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9 Safest Cars to Buy and Drive

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by Lionel (subscribe)
Join me as I travel, play, eat, live and work in cities and places around the world.
Published February 23rd 2013
Safety Features and Tests to Help You Choose the Right Model
9 Safest Cars to Buy and Drive
Car Crash Sculpture by Dirk Skreber / Photo by Ontario Wanderer of Flickr

With an estimated 1.2 million people killed in road traffic accidents and as many as 50 million injured each year according to research, car safety has become an important consideration for purchasers, drivers and even passengers. So much so that tests are performed to assess the overall safety of cars.

According to Lauchlan McIntosh, Chairman of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), "safety should be the first consideration whenever we hit the road", particularly during school holidays and busy festive periods like Christmas and New Year. In Australia, cars are given a 1 to 5 star rating (five being the highest), based on results from the ANCAP which assesses the level of occupant and pedestrian protection provided by different new car models in the most common types of crashes and ability, through technology, to avoid a crash.

Photo by Brett Jordan of Flickr

Euro NCAP provides the automotive industry and consumers with an independent assessment of the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold in Europe. The stringent Euro NCAP tests assesses a car's safety through numerous crash tests and its rate overall safety of the car in the 4 areas of adult protection, child protection, pedestrian protection and safety assist.

In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) evaluates vehicle restraints such as air bags and safety belts while crashing vehicles head-on into a wall and bashing them broadside to test their ability to protect their occupants. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) assesses the protection provided by a vehicle's structure performs by using offset-frontal car crash tests.

IIHS Crash Test Lab / Photo by jimmyyyy of Flickr

With these various safety ratings and the continuous innovation by the automotive world, cars are safer now than ever before with features such as lane departure warning systems, radar guided cruise control and automated emergency braking. If you're planning to buy a car this weekend, check out these 9 models that are poised to make driving safer in 2013. You and your family can head off knowing that you're travelling in some of the safest cars on the market.

Volvo V40

Photo by NRMA New Cars of Flickr

The V40 is officially the safest car on the road around the world and for good reasons. It scored the highest points in the Euro NCAP tests and its overall result is the best ever recorded for adult protection. The car also won high praises from ANCAP's chief executive Nicholas Clarke for its autonomous emergency braking system that can detect pedestrians and other hazards and its world's first pedestrian-protecting frontal airbag which deploys from underneath the bonnet when the car senses a human has been hit.

Photo by Volvo Car Corporation

According to Thomas Broberg, Volvo's chief safety officer, "nobody will ever die or be seriously injured in a new Volvo" during an accident by 2020. With the V40, Volvo's global reputation for safety now comes wrapped in a strikingly sleek hatchback shell..

Photo by ER-Photography of Flickr

Toyota Camry

Photo by Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc

The Camry is a popular choice for families in Singapore, Australia and the US in search of a reliable and safe car, thanks to its many safety features - 10 standard airbags to protect every passenger in the car, Standard Vehicle Stability Control makes it unflappable in dreadful conditions and it doesn't roll back on inclines with a Hill Assist Control.

Photo by Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc

The US Department of Transportation awarded it a 5-star safety rating for its high protection against side impacts. It also had full scores in the side impact test by ANCAP. Now it seems to be a popular choice for Australia's New South Wales highway patrol as well.

by Photo by Highway Patrol Images of Flickr

Hyundai Santa Fe

Photo by MSVG of Flickr

The Santa Fe is one of the safest SUV around, offering a sense of security which comes from an Electronic Stability Programme and a pop-up bonnet that increases the distance between the pedestrian's head and the car's engine thus keeping him/her safe in a crash.

Photo by Bob_ Perry of Flickr

It was named one of the safest choices by ANCAP as the highest rated large SUV tested in 2012. With its 5-star ANCAP safety rating, it has become one of the safest vehicles on sale in Australia. The car also scored a 5-star Euro NCAP rating and is a Top Safety Pick according to US's Insurance Institute for Highway Safety due to the unibody construction which protects its occupants.

Photo by HighTechDad of Flickr

BMW 3 Series

Photo by M 93 of Wikimedia Commons

Safety has always been an important topic at BMW and it shows when Euro NCAP awarded the new 3-Series with the "Best in Class" for the Large Family Car category. It score top points for adult, child and infant occupant protection and safety assist technology. The car's construction could also save lives in the case of a pedestrian impact. It also received top ratings from IIHS in its frontal offset, side impact, rear crash and roof strength test results, and 5 stars from NHTSA in the US.

