February 25, 2010 | by Joe Phillips
Safest cars on the road

As uber-golfer Tiger Woods proved, no one is perfect. Same for cars. Who knew Toyota — the gold standard in safety and reliability — would one day be struggling amid recalls of some nine million vehicles?

Brake pedals, accelerator pedals, floor mats, drive shafts — the list seems to grow each week. Truth is, all automakers have had recalls at one time or another. In Toyota’s case, the perfect storm is slow automaker response, congressional scrutiny and conflicting reports about what’s really wrong with the vehicles.

For now Toyota is selling fewer new cars, the value of its used cars is taking a hit, and prospective buyers willing to navigate the recall waters often can get great deals — whether on a new or used Toyota.

Still, many consumers will look elsewhere. Below are some top picks from government, insurance and consumer agencies. (Currently, Toyota is off most lists: Consumer Reports, for example, recently suspended its “recommended” status for Toyotas affected by the recall.)

All the vehicles here scored high in front, rear, side and rollover tests. And they have electronic stability control (ESC) to help prevent skids (in some cases, as with the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger, and Honda Civic, the ESC has to be purchased as an option).

SMALL CARS

Each of these compacts is fun to drive, though the new-gen VW Golf is fastest, has a luxe-like cabin, and comes with optional gas-sipping diesel engine; it’s also the most expensive. The Subaru Impreza has grippy handling, thanks to standard all-wheel drive. And the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube are nimble, quirky head-turners that fit anywhere and have oceans of headroom and legroom.

Honda Civic (sedan; except Si model)
$16,000. Mpg: 26 city/34 highway.

Kia Soul
$14,000. Mpg: 26 city/31 highway.

Nissan Cube
$14,000. Mpg: 25 city/30 highway.

Subaru Impreza (except WRX model)
$18,000. Mpg: 20 city/27 highway.

Volkswagen Golf sedan
$20,000. Mpg: 23 city/30 highway.

MIDSIZE CARS

Except for the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger — dated designs, so-so features — all the mid-sizers here are shortlist contenders, so it really boils down to price, gas mileage, hatchback-versus-sedan and other preferences. The biggest buzz has been on the redesigned 2011 Hyundai Sonata, which just rolled into showrooms last month.

Audi A3
$28,000. Mpg: 21 city/30 highway.

Chevrolet Malibu (built after November 2009)
$22,000. Mpg: 22 city/30 highway.

Chrysler Sebring (sedan)
$21,000. Mpg: 21 city/30 highway.

Dodge Avenger
$21,000. Mpg: 21 city/30 highway.

Hyundai Sonata (2011 models)
$20,000. Mpg: 24 city/35 highway.

Mercedes C-Class
$34,000. Mpg: 18 city/26 highway.

Subaru Legacy
$20,000. Mpg: 19 city/27 highway.

Subaru Outback
$23,000. Mpg: 19 city/27 highway.

Volkswagen Jetta
$18,000. Mpg: 22 city/30 highway.

Volkswagen Passat
$28,000. Mpg: 22 city/31 highway.

Volvo C30
$25,000. Mpg: 21 city/29 highway.

LARGE CARS

In a sign of how far the domestic automakers have come so quickly, three of the four vehicles here are from GM or Ford. What’s more, power, styling, and fit-and-finish for these cars is world-class. The Buick LaCrosse even gets the best mileage. Still, the Volvo S80 is the car to beat for safety: front-seat side airbags with separate chambers for chest/hip protection, side curtain airbags, anti-whiplash head restraints, blind-spot monitors, collision warning alerts, lane-departure alerts, driver-fatigue warning system, special auto-braking system, and above-average braking.

Buick LaCrosse
$27,000. Mpg: 20 city/30 highway.

Ford Taurus
$26,000. Mpg: 18 city/28 highway.

Lincoln MKS
$42,000. Mpg: 17 city/24 highway.

Volvo S80
$40,000. Mpg: 18 city/27 highway.

6 Comments
  • Is there so little gay news that DC Agenda has to resort to filler like this to fluff up its website? Don’t you think there are enough sources for automobile info without gay and lesbian Washingtonians having to turn to you folks for help with their car shopping? I sure do. Devote your resources to actually covering GAY news and you’ll be a lot more appreciated.

  • I enjoyed your article and was please to hear some Gm and Ford on the list. Toyota is a great company but don’t forget they use the same Automotive supplier that all auto manufacturer use. Thanks for thinking out of the gay box by having an article about cars. It is interesting that we lgbti pride ourselves with being so diverse and yet we only want to hear , taste, see, and feel, things that are gay. I wonder how this differs from the people who want to hear nothing at all about glbti people and would prefer just straight news.

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