Automobiles get safer every year. When the IIHS named its Top Safety Picks for the 2015 model year, 33 vehicles received the top honor. For 2016, the number of Top Safety Pick+ winners surged to 50, and a full-size pickup (Ford F-150) even joined the ranks for the first time in history.
With 49 models named Top Safety Pick+ after the latest tests, there was hardly any slowing down for the 2017 model year. However, SUV shoppers might have a tough time finding an affordable model, especially with the cost of advanced safety equipment added onto the base vehicle price. Plenty of luxury models fit the bill, but most start around $50,000.
Well, you don’t need an Audi or Benz to get utility and protection for your passengers. Here are the 10 SUVs that received Top Safety Pick+ ratings yet start under $30,000 in 2017.
1. Mitsubishi Outlander
Base price: $23,495
The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander nabbed a Top Safety Pick+ designation, though it will take a few upgrades to access all the features. To get there, jump from the base model to the SEL trim ($25,495). From there, you upgrade to a premium touring package that will run a few thousand extra. However, once you have forward collision warning and LED headlights for the full safety suite, it still only costs about $30,000.
2. Toyota RAV4
Base price: $24,350
Toyota offers its “safety sense” package standard in every 2017 RAV4, and that includes lane departure alert, smart cruise control, and a pedestrian detection system. Back-up cameras also come in any new RAV4. To get the model awarded Top Safety Pick+, you upgrade to the SE trim. That model will still hover around $30,000, making RAV4 another excellent call when safety is a priority along with utility.
3. Subaru Forester
Base price: $22,595
The Subaru brand is as synonymous with safety as four-wheel drive, and the 2017 Forester once again landed the top award from the IIHS. With the testing agency’s most recent focus on headlights, Forester buyers should select the 2.5i Premium ($26,870) trim in order to get the full protection powers of this model. From there, you can add on the safety package with special headlights.
4. Honda CR-V
Base price: $24,045
Through the first four months of 2017, Honda CR-V has outsold Toyota Camry and sits in fifth place on U.S. sales charts, so there is no mystery about this car’s popularity. Consumers who want to make their CR-V one of the safest vehicles on the road should opt for the touring trim, which will bump the price just over $30,000. However, that model gets you the LED headlights and the option for collision protection that made it a Top Safety Pick+.
5. Toyota Highlander
Base price: $30,630
A Toyota Highlander might stretch the bounds of our list at $30,630, but the model’s standard safety equipment makes it one of the better buys. For example, whereas better headlights only come as an option in other vehicles, Toyota equips all eight Highlander trims with the halogen lights worthy of its Top Safety Pick+ designation. Likewise, the standard “safety sense” tech has forward collision warning and pedestrian detection.
6. Mazda CX-3
Base price: $19,960
In the subcompact SUV class, consumers who put safety first will want to look at a Mazda CX-3. This model’s grand touring trim ($24,990) features LED headlights with auto leveling, an active driving display to keep your eyes on the road, and blind-spot monitoring. Add on the I-Activesense package ($1,700) and you get the forward collision protection and smart braking systems that won this model the top IIHS safety designation. Even with all these extras, the total price remains around $27,000.
7. Hyundai Santa Fe
Base price: $30,800
Jumping into the midsize SUV class raises the base price to around $30,000, but if you need space for seven and want it to be safe, this model is a great call. Choose the “SE ultimate” trim for access to the best suite of safety tech. With the tech package, you get the curve-adaptive headlights and collision warning protection as well as high-beam assist. Smart cruise control will also come with this upgrade.
8. Subaru Outback
Base price: $25,645
IIHS testers classify Subaru Outback as a midsize car, most people consider it a crossover SUV, but everyone agrees this vehicle takes safety seriously. Choose the 2.5i limited or 3.6R trim for access to the headlights deemed safest (curve-adaptive HID reflector) in a 2017 Outback. Another key is getting the forward collision technology. These upgrades will hike up the price, but avoiding fender benders and more serious crashes saves money as well as lives.
9. Nissan Rogue
Base price: $23,820
Like the CR-V and RAV4, Nissan Rogue is an extremely popular model with U.S. consumers, and with the right suite of options it’s one of the safest. IIHS tests showed the SL trim’s LED projector lights offer drivers the best option for seeing the road after nightfall. An SL model starts at 29,960 with the option of adding the platinum package. This upgrade delivers pedestrian protection as well as emergency braking.
10. Chrysler Pacifica
Base price: $28,995
If SUVs are the new minivans, then Chrysler Pacifica deserves a spot in this class for its top safety marks. Lower trims provide some standard safety tech, but limited trim models take it to another level with blind-spot detection and rear park assist. This upgrade will make it much pricier when you check out, but the safety suite also makes Pacifica one of the top vehicles on the road for protecting passengers. After years of stumbles, Pacifica has been a big win for Chrysler.