The Top Ten Safest Cars of 2011

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When you go into a dealership to purchase a car for you and your family, there are a few factors you look for. One, you need the car to be relatively affordable. In this inhospitable financial climate, paying an arm and a leg for an automobile just isn’t a good investment. Next up, you would also like the car to be fuel efficient, not only for the planet but also because the price for a gallon of gasoline seems to always be on the rise.

Most of all, however, you are looking for safety. You want a family vehicle that keeps you and your loved ones safe should the unspeakable ever happen. You need airbags, seatbelts, brakes able to stop on a dime, heavy-duty construction, reflexive steering, tires able to function in the worst road conditions – you’re basically seeking peace of mind with the performance to back it up.

Only a few months into 2011, the safest cars on the road are separating themselves from the rest of the pack with miles to spare. Some are old and reliable favorites that we all know of. Some are relative newcomers to the safety list. But all have one thing in common: they’re the safest automobiles to drive on the planet.

10 of 2011’s Safest Cars

1: Honda Civic

Not only is the Honda Civic amongst the best-selling, most affordable cars you can find, but it is also one of the safest. This compact car has been delivering the all-important peace of mind to drivers on the road for years, and Honda’s safety features only improve with each new release of the Civic.

Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure is ahead of the game, and the Civic is designed to keep occupants of the vehicle and pedestrians safe from harm. Its “breakaway” features in hood structure and with windshield wipers allows the car to deform should it strike someone, and its anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution make stopping an easy task during panic-filled situations.

2: Ford Fiesta

When Ford started with the idea of developing a safe subcompact car, they were working against conventional wisdom. But leave it to Ford, true innovators of automobiles, to prove that the statistically dangerous smaller cars on the road could be transformed into the safest out there. Enter the Fiesta.

Ford’s Fiesta is the only minicar to ever earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and it offers conventional airbags as well as driver’s side knee airbags, side-curtain inflators, and much more. The rugged but lightweight steel in the car’s construction means that it is able to hold up well during a collision, and the Fiesta has created a new benchmark for roof safety standards and passenger safety.

3: Hyundai Sonata

Out of 30 cars tested so far in 2011 by the IIHS, Hyundai Sonata is only one of two to earn a five-star safety rating. If we were compiling this list in order, the Sonata might be at the top spot. But for Hyundai drivers out there, just know that the 2011 Sonata is leaps and bounds safer than most other automobiles on the road.

Its stability and handling features, as well as six airbags—including side curtains, front, and rear airbags—and other features like BS, electronic stability control and improved brake-force distribution, make the Sonata the perfect—and perfectly safe—addition to the family-oriented automobile garage.

4: Subaru Forester

It wasn’t that long ago SUVs were considered to be deathtraps in comparison to mid-size four-doors. But with handling able to rival smaller cars, all-wheel drive, a low center of gravity and ultra-strong construction, the Subaru Forester is considered to be the safest SUV on the road today.

Subaru earns big points for all-weather safety standards. While most SUVs are going to cost extra for an all-wheel drive option, this feature is standard in a Forester, meaning that icy roads, rough conditions and other hazards are easier to handle without having to put in the extra money or without having to react at a moment’s notice to switch into AWD.

5: Buick LaCrosse

Fans of Buick, one of the world’s top auto manufacturers for decades, are well aware that mid-size and larger sedans are typically safer than smaller cars and SUVs. But Buick is not a company to rest on its laurels. With the Buick LaCrosse, the designers took an already safe setup and improved on it dramatically.

Not only does the LaCrosse come standard with GM’s Stabilitrak stability control system and an OnStar telematics system, but the newest models also feature a heads-up display, allowing the driver to focus on the road, and adaptive headlights to illuminate every situation. Along with a radar system that alerts drivers of other cars lurking around in blind spots, the LaCrosse is certainly a safe machine.

6: Volvo XC60

While other auto companies were focused on muscle, style and other features to develop a niche, Volvo has always focused on being ahead of the game in safety standards. This has made the company one of the go-to auto manufacturers for families, and the Volvo XC60 is just the latest statement of proof that the company fires on all cylinders when speaking of safety.

Driving at 20 MPH or less, the XC60 has a laser identification system to detect traffic and that applies an automatic brake to prevent accidents. And at higher speeds, a collision-warning system lets a driver know what to do before they even see the potential accident coming. Along with roll-over sensors, all-wheel drive, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, and descent control, the XC60 is like an automated fortress on the road.

7: Toyota Sienna

To anyone keeping up with Sienna’s track record, the 2011 edition might be a surprise insert on any safety list. However, Toyota really got it right with the new and improved family van. It’s not that the previous Sienna’s were deathtraps; they just certainly weren’t top-ten worthy.

This year’s offering is a 180 from last year. Take that literally if you include the new rear camera with a 180-degree panoramic view. Other features include a radar-based collision warning system enabling auto-brake when it foresees danger, a standard Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system that coordinates brakes and steering, and many other driver-friendly features to keep everyone safe inside this van.

8: BMW 5-Series

Renowned for their unparalleled luxury, impressive handling and family-oriented design, it should be a surprise to no one that a BMW makes the list of 2011’s ten safest vehicles. In fact, the 2011 5-Series was the only other car to earn a five-star safety rating from the IIHS (Hyundai Sonata).

This year’s 5-Series is certainly cutting-edge. Along with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warnings and even the first night-vision system that picks up pedestrians and highlights their presence on the screen, the BMW also has improved agility and braking, and a patented Assist System that transmits crucial data to emergency responders should an accident occur.

9: Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

Volkswagen’s offerings in terms of safety are usually sporadic. In the past few years, however, the company has been adding in some impressive features that we simply cannot deny. 2011’s Jetta SportWagen is probably the safest VW ever released.

Not only is the car affordable and full of the everyday safety features you would expect, like increased airbags and ABS, but it scores very high in visibility and crash testing. The four-wheel independent suspension makes this car a dream to handle and the vented rotors in the ABS system makes this Jetta able to stop with precision. This new model also has standard Electronic Stability control and differential lock controls for each wheel.

10: Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the oldest and most reliable brands of SUV on the road today, and the 2011 model is safer than ever before. The lightweight and strong chassis of the Jeep can also be found in the ultra-expensive Mercedes-Benz ML, but Jeep wins out per the IIHS’s conclusion of 45 key safety and security features in the Grand Cherokee.

Along with stability control, roll migration and rough-road detection, the Grand Cherokee also offers up full-length side-curtain airbags, active head restraints, trailer-sway control, and much, much more. Jeep has always been competitive in the pricing department, but now they’re competing with the safest vehicles in the world. And they’re doing quite well.

There are many safe cars out there on the road today. In fact, most governments are continuously setting higher safety standards with each passing year. But apart from the standards being demanded by the powers that be, they should always be demanded by you as a car buyer – especially if your loved ones are riding alongside you.

These ten vehicles are the safest on the road in 2011. If you need peace of mind and the performance to back it up, any one of these automobiles is a great place to start.