Although it may be tempting to go for the cutest, the sleekest, or the chicest car you see when you go car shopping, deep down even the biggest car buffs know that safety is the number one most important thing when it comes to purchasing a car. Luckily, we have procedures and tests in place to make sure all the new cars on the market are up to par when it comes to passenger safety.
So what are some current cars that look good but you should pass on because they are unsafe? Sadly, there are plenty of examples. And while some car brands are known for having problems and others are not, there are several different makes and models that are on this list; it is not just one or two of the worst.
Basically, there are an assortment of modern day compact cars, green cars, sedans, SUVs, and minivans that have been rated very poorly by institutions such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Consumer Reports. Some will surprise you, some will not. But when you get right down to it, all of these vehicles could be devastating in the event of an accident; even the most minute fender bender could have you heading for the hospital. So beware, and read on to know which 15 cars to avoid so you don’t get dead.
15. Audi A4 – What About German Safety?
This German sporty sedan went cheap, and skimped on its safety. It was rated poorly in the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety small overlap front test. While it has performed badly in that department for awhile now, the 2017 model finally got a good score, so if you are looking to buy this kind of car and want to keep safety in mind, just make sure you buy the new model, and not one from 2016 or before. In Euro NCAP (the European New Car Assessment Programme) safety and crash tests, one version of the Audi A4 received only three stars for front and side impact protection. The Audi has long been in competition with the BMW and Mercedes-Benz for the title of best sports sedan, but with its safety issues, I don’t see the Audi winning, at least not with its older models.
14. Cadillac Escalade – Lowest-Rated Luxury SUV
It may be a beauty, and an impressive luxury SUV, but it also happens to be the lowest-rated luxury SUV around. Then again, perhaps that image is an outdated one, as nowadays many automotive experts would hesitate to call it luxurious, at all. The Cadillac Escalade has received complaints that its handling is too stiff and that it lacks the basics it needs to compete with other luxury SUV’s. The Consumer Report states that: “The Escalade simply floundered in our tests.” Sigh. The interior is not spacious despite the SUV’s large size, the seats are not that comfortable, and it has the worst safety rating in its class. Finally, its infotainment system has been labeled the worst in the industry. Not to mention it is one of thieves’ favorite vehicles to target, at more than six times as likely to be targeted than the average car, and having more than 10 times the overall loss amount as other cars. That’s what you get for buying an unsafe, $85,000 vehicle, I guess.
13. Jeep Wrangler – Low Rollover Assistance
According to thecarconnection.com, “The 2016 Jeep Wrangler has some truly poor crash-test ratings.” But this one is kind of common knowledge. It has a tall and top-heavy design, and was made with the priority of off-roading, not security. Visibility is challenging with the top up, and it lacks a rearview camera system, which these days is pretty normal to have in a modern car. The Wrangler scores “poor” for side impact, and has a low rating for rollover resistance (three stars out of five). Bottom line is that the words “marginal” and “poor” are all over the place in the Jeep Wrangler safety rating reports, and personally, I would not even want to be in a fender bender with any rating less than “good”. However, with new features like side airbags, the Jeep Wrangler is safer than it was in previous years, and I am sure with technology improving the way it does, it will only become even more safe in the years to come.
12. Land Rover Discovery Sport – “Pricey Underachieving Crossover”
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is the lowest-rated compact sports utility vehicle. Even when compared with the smaller SUV’s on the market, this SUV does not impress. Its four-cylinder engine is not so powerful, and there are issues with the acceleration being either too little or too much. The transmission is unresponsive, the ride is stiff-legged, and the handling is not sporty in the slightest. The cabin is plain, especially when you consider the fact that it is the cabin of a boutique luxury brand. Consumer Reports calls it a “pricey, underachieving crossover”, and predicts its reliability will be “well below average.” The miles per gallon are 21, and it had a road test score of 58, for an overall score of (again, according to Consumer Reports) 47. That is much lower than even several of the cars on this list of bad cars.
11. Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 – A German Catastrophe
Everyone knows that Mercedes-Benz is a quality car. But in recent years its reputation has taken a bit of a plunge, and one reason is because of some of its models. Case in point, the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250. Somewhat surprisingly, the engine and transmission have both performed less than powerfully, and are not as sophisticated as one would think it would be for being a Mercedes-Benz brand car. Also, people have called it very “stiff”, and the safety and reliability scores are much less than average. On top of all that, its starting price of $32,000 does not warrant the loud and small interior, and apparently, getting in and out of the thing is difficult. At the end of the day, I would rather pay less money and get all the luxury features of a standard Mercedes-Benz model rather than waste money for this “fancy” one that is not even as safe. What’s the point?
10. Mitsubishi i-MiEV – Lowest Rated Golf Cart
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is one of the lowest-rated “green” cars. Described by some critics as basically a golf cart, this car goes for a base price of $23,000. But there is a reason for that, of course. You get what you pay for, as they say. It has a reputation for being clumsy, slow, and has a tiny interior that has drivers’ elbows rubbing against the windows while they drive. Additionally, the interior is noisy and the battery life only lasts 56 miles before needing to be recharged. But while these things are all annoying, what about safety? Unfortunately, that too, is lacking. The i-MiEV receives sub-optimal ratings across the board, and the side-impact ratings are particularly troubling. Here are the ratings: four stars for frontal impact, four stars for rollover, and three stars for side impacts. To increase the car’s range, it was designed to be very light, which does not help with any of these ratings. It may be great in theory, but not if you run into anything.
9. Jeep Patriot – “as safe as a helmet covered in bubble wrap and inflatable water wings.”
Sorry to break it to ya, Jeep lovers – they are just not the safest vehicles around. While in the past Jeep Patriots have rated pretty well for safety, there are a few aspects of them now that make them kind of iffy. It scores five stars for side impacts, but only three stars for frontal crashes, and three stars for rollover, for a grand total of four stars overall. It is rated “good” by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) in each category, but “poor” for small overlap front impacts. Also, its headlights are rated “poor” by them, and worst of all, it received a rating of “acceptable” for child seat anchors (latch) ease of use. Topspeed.com says that compared to the Wrangler, the Patriot is “as safe as a helmet covered in bubble wrap and inflatable water wings.” Yeah, I would not trust a helmet with bubble wrap and water floaties for my or my family’s safety.
8. Kia Rio – Problematic Left Rear Door
And again I say, you get what you pay for. While you may be (understandably) attracted to the Kia Rio’s low price tag of around $15,000, there is a reason it is so cheap. Side impacts are the biggest concern with this car, according to crash tests run by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). During one of the tests, it was observed that the left rear door intruded into the cabin, jabbing the dummy’s torso and causing a potential “high lower spine acceleration”. That does not sound good. The IIHS scored the 2016 Kia Rio “good” for roof strength, head restraints and seat, and moderate overlap front, but “marginal” for small overlap front. It assessed the rollover risk at 11.6%. It has a non-telescoping steering wheel, and lacks the ride and handling sophistication of its competitors. In the end, it may look pretty, but that is not what is important out on the road.
7. Hyundai Accent – 120 deaths per one million cars registered
At 120 deaths per one million cars registered (for the four-door), and 86 deaths per one million cars registered (for the two-door), the Hyundai Accent is not looking so good. It has never received exemplary crash test ratings in all the years it’s been around, and the latest model is definitely an improvement from past years, but not so much so that you should run right out and buy one. The NHTSA has concerns about its side impacts, and about the intrusion of the left rear door that could lead to a “high lower spine acceleration”, the likes of what we saw with the Kia Rio. The IIHS rated it “acceptable” for side impacts, and “poor” for small overlap side impacts. All other categories were rated “good”, but sorry; “acceptable” is not acceptable when it comes to safety. And of course, neither is “poor”.
6. Mitsubishi Mirage – $13,000 Death Trap
The Japanese Mitsubishi Mirage is the lowest-rated subcompact car. It starts at only $13,000, which is understandably appealing. But as we keep seeing, saving a few bucks may not be worth it in the long run, not when your safety could be in jeopardy. Despite its poor safety and performance ratings, though, people are also lured by its impressive 37 miles to the gallon of gas, but even that should not sway you, because at the end of the day, it is far from safe enough to make that worth it. It has a weak three-cylinder engine that vibrates once you reach a certain speed, slow acceleration, and brakes that have been known to stick. In addition to all that stuff that is both irritating and potentially dangerous, it has a cramped cabin and an awful rating from the IIHS. All in all, better safe than sorry, right?
