When you think of when Hyundai and Kia first started selling cars in this country, your mind no doubt turns to the Excel and Sephia which were both affordably priced and oddly charming in their own ways. But in our SUV dominated landscape these economy were never the ideal vehicles to be driving if you accidentally slammed into the back of that Suburban on the freeway.
Well, it looks like Kia and Hyundai have finally proven that just because you can afford your car payments, enjoy both the peace of mind of a 10-year warranty and the smugness of knowing that your Hyundai/Kia looks cooler than most anything on the road does not mean you should have to settle for anything less than the best in the safety department. How can I prove this?
Well, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests all cars currently for sale with a front end impact, side impact and rear impact test as well as testing for roof strength in a rollover test. The rollover test has become required for models to be Top Safety Picks in model year 2010 but roof strength doesn’t trip up automakers as much as how whiplash resistant your front and rear seat headrests are in a rear end collision. Also, all vehicles that are Top Safety Picks must have Electronic Stability Control at least as an option.
All of these elements are required (along with top scores in each crash test) to become a Top Safety Pick. You may be surprised how many Hyundai and Kia models, big and small, all pass the IIHS Top Safety Pick testing. You see, you could drive a hip Forte instead of a dorky Suburban and still feel safe tailgating those Hippopotamus sized SUVs on the freeway.
2010 Kia Soul
Not only is the 2010 Kia Soul a bargain (prices start under $14,000) but it is also without question the most fashionably designed “boxy-car as personal style statement.” The Soul has a lot of visual tricks, first of which is that it never appears to be riding on tires that are two sizes two small (Cube, xB) and second it just looks fast. Other boxy cars appear designed to reside in the slow lane whereas the Soul looks ready to play like a feisty little puppy.
Okay, now we have established the Soul has hipster credibility. Now you also know if you get into an accident in your 2010 Soul your unique vibe will no doubt survive to push forward the lines of art and fashion.
2010 Kia Forte
The 2010 Forte is not just one of the best looking compact sedans on the market, it is also unquestionably safe as well. That is something you really need to keep in mind when shopping for an affordable commuter or family runabout. With zippy four-cylinder engines and that 10 year warranty, buying a 2010 Forte will never be a decision you regret. The Kia Forte SX with its 2.4 liter 173 horsepower 4-cylinder truly is a gem as it boasts smooth revs up and down the rev range and totally fluid power delivery. The 2010 Kia Forte SX is easily my favorite Kia.
2011 Hyundai Sonata
I will admit something. Although some may have called it “conservative,” I absolutely adored the styling of the 2010 Sonata. Then, when I saw the very revolutionary styling of the 2011 model I just couldn’t wrap my head around the jarring change. But with time and especially in the right color combinations this is a gorgeous family sedan. I really need to spend some wheel time with this one to judge how it stacks up against Accord and Altima. Good to know it is safe, though.
2010 Hyundai Genesis
Easily Hyundai’s classiest car, I think the simple lines and understated grille all conspire to make this so called “copycat” look better than the “original” Lexus and Infiniti designs. Maybe what no one wants to say is that Hyundai aimed at those targets and improved on them. A truly wonderful (and safe) luxury car.
2010 Kia Sedona
One would hope that a minivan would be engineered to the highest safety standard but it is nice to have reassurance from the IIHS.
2010 Hyundai Santa Fe
Although there was a slight restyling this year none of that changes the fact that this perennially safe SUV is one of the wisest buys on the market. Available with a frugal 4-cylinder or wickedly fast all-new 276 horsepower 6-cylinder, either way the 2010 Santa Fe is bound to impress. Prices start at only a bit over $21,000.
2010 Hyundai Veracruz
Big 7-passenger SUVs usually do well in this test and this is no surprise. Hopefully once the new Tucson gets tested Hyundai will have all of its SUV boasting the title of “Top Safety Pick.”
To understand why there are so many sedans and SUVs on this list, two door models rarely if ever score higher than an “average” rating in side impact tests with the IIHS (“good” is the top score). Also, even the aging yet spunky 2010 Elantra did very well in the crash tests but is not recommended as it has not yet been given the rollover roof strength test. A “good” rating in that test would have added yet another affordable, mainstream Hyundai car to the “Top Safety Pick” list.
Also, if you are concerned about the safety rating of the new Kia Sorento do realize that it is only not on this list because it hasn’t been tested yet. But I am sure that, considering it is based on Hyundai/Kia’s solid SUV platforms that it will perform beautifully. So come on Kia! Send the IIHS a few new Sorento SUVs. Or is your safety awards storage closet at your North American HQ already reaching maximum volume? Ah, well, such is the price of great success.