Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

Full Bio →

Written by

Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right car insurance coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident car insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one car insurance company and cannot guarantee quotes from any single company.

Our car insurance industry partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different car insurance companies please enter your ZIP code on this page to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

Key Takeaways

  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rate small cars for their safety and make the data public
  • New cars generally include driver-assistance technology, such as collision warnings and adaptive cruise control
  • While new cars are generally safer, you can find reliably safe used compact vehicles with ease

Everyone has a list of features they want in a new car. Some people like the latest technology, while others want something fast. Some drivers want to show off their style in the most stylish vehicles, and others need something that goes as far off-road as they do.

One thing that just about everyone can agree on is that safety is always essential. From the safest small used cars to the safest small car of 2021 or 2022, there are plenty of safe picks if you’re in the market for a compact ride.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keep careful track of what happens on American roads. From the most crashed car in America to collision safety ratings, they cover everything.

With data from IIHS and NHTSA, you can pick the safest car before you step foot in a dealership. If you’re ready to see what the safest new and used small cars are, read on.

What are the safest new small cars?

Many drivers wouldn’t guess it, but the definition of a small car is set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA, a small car has between 100 and 109 cubic feet of passenger space and should comfortably fit four adults.

You should remember that different-sized cars are held to separate standards when looking at ratings. The ratings don’t necessarily mean the same thing when it comes to large car vs. small car safety.

Below, you can see the eight safest small cars on the market according to the IIHS and NHTSA.

Honda Civic

Starting price: $23,365

Safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Honda focused more effort on the Civic for 2022. What has always been a reliable but uninspiring ride has been turned into something much more stylish.

However, that doesn’t mean Honda skimped on the safety features. The new and improved Honda Civic boasts improved driver-assistance features, emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assistance.

While the Civic has been known for its safety, Honda is trying to keep up with its competition. Today, the Civic is more fun to drive and looks a little better on the road.

Honda Insight

Starting price: $26,775

Safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It can be said that the Insight was born from the Civic, so it’s no wonder why it’s also a top safety pick for IIHS. The Insight is a compact hybrid with an efficient powertrain, quiet drive (except for quick accelerations), and fantastic MPG.

More importantly, the Insight receives high praise for its safety features. All Insights include the Honda Sensing package, which has blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerts. It also comes with forward-collision warnings, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, lane-keeping assistance, and emergency braking.

Hyundai Elantra

Starting price: $20,995

Safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Another of the 5-star safety rating cars on this list, the Elantra is recognizable by its unique profile. In fact, one of the selling points of the Elantra is its futuristic design.

With impressive features that often come included, it’s surprising that the Elantra is one of the safest, affordable cars of 2021 and 2022.

For safety features, the Elantra comes with a lot of standard features and has more available. Standard features include lane departure warnings, lane-keeping assistance, pedestrian detection, and emergency braking. You can also get adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assistance.

Kia Soul

Starting price: $20,505

Safety rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Kia Soul is perhaps the most famous of the boxed-shaped “toaster” cars, and while the oddity of seeing one on the road has mostly passed, its popularity has not. The standard Soul is relatively basic, but Kia offers pricier versions with more powerful engines and numerous features.

The Soul loses points for safety because it doesn’t include many standard safety features (although you get them standard if you buy the S model or better). However, it does have all the usual safety features available, including lane-departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warnings, lane-keeping assistance, and emergency braking.

Mazda 3

Starting price: $21,815

Safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Mazda 3 offers a lot of style for such a small price tag. You can buy the Mazda 3 as either a sedan or hatchback, both of which have high safety ratings. For car enthusiasts looking for style or an entertaining drive, the Mazda 3 can do it all.

Not only does it look good, but it’s also got some of the best IIHS safety ratings for small cars. The Mazda 3 comes standard with emergency braking, lane departure warnings, pedestrian detection, and lane-keeping assistance. You can also get adaptive cruise control.

Nissan Sentra

Starting price: $20,635

Safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The inclusion of the Nissan Sentra on this list may come as no surprise because it has a reputation for being practical, reliable, and a little bit boring. While it might not be the car for someone looking for excitement, the Sentra has a lot of appealing features.

More importantly, the Sentra comes with a good array of safety features. The standard package includes forward-collision warnings, blind-spot monitoring, emergency braking, and cross-traffic alerts.

Subaru Crosstrek

Starting price: $23,820

Safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A little smaller and less popular than the Outback and Forester, Subaru’s Crosstrek has a loyal following nonetheless. It’s also one of the safest small compact SUVs for 2021 and 2022.

While it can’t handle the same off-roading that Land Rovers and Jeeps can, it’s perfect for casual nature enthusiasts. With plenty of room for kayaks up top, bikes on the back, and all your hiking gear inside, the Crosstrek is perfect for a weekend away.

While the base Crosstrek doesn’t include driver-assistance features, you can add them to the base model for a reasonable price. These features include emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assistance.

Subaru Impreza

Starting price: $19,790

Safety rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Another small car that comes as either a sedan or hatchback, the Impreza is an entertaining drive. Its affordability and reputation for speed increase its popularity with young drivers. Ironically, this leads the Impreza to be not only one of the safest small cars in America but also one of the most crashed.

While it might not have all the power of some of its rivals, the Impreza still has a fanbase. The Impreza has forward collision warning, cross-traffic alerts, lane-departure warning, emergency braking, and lane-keeping assistance available.

Compare quotes from the top car insurance companies and save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What are the safest used small cars?

While new cars have a reputation for being the safest cars, you have plenty of options if used is more in your budget. Consider the following used vehicles if safety is a primary concern.

  • Honda Civic
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Subaru Crosstrek
  • Toyota Prius
  • Volkswagen Jetta
  • Chevrolet Cruze

You’ll notice that some of the best used cars are also on the best new cars list. When it comes to car safety ratings, models usually stay about the same unless they’ve been drastically overhauled. Any car in the new list can reasonably be expected to perform well as a used car.

Find the Safest Compact Car Today

When you’re in the market for a new compact car, safety ratings should be one of the first things you look at. It’s one of the factors your car insurance will consider – the safer your car, the less you’ll pay for coverage.