5. Nissan Quest – Everything But Your Legs Are Safe
As a Nissan driver myself, this one piqued my interest when I saw it on a list of not-so-impressive safety ratings (although I am of the Altima persuasion). Still, I was curious. The Nissan Quest is a minivan, and those soccer moms out there probably are not aware that it has an airbag that was essentially shoved in a dummy’s face during a crash test, because he was held in place by the intruding structure. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “That kept the measured risk for head injury low, but that’s about the extent of what can be expected from the restraint system when the basic structure collapses completely.” In addition, it was stated that if that had been a real person, they would be lucky to ever walk again. In some cases, the forces that crushed the dummy’s leg exceeded the limits of the sensors. Yikes. I don’t know about you, but if I am ever in a collision of any kind, I would like to protect more than just my head. These poor ratings applied to the 2011-2015 Nissan Quest models.
4. Chrysler 200 – Drives Like It’s From A “Previous Era”
The lowest-rated midsize sedan in terms of safety is the Chrysler 200. It is a strange name to give a car, with the “200”, but that is not what is most disturbing. It scored really badly on its safety and overall ratings. According to some reviews, along with the horrible safety reports, the Chrysler 200 drives like it is from a “previous era” (and hearing that, my mind conjures up images of good ol’ Fred Flintstone in his footmobile). It doesn’t handle smoothly, it drives rough, and the four-cylinder engine leaves something to be desired. The transmission has presented problems, too. It has been called “claustrophobic” inside, and its reliability is not great. But worst of all is that it has the lowest overall road test score in its class of midsize sedans, and the absolute lowest reliability rating, as well. Sadly for the Chrysler, it has a lot of stiff competition that has a lot more to offer in the same category.
3. Fiat 500L – Italian Death Trap
This is a sleek-looking compact car, but unfortunately, just looking good won’t cut it. We all know tiny cars like this are unsafe if only because of their size. But this one in particular was the worst-rated in its class by Consumer Reports, and it had the worst reliability in a company survey of more than 740,000 vehicles in 2016. Out of three-quarters of a million cars, that is pretty terrible. The Fiat 500L is an Italian-made compact car that’s flat seats and awkward driving position make operating it hard to do. Furthermore, the Insurance Institute pf Highway Safety gave it a “poor” in the small overlap frontal test, and the satisfaction ratings among people who have owned the Fiat 500L are horrific. In fact, many of them went as far as to say they wish they’d never even purchased this car. Wow- burn!
2. Dodge Journey – Journey Back To The Dealership
Rated the lowest in its class as a family SUV is the Dodge Journey. Dodge is for the most part a reputable brand, but the Journey raises some concerns. Because of its affordability factor (prices starting at a low $20,000), it has an appealing price point and attracts more customers than some of its competitors. Consumer Reports’ findings sum it up best: it has a cramped interior, does not handle well, and the V6 engine has the worst fuel economy in its class. Plus, the Dodge Journey was rated significantly below average for its reliability, and it had a terrible performance score from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety small overlap frontal crash test. In fact, this make and model has consistently rated poorly by the IIHS for several years in a row. Its other scores may have been good, but the small front overlap test is an important one to pass, and they sadly have not. You would think after so many years of failing in that aspect, they would try a little harder on it.
1. Chrysler Town & Country – $30,000 For This Junk Box
Chrysler brand’s second on this list is the Town & Country, which is far from the best minivan out there. In fact, this year at least, it is one of the very worst. Besides the fact that it gets only 17 miles to the gallon (which is the worst of all the minivans), it scored a “poor” in the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety small overlap frontal crash test. There have also been complaints that the second row of seating are thin, low, and uncomfortable. But it is being replaced by the new Pacifica van, which will hopefully have better safety and reliability ratings. Its road test score was just 72, with a reliability score right in the middle, according to Consumer Reports. If I am toting around a van full of kids, or am on a family road trip, I want to be able to rely on my vehicle, so this would be a no-go for me. Plus, all of the above comes at the steep starting price of $30,000, and goes much higher.