Some Cars Will Never Be Crash-Tested

The Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Discovery, and Porsche Macan are all comfortable SUVs with extra trimmings and technology. Consumers can easily compare their fuel economy, 0-to-60-mph acceleration time, and cargo capacity. But when it comes to safety, consumers are left in the dark as to how they would hold up in certain crash scenarios. That’s because these cars have no publicly available crash-test ratings.

Some Cars Will Never Be Crash-Tested

Nearly a half-million passenger cars and SUVs sold each year have not been crash-test rated by the two main organizations that conduct independent assessments: the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which uses a star rating system, and the insurance industry-backed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which rates vehicles from Poor to Good.

Most of the vehicles without ratings are low-volume models, sports cars, luxury vehicles, or large vans. The expense is too great for NHTSA and the IIHS to test all vehicles, so choices are made based on car sales volume and testing budgets. Some untested models are new or redesigned and merely waiting in line to be evaluated. About 97 percent of all new vehicles sold are crash-test rated by one or both of the independent organizations.

If the vehicle you’re interested in is new and doesn’t have a rating yet, it may be worth waiting until it gets tested, says Jake Fisher, CR’s senior director of auto testing. “This is another good reason not to get the first new model at the dealership,” he says. “In addition to being able to see the results, if you wait, you’ll get a car that’s likely more reliable and probably with more of a discount, too.”

To be certified for sale, every new model sold in the U.S. must be crash-tested internally to ensure minimum federal safety standards are met. But a publicly available rating isn’t required.

Currently, no Jaguar, Land Rover, or Porsche models are rated by NHTSA or the IIHS. Last year, those three automakers represented almost half of all vehicles sold without any public cars crash-test ratings—or more than 185,000 new vehicles on American roads.

Among vehicles without ratings, a few—such as the Cadillac CT6, Kia K900, and BMW 7 Series luxury sedans—have sales numbers below 10,000 cars a year. NHTSA has no crash-test ratings for any recent Maserati or Alfa Romeo vehicle, although the IIHS tested the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Maserati Ghibli sedans, both of which got Good ratings for crashworthiness. Similarly, NHTSA did not test the Fiat 500L hatchback, but the IIHS did—and it got a Poor rating on the driver-side front small-overlap test.

CR does not perform crash tests, but we take NHTSA and IIHS crash-test ratings into account (when available) to calculate our Overall Score for each vehicle we buy and rate. That score also takes into account available safety systems, a vehicle’s CR road-test score, and results of CR’s exclusive Annual Auto Surveys, where owners report on their reliability experiences and their satisfaction with their vehicle. Vehicles without public crash-test ratings can still earn a CR recommendation. The current BMW 7 Series, Honda Clarity, Lexus GX, Mazda Miata MX-5, Nissan 370Z, Porsche 718 Boxster, Porsche Cayenne, Porsche Macan, and Toyota Sequoia earned recommendations, as did the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette.

What If the Cars You Want Has Not Been Crash-Tested?

Some currently unrated cars, including the Cadillac CT4, are likely to be tested in the future. And now that Jaguar is selling more SUVs, the IIHS may consider testing some of them, says IIHS spokesman Russ Rader. But others, including the Nissan 370Z sports car, and Lexus GX and Toyota Sequoia full-sized SUVs, have been on sale for years without ever having received a public rating.

Rader says that car buyers who are interested in a model without publicly available crash-test data should at least look up driver fatality rates and insurance claim losses by make and model, which can be found on the IIHS website.

“These resources show how vehicles are performing for safety in real-world crashes and include some vehicles that are not routinely crash-tested by independent testing organizations,” he says. Rates for most cars are included, but there’s not enough data to determine rates for certain low-selling vehicles.

American consumers shouldn’t rely on ratings from safety agencies in other countries because protocols and safety standards can differ from country to country, and vehicles sold in other markets may have design differences that greatly affect their performance in crash tests even if those variations aren’t visible to the naked eye.

The vehicles in the chart below do not have public cars crash-tested ratings from NHTSA or the IIHS. They’re organized in order of average annual sales volume, listed in the right-hand column.

