Vehicles with superior headlights (usually LEDs), and those able to protect passengers in small overlap front crashes edged out all other vehicles in newly-released rankings of the safest 2018 vehicles available for the coming year.
Just 15 vehicles for the 2018 model year landed the coveted “Safety Pick Plus” designation this year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit independent agency in the U.S. funded by the insurance industry — and the benchmark used by manufacturers and the public in measuring vehicle safety. Another 47 vehicles earned the institute’s good, but lesser, Top Safety Pick award.
“Drivers expect their passengers — who are often family — will be protected just as well as they are,” the IIHS said in a statement. Thus, the agency expanded its testing to the passenger side after discovering some manufacturers weren’t paying attention to this area, even as the automakers made improvements in driver-side small overlap front crash tests. The institute also included headlights for the first time, since headlamps are a “critical safety element.” Lights were measured for illumination as well as glare for oncoming drivers.
Most winners, however, won only when the vehicle was “optionally equipped” because front crash prevention technology and the best headlights are rarely included in base trims of most models. The models listed here are in U.S. spec, and Canadian cars may, or may not, be the same. For Canadian buyers, it’s best to compare the trim levels of the model tested, or opt for the model with the most features if they want the highest level of safety, even though some lesser tier models might score well. True, that means buyers might have to pay substantially more to get the model with the best safety equipment, but often, the ratings of one vehicle apply to other models built on the same platform. The exception is Toyota, which is equipping most of its models with its full suite of safety equipment.
Here, grouped by class, are the 15 2018 vehicles deemed safest by the IIHS.
Kia Forte Sedan
One of the better-equipped compact cars, the Forte enters 2018 with few changes after last year’s refresh. Starting at $15,500, the Forte sedan has a new 2.0L base engine engineered for improved fuel economy and performance. US model tested: Kia Forte LX four-door; rating applies to those built after March, 2017.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Kia Forte.
Starting at just under $20,000, the boxy Soul comes in three trim levels, LX, EX and SX, each with varying degrees of equipment and engine options, ranging from a 130-horsepower four-cylinder to a 201-hp turbocharged 1.6L. U.S. model tested: NA. Applies to 2015-2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Kia Soul.
Subaru Impreza (wagon and sedan)
New in 2017, including a new platform than allowed the Impreza to grow longer and wider, 2018 sees few changes for the Impreza wagon and sedan. Starting at just under $20,000, the AWD Impreza is Canada’s cheapest all-wheel-drive vehicle and comes standard with backup camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED tail lamps. US model tested: 2.0i. Rating applies to 2017 and 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Subaru Impreza.
For 2018, the WRX receives a major refresh, with updated looks, improved usability inside and out, upgraded safety features and enhanced drivability. The WRX starts at just under $30,000. US model tested: WRX Premium. Applies to 2015-2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Subaru WRX.
No longer offered with a manual transmission, Subaru’s Legacy sedan gets a refresh for 2018, offering enhanced ride quality, better handling and steering feel, improved looks and updated infotainment features for a $25,000 starting price. US model tested: Legacy 2.5i. Applies to 2015-2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Subaru Legacy.
The fourth Subaru to earn an IIHS top safety award, the 2018 Outback sees enhancements inside and out, with higher levels of safety, comfort, control and entertainment, starting at $29,295. US model tested: Legacy 2.5i. Applies to 2015-2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Subaru Outback.
The new, eighth-generation 2018 Camry, gets LED headlights as standard, plus the Toyota Safety Sense bundle of technologies — pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams and dynamic radar cruise control. US model tested: Camry LE. Rating applies to 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Toyota Camry.
BMW 5 Series
Revised in 2017, BMW’s 5-Series gained an updated user interface, gesture control, head-up display, remote 3D view and voice control. All models are equipped with an eight-speed auto, and AWD is available. US model tested: BMW 540i. Rating applies to 2017 and 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 BMW 5 Series.
Adaptive LED headlights join the long list of available features on the Genesis G80, a luxury sedan that competes with established German brands. Sold in Canada with standard HTRAC all-wheel drive, the G80 starts at $62,000. US model tested: Genesis 3.8. Rating applies to 2017 and 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Genesis G80.
The larger, and more expensive sibling to the G80, the Genesis G90 features a comprehensive array of standard safety technology and two powertrain options — a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 or a 5.0-litre V8 GDI engine, both with an advanced HTRAC AWD system as standard. US model tested: G90 3.3T Premium, applies to 2017 and 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Genesis G90.
Introduced for the 2017 model year, the Lincoln Continental heralds the return of flagship luxury for the Ford brand. Starting at $58,000, Continentals get AWD as standard equipment and a choice of twin-turbo V6s. US model tested: Continental Premiere, applies to 2017 and 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Lincoln Continental.
The 10th-generation E-Class comes in several AWD flavours in Canada, ranging from the E 300 4Matic at $62,300 to the eight-cylinder E 63 S at $115,500. A convertible version joins the portfolio for 2018. US model tested: Mercedes-Benz E 300 RWD, applies to 2017 and 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Unchanged for 2018 after a refresh in 2017 that saw new LED daytime running lights and new front and rear styling ahead of a new model expected in 2019, the Santa Fe can seat up to seven and starts at $32,200. US model tested: Hyundai Santa Fe SE AWD, applies to models built after March 2016.
Click here for the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
The five-passenger Santa Fe Sport starts at just more than $30,000 (currently with a $3,750 discount) for AWD versions and comes in several trim options, each with a varying features. US model tested: Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4 AWD, applies to 2017 and 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.
Available in Coupe or traditional SUV style, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC is a midsize SUV with serious performance in higher-end AMG models. The base model gets a 2.0L turbo four cylinder and starts at $45,900 while the AMG 63 S will cost about $80,000. US model tested: GLC 300 AWD, applies to 2016 – 2018 models.
Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Visit the IIHS website for videos of all the above cars being crash tested as well as more details on each one’s safety.