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The Safest & Least-Safe Cars of 2006

Every year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates passenger vehicles' ability to hold up in a crash as good, acceptable, marginal or poor. They break cars down into four size categories: large, midsize, small and minivans, and base their ratings on front, side and rear safety tests.

Safest Cars

Generally speaking, smaller cars offer less protection to passengers than large ones. So, a small car with a "gold" rating may still be less safe, overall, than a large car with a marginal rating.

The vehicles that earn good ratings in each test category (front, side and rear) are given gold ratings, while those that earn good front and side ratings and acceptable rear ratings are given a silver rating.

Test results are only comparable among vehicles of similar weight, as larger vehicles are generally more protective than smaller ones.

IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2006


  • GOLD: Ford Five Hundred with optional side airbags

  • GOLD: Mercury Montego with optional side airbags

  • SILVER: Audi A6


Safest Cars

The 2006 Saab 9-3 earned a gold rating from the IIHS for "good" ratings on all three safety tests.

  • GOLD: Saab 9-3

  • GOLD: Subaru Legacy

  • SILVER: Audi A3

  • SILVER: Audi A4

  • SILVER: Chevrolet Malibu with optional side airbags

  • SILVER: Volkswagen Jetta

  • SILVER: Volkswagen Passat


  • GOLD: Honda Civic


  • No vehicles earned a gold or silver rating, most because their seat/head restraints only earned marginal or poor ratings.

Least-Safe Vehicles of 2006

The following vehicles earned "poor" ratings on both the side and rear safety tests that the IIHS conducted.

Safest Cars

The 2006 Kia Optima was one of the worst scoring cars, with "poor" ratings for side and rear impacts and "acceptable" ratings for front impact tests.

Side impact tests measure how well a passenger is protected when a vehicle is hit in the side by an SUV or pickup.

The rear safety tests measure how well a seat/head restraint protects a passenger against neck injury in rear impacts at low to moderate speeds.

  • Hyundai Elantra

  • Kia Optima

  • Mazda6

  • Nissan Sentra

  • Suzuki Forenza

  • Toyota Corolla

  • Mazda MPV without optional side airbags

Note: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also conducts safety tests for frontal and side impacts (not rear). However, their rankings are based on a different scale (one to five stars) and test for different things than the IIHS tests. When the same two cars are compared using both IIHS ratings and NHTSA ratings, the ratings are often contradictory.

Recommended Reading

The Safest and the Most Dangerous Cars and Trucks for 2005

The Top Six Winter Driving Dangers and How to Handle Them Safely


MSN Money: The Least-Safe Cars of 2006

IIHS Crash Test Results

Ten of the Safest Cars on the Road

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