When buying a new or pre-owned car, there are many factors to consider. 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, 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 it. 

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. 

For this, 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. 

The IIHS purchases all of its test vehicles itself and puts them through six crash tests: moderate overlap front, driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats. 

The IIHS also tests a vehicle's ability to avoid or at least mitigate the damage done in a 12- and 25-mph (19- and 40-km/h) front-end collision via its automatic emergency braking system. It also performs a vehicle-to-pedestrian test to determine how well a vehicle's pedestrian-detection system works at crash avoidance and damage mitigation. 

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 has pushed today's cars to new levels of safety. 

In 2021, the basic criteria to be a Top Safety Pick+ model, the highest ranking from the IIHS, are:

  • Good ratings in all crash tests
  • Advanced or Superior rating for available front-crash prevention in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian tests
  • Acceptable or Good ratings on standard headlights

To receive the second-highest honour, Top Safety Pick, must meet almost the same requirements, but the "Acceptable" or "Good" headlights can be optional instead of standard. 

The Safest Cars in Canada

Using the IIHS 2021 crash test data and other safety scores, let's explore the safest cars in Canada in each of the major categories. 

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. 

2022 Honda Civic

The 2022 Honda Civic hatchback and sedan each achieved Top Safety Pick+ status from the IIHS, thanks to their Good ratings in all crash tests, Superior front-crash prevention rating in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian testing for their standard automatic emergency braking systems, and "Good"-rated standard LED headlights. 

Because all the equipment qualifying the 2022 Honda Civic for Top Safety Pick+ status is standard, you can pick up any trim level and know it's one of the safest cars in Canada. 

2021-2022 Honda Insight

The 2021-2022 Honda Insight also makes the list as a 2021 Top Safety Pick+ model. It earned this distinction with Good ratings in all crash tests and a Superior rating in vehicle-to-vehicle front-crash prevention and vehicle-to-pedestrian testing for their standard automatic emergency braking systems. 

The Honda Insight's standard LED headlights secured the Top Safety Pick+ distinction with a Good rating. Like the Civic, the Insight earned Top Safety Pick+ honours with all standard equipment, so you can pick up any trim level Insight and know you're safe. 

2021 Mazda 3

Mazda has steadily been climbing the safety ranks in Canada, and the 2021 Mazda 3 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 vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian tests. 

The Mazda 3 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. 

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid rounds out our small car list with a Top Safety Pick+ designation. This is thanks to its Good crash test ratings across the board, Superior-rated standard automatic emergency braking in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash avoidance, and standard Good-rated curve-adaptive LED headlights. 

Keep in mind, these ratings only apply to the hybrid model. The base 2021 Crosstrek is only a Top Safety Pick because its standard halogen headlights received a "Poor" rating

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. 

2021 Honda Accord

The 2021 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, Superior ratings in both front-collision avoidance tests, and Acceptable standard headlights, which feature LED low beams and halogen high beams. 

Buyers can upgrade to the Good-rated full-LED headlights on 2021 Accord Sport and higher trims. 

2021-2022 Kia K5

Kia finally cracks our list with its K5 sedan. This sporty four-door boasts a TopSafety Pick+ rating thanks to its "Good" crash tests and qualifying front-crash avoidance tests. The latter is a touch complex because the K5 has two automatic emergency braking systems. 

The standard automatic emergency braking system boasts pedestrian detection, and it received a Superior rating in the vehicle-to-vehicle test but only an Advanced rating in the vehicle-to-pedestrian test. 

The optional automatic emergency braking system features cyclist detection and will even stop you if you turn left into oncoming traffic. This system received a Superior rating in both tests. 

Both systems qualify for Top SafetyPick+ status, but those who want the safest options may prefer the optional system. 

The headlight tests are equally confusing, as the 2021-2022 K5 has four headlight options ranging from Poor to Good ratings. There is a clear distinction, though, as Kia upgraded the headlights on all K5 models built after November 2020. In these models, the standard LED reflectors received Acceptable ratings, and the optional LED projector lights received Good ratings. 

So, when shopping for a 2021 Kia K5, make sure you choose one built after November 2020. 

2021-2022 Subaru Legacy

The 2021-2022 Subaru Legacy is another one of Canada's safest midsize vehicles. It receives its TopSafety Pick+ ratings thanks to Good ratings in all the crash tests, Good-rate standard automatic emergency braking in both tests, and Good-rates standard curve-adaptive LED projector headlights.

Because all its qualifying features are standard, buyers can pick up any 2021-2022 Subaru Legacy and have one of the safest cars on the road. 

2021-2022 Subaru Outback

Some may consider the 2021-2022 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 2021-2022 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. 

2021-2022 Toyota Camry

The 2021-2022 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. 

The 2021-2022 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. 

Keep in mind, 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. 

