.