Lots of auto safety information is easily available, though many people never
see it. Both crash test scores and safety features are important. While there
are an increasing number of safe, fun-to-drive vehicles, many vehicles are
much less safe than seemingly similar alternatives. Several important new
safety features are currently trickling down from luxury vehicles to more
mainstream models (just as anti-lock brakes and front airbags have already).
The most important are stability control and side airbags (for both the torso
and head). These features save lives. For justifications of the importance of
these safety features, see the older links at the bottom of this page and the
many excellent publications of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
These web pages focus on safe, fun-to-drive vehicles. The most up-to-date
information concentrates on (entry-level luxury) sport sedans:
I believe this is the most thorough quantitative comparison of the safety and
performance of vehicles in this class available anywhere.
The older information linked below has been, as far as I can tell, the most
authoritative soucre of information anywhere about the safest
manual-transmission vehicles available in the US, but it also provides good
info for people looking for automatic transmissions. (Google and several other search engines back up
the credibility of these web pages somewhat. One of these pages has for a long
time been the top result for the query: safest automobile.) Though these pages
are older, they still contain useful info. They just are not as comprehensive
as they once were.
Discussion primarily of the BMW X5.
This page also has extensive discussions of numerous safety issues, a
detailed analysis of the pros and cons of increased height and weight, and
statistics on the relative safety of SUVs vs. cars. (Dec 2000 with updates)