All Land Rover Vehicles – 94,736

All Porsche Vehicles – 61,658

All Jaguar Vehicles – 31,051

Lexus GX – 25,945

Mercedes-Benz GLS – 22,225

Mercedes-Benz GLA – 22,137

BMW X7 – 21,574

BMW 4 Series – 18,621

Chevrolet Corvette – 17,988

Mercedes-Benz A-Class – 17,641

Mercedes-Benz S-Class – 12,528

Mercedes-Benz CLA – 12,400

Honda Clarity – 11,654

Toyota Sequoia – 10,289

Mazda MX-5 Miata – 7,753


NHTSA says it provides cars crash-test ratings for 85 percent of new vehicle models, and the IIHS has crash-tested over 80 percent of mainstream vehicle models—which represents more than 97 percent of all passenger vehicles sold. Some vehicles that have not been crash-tested have been evaluated for child car seat fit, headlight visibility, rollover risk, or advanced safety features.

A NHTSA spokeswoman told CR that the agency chooses vehicles “predicted to have high sales volume, structural or restraint design changes compared to the previous year, and/or improved safety equipment,” and that some vehicles are not tested because of budgetary restrictions. Similarly, Rader told CR that the IIHS typically does not test high-end vehicles, sports cars, or large SUVs. “We try to stay in the heart of the consumer market,” he said.

David Friedman, CR’s vice president of advocacy and a former NHTSA acting and deputy administrator, says that although the agency might leave some vehicles out, focusing on top-selling cars is a wise move, considering that it pays for the cars it crash-tests, which can cost $10 million each year. For the most part, the IIHS also pays for the cars it tests.

“To fit in low-volume luxury cars would require either testing fewer cars that are more popular or taking money away from other life-saving efforts,” Friedman says.

Cars Crash-Test: All Models Must Meet Federal Standards

Even cars that lack public cars  crash-test ratings from NHTSA or the IIHS must still meet minimum federal safety standards. In order to sell a new vehicle in the U.S., manufacturers must provide information from their own company crash tests to NHTSA to ensure compliance with federal standards. Some automakers, such as Mercedes, also told CR that they perform extra crash tests before introducing a new vehicle. “We often conduct up to 15,000 realistic crash simulations and about 150 vehicle crash tests to make an entirely new vehicle ready for customer operations,” said Ashley Gillam, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz.

A spokeswoman for Jaguar Land Rover did not respond to CR’s questions. A spokesman for Porsche told CR that NHTSA and the IIHS determine which vehicles to test; that the automaker “rigorously designs and tests its vehicles to confirm they comply with” federal standards, and that those results are shared with NHTSA.

NHTSA also sometimes randomly tests vehicles that aren’t part of its regular five-star rating program—including some Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, and Land Rover models—to make sure manufacturers are in compliance with federal standards.

Manufacturers can request a cars crash-test, too—which is why the IIHS tested the Maserati Ghibli sedan, Rader says. The agency has occasionally tested specialty vehicles, such as convertibles and hydrogen fuel-cell cars, to see how they perform in a crash. The IIHS will accept data from crash tests performed by manufacturers in certain cases—such as when the prior version of a model got a Good score—but the IIHS still audits a selection of those reports, Rader says.

Ultimately, crashworthiness is one of the many important considerations buyers must take into account when purchasing a new vehicle; in addition to the available advanced safety features that may help prevent a crash from occurring.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2020, Consumer Reports, Inc.

The 10 Cheapest Cars on Sale in the U.S. Right Now

This bargain new-car shopping list might not be exciting, but it’ll save you a lot of money. We get the question almost nonstop: What are the cheapest cars on sale right now?

Automakers don’t like to offer subcompacts this cheap because there is no virtually no profit margin on them, but there are still dirt-cheap wheels to be had. This list of the cheapest cars on sale includes just the cheapest version of the lowest-priced models by manufacturer’s list price. If a particular model is offered as, say, both a sedan and a hatchback, only the lower-priced body style is listed. Expect a sticker price roughly $1,500-$2,000 higher for the next trim level up, which you are more likely to find at your local dealership. Remember, though: If you can’t find what you’re looking for on your local dealers’ lots, an internet search might locate one in a neighboring state.

