US-brand vehicles now dominate safety ratings for 2017 models. A decade ago, hardly any US-brand vehicles were among the safest. This year, based on federal government test results for front- and side-crash impact, General Motors brands took the top spots in the subcompact, compact and large sedan categories, while Ford placed first in the midsize and large SUV categories. Safest 2017 subcompact cars—Chevrolet Sonic, Honda Fit…compact cars—Buick Verano, Ford Focus…intermediate-sized cars—Acura TLX, Subaru Legacy…large cars—Cadillac XTS, Tesla Model S…small SUV—Acura RDX…mid-size SUVs—Ford Edge, Subaru Outback…large SUVs—Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator.
In the study, each vehicle was assigned a total crash test performance rating composed of 60% front-crash results, 36% side-crash results and 4% the results of crash tests simulating a crash into a narrow object such as a utility pole or a tree. The percentages approximate the prevalence of the three crash types in the US.
The strong performance of many domestic vehicles was a result of new structural designs from US manufacturers that better absorb the force of impact in a crash. However, some domestic brand names were among other vehicles that fared very poorly in the crash-test ratings. New vehicle buyers should think twice about purchasing the following models, which fared poorly: Subcompact cars—Chevrolet Spark, Kia Rio, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa…compact cars—Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Leaf…intermediate-sized cars—Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ…large cars—Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger…small SUVs—Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot, Nissan Juke, Volkswagen Tiguan…midsize SUVs— Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Rogue…large SUV—Toyota 4Runner.
Another government safety test that buyers should consider: rollover risk. Although rollovers are rare, occurring in only about 3% of serious crashes, they often are deadly, accounting for around 30% of people killed in passenger vehicles. The addition of electronic stability control in many vehicles has reduced the incidence of rollovers. Nevertheless, certain vehicles stood out this year for their very high and low ratings. Least likely to roll over: Audi A5, BMW 4 Series, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Nissan 370Z, Tesla Model S. Most likely to roll over: Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Canyon, Jeep Patriot, Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Armada, Toyota 4Runner.