Photo by BMW Australia

With standard safety innovations like Head-Up Display which projects vital information on your windscreen at eye level, Lane Departure Warning System which alert you of vehicles changing lanes or closely approaching your car, and Active Protection which monitors driving behavior and anticipates collisions by tensioning seatbelts and activating brakes, driving a 3 Series automobile should be an absolute pleasure. If the case of a collision, you can rest assured BMW Assist will alert the Call Centre and stand ready to call emergency assistance.

Photo by Shane's Stuff of Flickr

Audi 3 Sportback

Photo by Audi USA of Flickr

This small family car produced by the German automaker Audi since 1996 is known for its quality, excellent engineering and safety. The latest A3 is based on the VW Group's new MQB platform or 'Modularer Querbaukasten'.

Photo by Audi USA of Flickr

The driver and front passenger seats have front airbags with occupant sensors and multistage deployment, and active head restraints. Roof airbags have been provided front and back, and all seatbelts within the Audi A3 are three-pointers with pretensioners.

Photo by M 93 of Flickr

EuroNCAP tested this third generation Audi A3, a 3-door hatchback, and awarded it 5 stars in 2012. It also scored 5-stars from ANCAP and top ratings from IIHS in its frontal offset, side impact, rear crash and roof strength test results. With its superior German comfort, performance and aesthetics quality, you'll be looking pretty safe and suave in an Audi A3.

Peugeot 208

Photo by Comicbase of Flickr

As the first car in its segment to be awarded the maximum 5-star rating by Euro NCAP in 2012, the Peugeot 208 proves that small cars can also be safe. Peugeot engineers have integrated numerous driving aid systems to increase significantly the level of safety and comfort.

Photo by houbi of Flickr

Once the safety features of larger and more expensive cars, each supermini protects its occupants with standard fitments like the latest generation Electronic Stability Programme, dynamic stability control, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and a host of airbags. A 5-star ANCAP rating should follow soon given these inclusions. Along with its stylish looks, the Peugeot 208 may just be the premium light hatch on everyone's test drive list.

Photo by Peugeot Automobiles Australia

Infiniti M37

Photo by M 93 of Wikimedia Commons

Infiniti's mid-range luxury sedan is packed with a dizzying array of high-tech safety features that makes it cool to be safe. In addition to the dynamic cruise control, three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners, and adaptive headlights, a blind-spot and lane-departure warning system helps the driver return the car to the centre of the lane he/she was originally. In the case of an imminent rear-impact collision, a backup camera senses the situation and stops the car.

Photo by Nissan North America

IIHS in the US has awarded the third generation Infiniti M models with a "Top Safety Pick" for earning a "Good" score on all 4 IIHS crash tests while also featuring standard stability control to help avoid accidents altogether. NHTSA however has only evaluated the best-selling sedan version of Infiniti's G-series model noting a rollover resistance rating of five stars.The G37 is yet to be rated by ANCAP or European NCAP safety bodies but the safety features should deliver a high rating.

Photo by Nissan North America

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Photo by sarahlarson of Flickr

In addition to design chief, Gorden Wagner's facelift of the E-Class, this luxury saloon favourite has been given a dose of safety upgrades worthy of the Mercedes-Benz hallmark for safety innovations in the S-Class.

Photo by of Flickr

It features a Collision Prevention Assist radar-based collision warning system that helps reduce the chances of a rear impact collision, detect driver drowsiness, control high beams automatically, maintain a set following distance, keep you in your lane, and a stereo multi-purpose camera embedded in the windscreen to watch for other vehicles and obstacles. 2 of the body styles have earned Top Safety Pick status from IIHS in the US. With R&D Director, Dr Thomas Weber's focus on safety in all cars regardless of size, you can expect the E-Class to offer a safer drive.

Photo by of Flickr

Mazda 6

Photo by motorblog of Flickr

The bold and swoopy-looking new Mazda 6 receives a raft of crash avoidance features aided by wave radars, cameras and near-infrared lasers.

Photo by NRMA New Cars of Flickr

Dubbed 'iActivesense', the features include an autonomous emergency braking system, acceleration control system that prevents acceleration into an obstacle, forward-obstruction warning, adaptive front lighting, lane departure warning system, rear vehicle monitoring, high beam control system and radar cruise control.

Photo by NRMA New Cars of Flickr

It received top marks in its front offset and side impact results from IIHS in the US and the full suite of secondary safety features should ensures the Mazda6 gains top marks in crash tests.
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Why? Here are the top 9 safest cars to buy and drive around in
Cost: Varies from model to model and country
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