đNote: Automakers typically do not issue photos of their base trim levels; the photos shown depict cars that have bigger wheels and more brightwork than the base models described.

1. 2020 Chevrolet Spark LS, $14,395

 
2020 Chevrolet Spark LS
EPA Mileage: 29/38 mpg (city/hwy)

The North American version of the Daewoo Matiz, sold around the globe under myriad brand and model names, is one of the most fun-to-drive mini cars on the market.

As an aside, though it’s not one of the cheapest cars, Chevrolet also offered the Spark electric vehicle from 2013-16 as a stop-gap car before launching the Bolt EV, but more recently and in deference to U.S. market reality, it added the ACTIV faux-crossover after launching the latest Spark for the 2016 model year. The Chevy Spark ACTIV’s “rugged look” consists of a raised suspension, black trim and cladding, front foglamps, and a roof rack, for a more expensive base price of $18,495.  Seriously, it’s not as bad as it sounds, and it’s still $2,745 cheaper than the similarly unconvincing (though taller) Ford EcoSport. With the price $14,395, 2020 Chevrolet Spark LS is now one of the cheapest car on sale in US.

2. 2020 Mitsubishi Mirage ES ($14,990)

2020 Mitsubishi Mirage ES
EPA Mileage: 33/41 mpg (city/hwy)

This is the cheapest cars poster child for the old shibboleth, “You get what you pay for,” though you also get the most fuel-efficient non-electrified gasoline-powered car sold in the U.S.

A few years ago, I rented one for a short weekend in Milwaukee, and can report the EPA fuel mileage estimates are solid. In fact, I exceeded the highway number by an mpg or two after driving about 80 miles around town. Being a rental, it was a CVT-equipped Mitsubishi Mirage, rated 36/43 mpg to the five-speed manual’s 33/41, and that option piles another $1,300 onto the sticker. If you prefer the Mirage G4 sedan, it will cost you another 1 mpg city and highway while adding $1,000 to the sticker. Mitsubishi made automatic climate control standard across all trim levels for the 2020 model year.

3. 2020 Nissan Versa S ($15,655)

10 cheapest car
EPA Mileage: 27/35 mpg (city/hwy)

This affordable subcompact entered the U.S. market as one of the cheapest cars available—and as a gawky, underachieving hatchback for 2006. But with last year’s all-new 2019 model, it has some decent attributes, including a more finished design that looks like it’s from the same family as the Nissan Sentra and Altima.

Now only a sedan for the U.S. market, the Nissan Versa S comes with such standard features as automatic climate control, remote start, blind-spot warning, cross-traffic alert, and Apple Car Play/Android for Auto—but that’s only if you drop $19,215 on the top-trim Versa SR with CVT transmission. The base manual Versa S does come with lane-departure warning, rear auto braking, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. It’s a good commuter car for people who just want to get to and from work, though it’s not one of those slow cars that’s more fun to drive fast than a fast car is to drive slow.

4. 2020 Hyundai Accent SE ($16,270)

10 cheapest car
EPA Mileage:29/39 mpg (city/hwy)

Hyundai is known for loading up its could-be cheapest cars and SUVs with standard features and interior appointments that would do a semi-premium brand proud. Such is the case with the subcompact 2020 Hyundai Accent-if you want to spend $20,375 on the Limited model. Still, that’s rather affordable for a lot of shoppers.

Still, the Hyundai Accent SE is nicely equipped for its price, and as the lowest of three trim levels in the Accent line, it is only available with a manual transmission.

An update for the 2020 model year is the Accent’s new multi-port fuel-injected 1.6-liter four, replacing the old gasoline direct-injection 1.6-liter four. Fuel mileage for six-speed manual equipped cars has increased 1 mpg city and 2 mpg highway, to 29 and 39, respectively.

Standard features include a 5-inch audio touchscreen display, rear-view monitor, six-way manual driver’s seat adjustment, and keyless entry. In terms of value, reliability, and quality, the fourth-cheapest car on sale in the U.S. stands as a top choice.

