The safest new cars in dealers’ showrooms these days are not only those that are top-rated for their crashworthiness, but can avoid getting into an accident in the first place, thanks to a latter-day feature called forward-collision mitigation. This important safety feature senses when a vehicle is closing in too quickly on another vehicle or other obstruction, warns the driver, and will apply the brakes automatically if he or she isn’t reacting quickly enough to prevent or otherwise limit the results of a crash. Some systems can also auto-brake to avoid hitting bicyclists and/or pedestrians in the vehicle’s path.

Unfortunately, while availability is becoming more widespread, not all cars and trucks offer this important safety feature. What’s more, not all auto-braking systems perform equally well at preventing or reducing the effects of a collision.

To help shoppers choose the safest small cars they can afford, we dove deep into testing data compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and identified the following 13 models that, for 2017, earn top (“Good”) marks in each of the organization’s 5 crash tests, including front, side, roof strength, head restraint performance, and the more-recently added small overlap frontal test. Importantly, they further offer “Superior-rated” forward crash protection systems that will avoid a crash or substantially slow the vehicle, based on two separate tests conducted at 12 and 25 mph.

Since only a relative handful of vehicles come standard with forward auto-braking, and most models typically limit it to specific trim levels and option packages, we’re also noting its availability and what each car costs when so equipped (including the destination charge). 

1. Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Bolt

This "safest car" designation applies to Chevy’s long-range electric vehicle when it's equipped with the optional forward auto-braking system. It’s available with the optional Driver Confidence II Package on the top Premier model; price as equipped $42,760.

2. Chevrolet Volt

2017 Chevrolet Volt

Chevy's so-called extended range electric vehicle can be equipped with a forward auto-braking system, but only with the optional Driver Confidence II Package on the top Premier model; price as equipped $39,435.

3. Honda Civic

2017 Honda Civic Sedan: Review

Sedan, hatchback and coupe models of Honda’s stylish and capable compact car can be equipped with the vehicle’s optional forward auto-braking system as part of the optional Honda Sensing package. It’s available in most sedan and hatchback models and comes standard with Touring sedan, hatchback and coupe models; price as equipped $21,415.

4. Hyundai Elantra

2017 Hyundai Elantra

Look for Elantra sedans built after March 2016 that come equipped with the vehicle’s optional forward auto-braking system. It’s offered as part of the Ultimate Package on Limited models; price as equipped $27,635.

5. Kia Forte

2017 Kia Forte Sedan

Versions of Kia’s compact sedan built after March 2017 are top-rated for safety and can be equipped with the vehicle’s optional forward auto-braking system. It’s part of either the Technology Package on the S model or the Premium Plus Package on the EX trim level; price as equipped $21,685.

6. Mazda3

2017 Mazda3

Only the top Grand Touring versions of this sporty compact sedan and hatchback can be equipped with the vehicle’s optional forward auto-braking system as part of the i-Activesense Safety Package; price as equipped $27,770.

7. Nissan Sentra

2017 Nissan Sentra

The Sentra's optional forward auto-braking system is offered as part of the Premium Technology package on SL and SR trim levels; price as equipped $24,745.

8. Subaru Crosstrek

2018 Subaru Crosstrek: First Drive

Subaru’s crossover-like compact wagon can be equipped with a forward auto-braking system as part of the optional EyeSight Package on the Limited and Premium trim levels; price as equipped $28,965.

9. Subaru Impreza

New 2018 Subaru Impreza

As with the above Crosstrek, Subaru’s compact sedan and wagon can be fitted with a forward auto-braking system. as part of the optional the EyeSight Package on Limited and Premium editions; price as equipped $27,410.

10. Subaru WRX

Subaru Impreza WRX

This compact rally racer is safest when equipped with Subaru's optional forward auto-braking system. But this is a case in which it's the top models that fail to offer it. Here, It’s offered only on the Limited CVT trim level; price as equipped $36,810.

11. Toyota Corolla

2017 Toyota Corolla: Review

The compact Corolla sedan is the least-expensive car in the U.S. for 2017 that comes standard across the line with a Superior-rated forward auto-braking system; price as equipped $19,395.

12. Toyota Prius


Forward auto-braking comes standard on the 2017 Prius for an added layer of safety; price as equipped $24,370.

13. Toyota Prius Prime

2017 Toyota Prius Prime: Review

As with the standard Prius, forward auto-braking comes standard on Toyota’s plug-in hybrid; price as equipped $27,995.

When safety matters:

Got a tip for us? Email: