When buying a new car or pre-owned car, you must consider many factors. One factor you shouldn't take lightly is safety. Today, automakers have put tons of research into developing and perfecting some of the most advanced safety features ever, including automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and more. 

On top of this technology, automakers have also perfected designing cars to absorb the impact of a crash, keeping those inside the cabin safer. Even today's smallest cars can withstand crashes without harming the occupants. 

Let's look at some of the safest cars in Canada, but first, we'll see who determines what cars are the safest and how they determine these safety ratings.

How Vehicle Safety Is Scored in Canada

While Canada has specific safety requirements for vehicles sold within its borders, such as lighting, braking, restraint system, and airbag specifications, it doesn't have an independent or national crash testing facility to perform practical testing. 

Canada directs drivers to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an independent vehicle-safety testing organization in the U.S. led by car insurance associations, for crashworthiness and safety ratings. 

The IIHS purchases all its test vehicles and puts them through four crash tests: moderate overlap front, driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, and side.

The IIHS also tests a vehicle's ability to avoid or at least mitigate the damages from a forward collision with a pedestrian when travelling 12 and 25 mph (19 and 40 km/h) in the daytime and nighttime via its automatic emergency braking system with pedestrian detection.

Headlight tests are another part of the IIHS testing process, as it tests how well a vehicle illuminates the roadway and avoids blinding oncoming traffic. The IIHS performs five tests to determine a headlight rating, including:

  • Straightaway
  • Gradual left curve (800-foot radius)
  • Gradual right curve (800-foot radius)
  • Sharp left curve (500-foot radius)
  • Sharp right curve (500-foot radius)

The final test is of the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system, which connects modern car seats and booster seats without using the seatbelt. The IIHS’ primary concern is the ease of use, as it notes, "Parents are more likely to install a restraint correctly when the vehicle hardware meets certain criteria. The Institute established its LATCH rating program in 2015 to encourage manufacturers to design LATCH hardware that meets those ease-of-use criteria."

The rating criteria for the LATCH test are:

  • Accessibility of lower anchors
  • Force needed to attach the lower connectors
  • Clearance angle
  • Location of the tether anchor
  • Confusing hardware

In most tests, the IIHS has four ratings: Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor. The front-crash prevention tests switch things up with three ratings: Superior, Advanced, and Basic.

IIHS Top Safety Pick Criteria

The safest cars in Canada will all fall into the IIHS Top Safety Pick category, and the IIHS is constantly changing its criteria for being awarded this ranking. This constant change and automaker's aspirations to call their models Top Safety Picks have pushed today's cars to new levels of safety. 

In the 2023 model year, the basic criteria to be a Top Safety Pick+ model, the highest ranking from the IIHS, are:

  • Good ratings in the driver- and passenger-side small overlap front tests and original moderate overlap front test
  • Good rating in the updated side test
  • Advanced or Superior rating for daytime and nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention
  • Acceptable or Good ratings on standard headlights

To receive the second-highest honour, Top Safety Pick, vehicles must meet almost the same requirements, but it drops the “Good” requirement in the updated side test and the nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian test requirements.

The Safest Cars in Canada

Using the IIHS 2023 crash test data and other safety scores, let's explore the safest cars in Canada in each major segment.

Safest Small Cars in Canada

Small cars are known for their tiny footprints, great fuel economy, and surprisingly roomy interiors. What's often forgotten is these cars can also be highly safe, despite their small statures.

Source: Car and Driver

2023 Honda Civic

The 2023 Honda Civic hatchback and sedan each achieved Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS, thanks to their Good ratings in all the original crash tests, Superior front-crash prevention rating in daytime vehicle-to-pedestrian testing, good nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian collision avoidance, and "Good"-rated standard LED headlights. 

Because all the equipment qualifying the 2023 Honda Civic for Top Safety Pick status is standard, you can pick up any trim level — other than the Type R — and know it's one of the safest cars in Canada.

Source: MotorTrend

2023 Mazda Mazda3

Mazda has steadily been climbing the car safety ranks in Canada, and the 2023 Mazda3 made our small car list. It earned a Top Safety Pick designation with Good ratings in all crash tests and Superior ratings for its standard automatic emergency braking system in the vehicle-to-pedestrian day and night crash-prevention and -mitigation tests. 

The Mazda3 squeaked by in the headlight testing with Acceptable standard LED projector headlights. Buyers can upgrade to the Good-rated curve-adaptive LED projectors in the Premium, 2.5 Turbo, and 2.5 Turbo Premium trims.

Source: Edmunds

2023 Toyota Corolla

Toyota has been a force in automotive safety lately, and even its compact Corolla is a master in keeping its occupants free from harm. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Sedan and Hatchback are IIHS Top Safety Picks thanks to “Good” crash test scores in everything other than the updated side and moderate-overlap tests.

It continues its dominance with “Good” rated standard LED projector headlights and superior-rated vehicle-to-pedestrian collision avoidance day or night. The Corolla only missed the Top Safety Pick+ honour due to its “Acceptable” ratings in the updated crash tests.

Source: CNET

2023 Acura Integra

The lone Top Safety Pick+ award winner in the small car segment is the all-new 2023 Acura Integra. It earned this honour thanks to “Good” crash test scores across the board, “Superior” vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention day and night, and “Acceptable” standard LED projector headlights.

Safest Midsize Cars in Canada

Midsize cars offer even more safety with their larger bodies and higher prices, which allow more room to add safety features. Here are some of Canada's safest midsize cars.

Source: MotorTrend

2023 Honda Accord

The 2023 Honda Accord kicks off the list of safest midsize cars in Canada with its Top Safety Pick+ ratings from the IIHS. This is all thanks to Good crash test scores across the board, a Superior rating in the daytime vehicle-to-pedestrian collision avoidance tests, an Advanced rating in the nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian collision avoidance, and Good standard LED reflector headlights with automatic high-beams.

Source: The Car Connection

2023 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai finally cracks our list with its Sonata sedan. This sporty four-door boasts a TopSafety Pick rating thanks to its Good crash tests, except in the updated side test, and Superior and Advanced vehicle-to-pedestrian crash-avoidance ratings in the day and night, respectively.

The Hyundai Sonata also earned a Good rating for its optional LED projector headlights in the Limited trims and all other trims built after December 2022. All other models built before January 2023 had Marginal-rated LED reflector headlights.

Source: Car and Driver

2023 Subaru Legacy

The 2023 Subaru Legacy is another one of Canada's safest midsize vehicles. It receives its TopSafety Pick rating thanks to Good ratings in all the original crash tests, Superior-rated vehicle-to-pedestrian tests day and night, and Good-rated standard curve-adaptive LED projector headlights with automatic high beams

Because all its qualifying features are standard, buyers can pick up any 2023 Subaru Legacy and have one of the safest cars on the road.

Source: Edmunds

2023 Subaru Outback

Some may consider the 2023 Subaru Outback a crossover SUV, but the IIHS classifies it as a midsize car. And according to the IIHS, the Subaru Outback is one of the safest cars in Canada, bestowing upon it the Top Safety Pick+ designation. 

The 2023 Outback received Good ratings in all crash tests, Good-rated standard LED headlights, and Superior ratings in both automatic emergency braking tests. There is nothing the Outback struggles with in terms of safety, even in its base model.

Source: AutoGuide.com

2023 Toyota Camry

The 2023 Toyota Camry will round out our list of safest midsize cars. It boasts a Top SafetyPick+ thanks to Good ratings in all IIHS crash tests and Superior ratings in both tests of its standard automatic emergency braking (day and night). 

The 2023 Camry falters slightly in the headlight tests, as its non-curve-adaptive LED projectors on the XSE trims received only an Acceptable rating. It makes up for this with the Good-rated curve-adaptive LED headlights. 

Remember, these Good-rated headlights are only available as part of the Adaptive Headlights package on the Camry Hybrid XLE.

The Safest Midsize Luxury Cars in Canada

With their higher profit margins, luxury cars tend to set the bar for safety. Here are some of the safest midsize luxury cars. 

Source: Car and Driver

2023 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the lone Top Safety Pick+ winner in the midsize luxury class. It earned this designation thanks to Good ratings in all crash tests, Good-rated standard LED projector headlights, and Superior-rated optional Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function for day and night vehicle-to-pedestrian crash avoidance.

The Standard Active Brake Assist function delivered only Advance day ratings and Basic nighttime ratings.

So, while the C-Class is technically the safest luxury midsize sedan in Canada, you’ll need to look carefully at its options.

Source: Edmunds

2023 Lexus ES 350

Lexus also gets in on the safety fun with its Top Safety Pick 2023 ES 350. This luxurious sedan earns its distinction with Good ratings in all crash tests — Acceptable in the updated side-impact test — and Good-rated standard LED projector with high-beam assist. Also helping are the day and night vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention systems, which scored Advanced and Superior ratings, respectively.

Safest Large Cars in Canada

No non-luxury large cars earned a Top Safety Pick in 2023. So, we’ll move directly into the large luxury car segment.

Safest Large Luxury Cars

Large and luxurious, these are some of the safest and most comfortable cars on the market. Only one large luxury car earned Top SafetyPick honours in 2023.

Source: MotorTrend

2023 Genesis G90

Genesis was the only automaker to score an award in this segment with its 2023 Genesis G90. This is the safest of the large luxury models, scoring Good ratings in all crash and vehicle-to-pedestrian tests. It also scored an Acceptable rating for its standard LED projector headlights with high-beam assist.

Get Your Next Safe Car at Clutch

At Clutch, Canada's first and largest online automotive retailer, we have a wide selection of some of the safest cars on Canadian roadways, including some of the models listed above. 

Beyond being safe in crashes, we also put all our pre-owned vehicles through a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process to ensure they're ready for the road. Plus, we include a 90-day or 6,000-km warranty if something goes awry. 

On top of this, you get a 10-day, 750-km test-own period. This allows you to test your new Clutch vehicle for 10 days to ensure it's right for you. If you don't love it in the first 10 days, you can return it for a full refund or exchange it for another Clutch vehicle. 

Head to Clutch now and find a safe vehicle that suits your needs from our expansive inventory. We'll handle the paperwork and deliver it to you. We'll even take your trade-in vehicle if you have one.