Hatchbacks offer lots of innovative safety features, and many models have good crash test ratings. When you’re researching hatchbacks, check out their safety ratings, as well as their standard and optional safety features. It won’t be difficult to find a safe hatchback that fits your budget and lifestyle.
Hatchback Crash Test Ratings
Before buying a hatchback, you should always research its crash test ratings. Crash tests are controlled collisions that measure how well a vehicle protects the people inside. They don’t predict exactly how a car will perform in a real collision, but they are some of the strongest indicators of vehicle safety that shoppers have.
The federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provide crash test ratings. In NHTSA tests, vehicles can earn up to five stars for how well they protect occupants in front- and side-impact crashes. Vehicles also earn stars based on their likelihood of rolling over in a single vehicle crash, and they receive an overall rating.
The IIHS also rates vehicles in front- and side-impact crashes, but the organization also tests roof strength and how well the seats and head restraints protect occupants in rear-impact collisions. IIHS scores range from Good to Poor, and cars that earn the top score of Good in every category are named Top Safety Picks.
As you research safety scores, it’s wise to use crash test data from both NHTSA and the IIHS because the organizations may give a hatchback different safety scores. For example, the Honda CR-Z receives three out of five stars in side crash tests from NHTSA, but the IIHS gives the Honda CR-Z the top score of Good in its side-impact tests.
Key Hatchback Safety Features
Anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control are a couple of active safety features to look for when you’re shopping for a hatchback. They’re called active safety features because they step in automatically to help you try to avoid an accident. Anti-lock brakes keep your brakes and wheels from locking in slippery road conditions. Locked wheels can cause a vehicle to skid (lose traction), which can cause the driver to lose control of the car and crash.
The same goes for traction control and electronic stability control. These systems constantly monitor your wheels. If one wheel starts to travel at a different speed than the others, which indicates a loss of traction, the systems step in, selectively applying the brakes to pull your car out of a skid. Electronic stability control is standard on all 2012 and newer models, but if you’re shopping used hatchbacks, you’ll want to make sure the cars you consider have it.
Blind spot monitoring, which is available on the Mazda Mazda3 hatchback, is a safety feature that hatchback shoppers should consider adding. When you’re driving, sensors located on the sides of the car or close to the rear bumper will detect if a vehicle is in your blind spot. The system illuminates a light in your side mirror to let you know a vehicle is in your blind spot. When you put your turn signal on and another vehicle is in your blind spot, the system will sound a warning to let you know not to change lanes.
Rearview cameras are another helpful safety feature to consider as you’re shopping hatchbacks. When you put the hatchback in reverse, a camera will show you what’s behind you, which not only helps when you’re trying to park, but when backing out of the driveway or in crowded parking lots.
Driving a Hatchback Safely
Compared with sedans and coupes, hatchbacks tend to have good visibility, and many have an upright seating position, which gives drivers a commanding view of the road. Hatchbacks tend to have high rooflines and lots of glass, so side and rearward visibility tends to be unobstructed as well.
However, you still need to check the visibility carefully when you test drive a hatchback, as some newer hatchback models have SUV-like styling. On the Kia Soul, for example, it can be tough to see objects that are directly behind you because it has an upright design with a rear window that’s high off the ground. Other hatchbacks, such as the Honda Fit, have rear windows that are lower to the ground, making it easier to see behind you.
Even if a hatchback doesn’t have the upright styling of an SUV, its design can impact visibility. For example, the rear roof pillars in the Scion xB are very wide. Thick pillars make the car stronger, but they also reduce its rear visibility.
Hatchbacks that are 2013 IIHS Top Safety Picks:
- Fiat 500
- Ford Fiesta hatchback
- Honda Fit
- Toyota Yaris hatchback (four-door models)
- Honda CR-Z
- Honda Insight
- Kia Soul
- Lexus CT 200h
- Mazda Mazda3 hatchback
- Chevrolet Sonic hatchback
- Subaru Impreza hatchback
- Scion xD
- Toyota Prius
- Toyota Prius v
- Volkswagen Golf (four-door models)
- Volkswagen GTI (four-door models)
- Volvo C30