Safer cars on a budget: 5 family picks for 2017
Guest post by Robert Lovell
When this blog posted about the family cars performing best on safety in 2016 – which, unsurprisingly, was around this time last year – a few important caveats were outlined.
Notably, it was observed that “finding a family-friendly vehicle that is both safe and dependable is no small task”, because “not only will the perfect car or truck offer safety, comfort and convenience, but it will also be affordable.” A year down the line, of course, that remains very much the case.
Many of the ‘safest car’ lists out there tend to be heavily weighted – pun semi-intended – towards SUVs and larger crossover vehicles: ultimately, sheer tonnage does make a significant difference in terms of how well cars (and more importantly their passengers!) fare in collisions. However, automotive safety is one of the fastest-developing areas of car design and manufacture across the board right now – both in the US and further afield, where SUVs aren’t nearly as ubiquitous – so it’s always worth checking back regularly to see which smaller makes and models are now being fitted out with the latest equipment as standard.
With all that in mind, here’s a quick update on last year’s piece, looking at the safest family drives currently on the US market in 2017. With affordability and safety in mind, we’ve limited our selection – which appears below in no particular order – to small and mid-size family cars with a base model price tag of under $30k.
2017 Toyota Prius
What really marks the 2017 Prius out as a good buy for the safety-conscious is that its suite of active safety features (collectively branded as Safety Sense-P) now comes as standard. Given that it boasts a fairly advanced set of features, that’s kind of a big deal – you’ll get adaptive cruise control, active lane control with steering assist and departure alert, automatic high beams and forward collision warming, all bundled into a car that starts at just $25,570. The 2017 Prius scored well in crash tests, although it wasn’t perfect: four stars out of five for both front-end and rollover collisions could be a deal-breaker for some buyers.
2017 Ford Fusion
The upgraded 2017 Fusion, available from $24,125, scored extremely well on crash tests for 2017, although it should be noted that it fell just short of scraping the highest safety ranking overall from both US safety agencies (it received slight reductions for headlight performance). It’s an admirably safe car nonetheless, but one that you’ll need to go above base model spec with: all sedans feature a rear-view camera, but more advanced features like blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warning with active adjustment system, rear cross-traffic alerts and active park assist are all optional upgrades for higher-cost trims.
2017 Kia Optima
For most people, the Optima doesn’t score many additional glamor points – but that’s not what we’re about in this list. We’re far more interested in the seven airbags, rear cross-traffic alert, rear-view camera and blind spot warning tech that’s standard or optional with all models, starting from $22,200. You can also upgrade on certain models to include active emergency braking, lane departure alerts and forward collision warnings (although these aren’t the cheapest add-ons, and a fully tricked-out trim will push you over that magic $30k line). The Optima also placed in our list from last year, and 2017’s slight cosmetic upgrades have further polished up its somewhat fusty image of old – it remains a solid choice for safety-conscious families, with great fuel economy to boot.
2017 Honda Accord
A starting price of $22,495 for the 2017 base model Accord is perhaps reflective of the fact that an updated, 10th-gen version is due to hit showrooms any time now. Nevertheless, this year’s outgoing model remains an impressively safe bet, with rear-view cameras and brake assist as standard. Optional extras give you the chance to throw in Honda’s proprietary LaneWatch system (which gives you a dashboard visual from beneath the car when signalling to move right), as well as the Honda Sensing safety suite – the latter bundles together all manner of assistive technologies such as collision warning, active breaking and automatic lane adjustment. It’s worth the additional cost in order to make the most of Honda’s already impressive front-end and rollover collision scores, boosted by further commendations for its high-performance headlights and the high-strength steel of its slimline roof pillars.
2017 Kia Soul
Yes, it’s relatively small, and yes, it’s pretty boxy – but if either or both of those things work for you, then the starting price of $16,000 might be very tempting. It also packs in a deceptively huge cargo space and leaves plenty of room for five passengers, so it’s far from the cramped family option you might fear at first glance. Moreover, the Soul picked up a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA and perfect crash test scores from the IIHS – the only major downside is that no active safety features are packaged in with the very baseline models. Not even a rear-view camera, which is downright unusual these days. Happily, the camera is an optional extra at entry level, but most of the key assist technologies are only available at higher specs: to benefit from fancier safety features such as forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alerts, you’ll be spending a fair bit more than that eye-catching $16k.
Robert Lovell is a writer and designer with a keen interest in motoring, and in particular green and safe vehicles. He writes for various publications, including the Crown Executive Cars blog.
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