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With gas prices hovering between $3 and $4 per gallon, many consumers are turning to small cars as a means to save money. And the good news is that the choice of a small car does not require forfeiting safety. Six of 13 small cars recently evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earn the group’s Top Safety Pick award, and none earns a poor rating in any of 4 tests. This is a real shift from a few years ago when small cars struggled to earn top safety ratings. The new tests include hybrids and gasoline-only models that are among the most fuel-efficient vehicles available in the U.S. market.

The ratings are based on performance in front, side, rollover, and rear impact evaluations. Cars that earn the top rating of “good” in each test and have available electronic stability control (ESC) qualify for Top Safety Pick. Winners are the 2012 Ford Focus and Honda Civic, along with the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Lexus CT 200h hybrid, Nissan Juke, and Toyota Prius hybrid. The Civic, CT 200h, Elantra, Focus, and Prius have at least one version with a government fuel economy rating of at least 40 miles per gallon on the highway. The Dodge Caliber, Honda CR-Z and Insight hybrids, Nissan Sentra and Versa, Scion xD, and Suzuki SX4 also were rated but didn’t earn Top Safety Pick.

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