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The Safest Small Cars of 2011

Affordability and fuel efficiency drive the small car market, but now some of the most cost-conscious vehicles on the over-busy roads are also some of the safest. Car makers, well tuned to the ears and wallets of conservatively spending consumers, have released a wave of new compact rides for 2011 with low price tags, more comfort and superb safety standards. Safe has met small and, for car makers and drivers, that means good business.

Measuring Car Safety

The safest 2011 cars were tested and rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Crash worthiness was dependent on how well a vehicle could take a hit from every direction–high-speed side crashes, front and rear collisions and roll overs. IIHS issued grades from Good to Poor. For a vehicle to make it to the IIHS top slot, it had to score Good across the board. Only 2011 vehicles that featured skid-minimizing electronic stability control were tested.

The Smallest and Safest for 2011:

*Toyota Corolla

Corolla’s redesign rolled into showrooms in December with a standard six-pack of air bags, jerk-minimizing pretensioner seatbelts and active head-cushioning headrests. The Corolla’s re-engineered body assimilates and evenly redistributes 360 degrees of impact while maintaining an average MSRP of less than $18,300.

*Subaru Impreza Outback


Subaru’s four-wheel drive Impreza sedans and wagons made the safe list thanks to an all-steel frame, six airbags and an ultra-sensitive anti-lock braking system that works even when a driver doesn’t realize its needed. Safety-impressive Impreza falls in an MSRP range of $17,737 to $20,937.

*Scion tC


Safety on the Scion tC include a ramped up 8 airbags, including knee and side-curtain airbags. For a maximum MSRP of $19.971, the Scion tC’s rated as good or better than even bigger models with pretensioner seatbelts, active headrests, four-wheel ABS with brake assist and over-ride, a tire pressure monitoring system and engine immobilizer.

*Scion xB

The slightly less-expensive Scion xB, with an MSRP up to $17.611, has many of the same safety features as its sister Scion. With its shoebox shape, the hardest test for the Scion xB was the rollover roof crash reaction. It passed with flying colors withstanding an impact nearly seven times its own weight, four times greater than federal standards.

*Chevrolet Cruze


Chevy’s new six-speed Cruze is packaged with multiple standard safety features including 10 airbags, trumping every competitor. Driver and passenger protection is ensured with steel reinforcement, Stabilitrak electronic stability control, OnStar crash response and a crash-collapsing gas pedal, pushing Cruze to the top of the safety charts for an MSRP up to $22,479.

*Honda Civic


Practical, reliable Honda Civics are among the IIHS safety-tested cars that offer the most protection for the least price. A new crash-resistant body, six airbags, anti-lock brakes, active head rests, pretensioner seatbelts with electronic stability control are Civic standards, proving safety is affordable for as little as $15,752 MSRP.

*Kia Soul

Kia’s small car lineup, including the nice-priced Soul, is filled with advanced safety features–a tire pressure warning system, electronic stability and a 4-Sensor 4-Channel anti-lock braking system. Inside are 6 airbags, child-friendly anchors and latches and an impact-cushioning steering column. The small and safe Soul hovers in the MSRP range of $13,612 to $18,670.

*Kia Forte


The 2011 Kia Forte models, with a newly introduced five-door hatchback, is a little pricier than the Soul at an MSRP up to $19,305 but it’s just as great for small car safety value. With standard stability and traction sensors and controls for the wheels, a tire pressure monitor and six airbags–including side curtain airbags–the new Forte weighs heavy on the safe side for drivers and passengers.

*Nissan Cube


The Nissan Cube boxcar sailed through IIHS crash testing thanks to its 2011 safety features that boast an electronic stability and traction control system, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, active head rests and a tire pressure monitoring system. The Cube’s six airbags include a Nissan-exclusive two-stage occupant-sensoring Advanced Air Bag System. A new family and safety-friendly Cube sells for a top MSRP of $21,210.

*Mitsubishi Lancer


Mitsubishi’s best selling 4-door sedan loads up on safety with a stronger body design, sensitive dual-stage airbags, energy-absorbing crumple zones, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction controls and tire pressure monitoring. With an MSRP between $15,632 and $28,077, the high-style Mitsubishi sedan has high standards for safety, too.

*Volkswagon GTI


Stability, traction and wheel sensors and controls dominate the 4-door GTI’s safety features. ABS and brake assist are built-in safety extras for this small top-end road machine, starting at an MSRP of $23,284.

*Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta took hints from last year’s Ford Taurus to win a spot among the small car safe bets for 2011. Outside the 40 mpg Fiesta is reinforced with boron steel. Inside features a safe, hands-free entertainment system. On paper, it’s a priced-right MSRP starting at $13,320.