The 7 Safest Compact Cars in 2012

It’s a catch-22: Everyone wants a vehicle that will stretch a gallon of gas as far as possible, and yet no one wants a car that feels like it’s made of tinfoil. Americans want to know they are safe in their cars should a collision occur. Car insurance companies like that, too.

That’s why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the 2012 models of numerous small cars to see how they would fare in a crash. The IIHS came up with a list of the seven compact cars that received its highest marks for safety.

Honda Civic – The Civic demonstrated significant improvement over the previous year’s model to earn top safety pick honors. Its brake assist system, which boosts the braking pressure when the pedal is depressed forcefully, is now standard on all Civic models. The same is true for the vehicle’s stability control.

Ford Focus – The IIHS showered praise on the Focus because of its side airbags and impressive stability control system. But this car has other safety features which were not even scored by the institute, including an optional backup camera to allow the driver to view what is directly behind the vehicle. It also is equipped with what is known as torque vectoring control, which applies pressure to one side of the car when it is trying to negotiate a sharp curve.

Chevrolet Sonic – This model replaces the Chevy Aveo, whose safety ratings were nothing to write home about. But the Sonic comes with side airbags that are standard in both the coupe and sedan models. Its stability control system helps prevent rollover accidents. Even if such a crash were to take place, the Sonic would be able to withstand 5.3 times its weight, which is a remarkable figure.

Hyundai Elantra – You could call the Elantra the “rags to riches” story of the safety test competition. IIHS ratings for the 2001 through 2006 models were pretty poor, but Hyundai worked hard to change that; now the Elantra is at the top of its class. Drivers are protected by half a dozen airbags as well as electronic stability control.

Lexus CT 200h – Who would have thought that the carmaker known for opulent luxury could produce a hybrid that has garnered top safety ratings? The CT 200h features electronic stability, traction control, and brake assist systems. Plus, this vehicle is equipped with a total of eight airbags.

Toyota Prius – The Prius owns the distinction of being the most fuel-efficient car on the IIHS safety list, with a fuel economy rating of up to 51 mpg. The Prius doesn’t skimp on airbags, either; it has front-side airbags, front and rear overhead curtain airbags, and even a driver’s knee bag. It also boasts brake assist, traction control, and vehicle stability systems.

Nissan Juke – Safety never looked so stylish and sexy! The Juke received the highest possible ratings on crash tests and got kudos for its vehicle dynamic control and active front head restraints. Electronic stability and traction control systems are standard in the Juke.

Almost all of today’s compact cars are safer than their predecessors, but if you are looking for the cream of the crop in terms of safety, these seven models are unmatched in their commitment to protecting their occupants during collisions.

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