5. 2020 Toyota Yaris L Sedan ($16,605)

10 cheapest car
EPA Mileage: 30/39 mpg (city/hwy)

Miss the old 2011 Mazda2? We do, too, though it lives on as one of U.S. market’s cheapest cars in the form of the Toyota Yaris. First, Toyota imported it here from Mazda’s Mexican factory as a sedan only. But last year, the Mazda2 was badge-engineered into a Yaris hatchback design as well, which is why we are not counting each on our list of cheapest cars.

The hatchback wouldn’t have made it, anyway; it starts at $18,705, which is $250 more than the No. 10 cheapster, the Kia Soul. The Yaris hatch inexplicably comes only with an automatic transmission, while the sedan is available with a manual.  

6. 2020 Kia Rio LX ($16,815)

10 cheapest car
EPA Mileage: 33/41 mpg (city/hwy)

Like the Hyundai Accent, the updated 2020 Kia Rio replaces the old “Gamma” gasoline direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a new multi-port direct-injection 1.6. But this car comes with an “iVT,” or intelligent-continuously variable transmission instead of its corporate relative’s standard six-speed manual. With the iVT, the Rio LX’s fuel mileage increases by 5-mpg city and 4-mpg highway—33 and 41, respectively—compared to last year’s model, which came with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission. There’s also a new 7-inch touchscreen supporting Apple Car Play and Android Auto standard on the 2020 Kia Rio.

7. 2020 Honda Fit LX ($17,120)

2020 Honda Fit LX
EPA Mileage: 29/36 mpg (city/hwy)

For cheapest cars, forget BMW’s Mini line since 2001; Honda’s Fit is the true successor to Alec Issigonis’ original small-on-the-outside, big-on-the-inside hatchback. Throw in a decent fun-to-drive factor—especially with Honda’s fun-to-use six-speed manual transmission, and its high-revving (6,800 rpm redline!) naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine—and you have one of the cheapest cars actually worthy of ownership aspirations.

8. 2019 Fiat 500 Pop ($17,990)

2019 Fiat 500 Pop
EPA Mileage: 28/33 mpg (city/hwy)

Yes, the Fiat 500 has been discontinued in the U.S. and Canada, meaning there are no 2020 models. No, this isn’t really cheating. Because the point of this list is to point you to the cheapest cars available now in the U.S. If you’ve read this far, you’re looking for lowest price, not latest design.

Fiat stopped building the 500 in North America because the cute little thing wasn’t selling, which means it might be worth considering if you’re trying to avoid the bus or the subway. True, non-Abarth versions of the Fiat 500 have never been compelling cars to drive, and as the only two-door on this list, its rear-seat utility is limited. Additionally, as the only turbocharged car on this list, it takes premium gasoline. So, note that the five-speed manual transmission betters the six-speed automatic on the EPA mileage cycle, by 4-mpg city (28 mpg) and 1-mpg highway (33 mpg).

9. 2020 Hyundai Venue SE, $18,490

2020 Hyundai Venue SE
EPA Mileage: 27/35 mpg (city/hwy)

The all-new Hyundai Venue is a tallish, front-wheel-drive-only “SUV,” or at least that’s what Hyundai calls it. More like tall hatchback, and that’s something Hyundai should embrace. The Venue is also Hyundai’s answer to the upward-creeping price of so many cars and SUVs—and because it’s just about the latest entry-level sub-$20,000 model on the market, it comes standard with an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto 8.0-inch touchscreen and SmartSense with forward-collision warning. That’s all on the SE model, which is the only trim level available with a six-speed manual.

After our first Venue test drive in Miami last January, we called it “a boxful of modern minimalism.” Add a “my other car is an e-bike” license plate frame, and take along look at this entry on the list of cheapest cars for sale in the U.S.

10. 2020 Kia Soul LX, $18,610

2020 Kia Soul LX
EPA Mileage: 25/31 mpg (city/hwy)

Thanks to a cheeky marketing campaign and its funky styling. The Kia Soul has been a rare example of a cheap, easily affordable econobox that has sold very well over the years, often one of the brand’s bestsellers.

The Kia Soul rides on a new platform for 2020, and higher-trim models offer such luxuries as a 10.25-inch touchscreen, and a head-up display. There’s a Soul GT Line and a Soul X-Line, but you want the Soul LX if you want to save money.