2021 Tesla Model 3

Despite some isolated incidents involving its AutoPilot system, Tesla and its Model 3 makes its way onto our list. The 2021 Tesla Model 3 earns the Top Safety Pick+ designation thanks to its Good scores in all crash tests and Superior ratings in both automatic emergency braking tests. 

Rounding out its dominance of IIHS testing, the 2021 Tesla Model 3's standard LED projector headlights earned a Good rating. 

2021 Volvo S60

Volvo has been a leader in automotive safety for decades, so it's no shock to see the 2021 Volvo S60 land here. This Top Safety Pick+ model received Good ratings in all crash tests. It also received a Good rating for its standard curve-adaptive LED reflector headlights. It also received Superior ratings in both automatic emergency braking tests to seal the deal. 

These ratings also apply to the thriftier 2021 S60 Recharge and its wagon siblings, the V60, V60 Cross Country, and V60 Recharge.

2021 Acura TLX

Acura, Honda's luxury arm, finally makes our list with its TLX sedan. The 2021 Acura TLX is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ thanks to its Good crash tests, Good-rate standard LED projector headlights, and Superior ratings in both tests of its standard automatic emergency braking system. 

There is little you can find wrong with the 2021 TLX in terms of safety.

2021 Lexus ES 350

Lexus also gets in on the safety fun with its Top Safety Pick 2021 ES 350. This luxurious sedan earns its distinction with Good ratings in all crash tests and Acceptable-rated standard LED headlights or Good-rated optional curve-adaptive LED headlights.

In front-crash prevention, the ES 350 received Superior ratings in the vehicle-to-vehicle test but received only an Advanced rating in the vehicle-to-pedestrian test. 

Safest Large Cars in Canada

Large cars are dwindling in popularity, but a few of them earned high marks from the IIHS. 

2021-2022 Kia Stinger

The 2021-2022 Kia Stinger received high honours from the IIHS, but they differed between the years. The 2021 Kia Stinger received only Top Safety Pick honours. It crushed the rankings with Good crash tests, superior vehicle-to-vehicle front-crash avoidance, and advanced vehicle-to-pedestrian crash avoidance test.

Where the 2021 Stinger failed were its Poor-rated standard halogen headlights. 

The 2022 Kia Stinger is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ thanks to it matching all the 2021 Stinger's ratings and replacing the halogen headlights with Good-rated non-adaptive LED headlights. 

2021 Volkswagen Arteon

The 2021 VW Arteon is a wonderful sub-luxury sedan with Good crash-test scores all around, a Superior rating in the vehicle-to-vehicle crash avoidance test, and an Advanced rating in vehicle-to-pedestrian crash avoidance. 

It was well on its way to a Top Safety Pick+ rating, but the 2021 Arteon was derailed by its Poor-rated base LED projector headlights. Its optional curve-adaptive LEDs saved it, allowing it to earn a Top Safety Pick rating. 

Safest Large Luxury Cars

Large and luxurious, these are some of the safest and most comfortable cars on the market. Here are some of the safest of the bunch. 

2021 Audi A6

The Audi A6 is not only large and luxurious, but it's also quite safe. In IIHS testing, it pulled in all Good scores in the crash tests and Superior ratings in both tests of its automatic emergency braking system. 

Headlight tests were less favorable but good enough to score it an IIHS Top Safety Pick designation. Its standard LED projector headlights received an Acceptable rating, but the LED headlights on the Premium Plus and Prestige trims received Good ratings. 

2021-2022 Genesis G70

Genesis, Hyundai Motor Company's luxury arm, gets on this list several times, and the first of the group is the 2021-2022 G70. There is a key difference between the two model years, though. 

Both model years received Good ratings in all the IIHS' crash tests, superior ratings in the vehicle-to-vehicle front-crash prevention, and advanced ratings in the vehicle-to-pedestrian front-crash prevention. 

The headlights are where they differ. The 2021 G70's headlights received Good ratings across the board. In 2022, though, the standard LED projectors on models built before July 2021 had excessive glare, pulling them down to a Marginal rating. The revised LED projectors installed after June 2021 fixed this issue, restoring the Good rating. 

2021-2022 Genesis G80

Genesis is back again with the 2021-2022 G80, another IIHS Top Safety Pick. The Genesis G80 did great in most IIHS testing, scoring a Good rating in all crash tests and Superior ratings in both automatic emergency braking tests. 

It came up a little short in headlight testing, where it scored only an Acceptable rating from its standard LED projector headlights. Fortunately, this is all the IIHS requires to receive the Top Safety Pick+ designation. 

2021 Genesis G90

And the third straight Genesis model on our list, the 2021 Genesis G90. This is the safest of the Genesis models, scoring Good ratings in all crash and headlight tests. It also scored a Superior in vehicle-to-vehicle front-crash prevention while earning an Advanced rating in the vehicle-to-pedestrian front-crash prevention test. 

Get Your Next Safe Car at Clutch

At Clutch, Canada's first online automobile 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 in case something does go 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.