The Best and Worst Cars for Safety

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- When consumers head to the showroom to buy a car, safety is one of their top concerns. The recent Toyota ( TM) recalls have made new-car buyers even more aware of vehicle safety.

Consumer Reports recently released new safety ratings for cars based on in-house tests and research by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The groups examined a car's ability to withstand crashes and rollovers and analyzed their emergency handling and braking systems.

Carmakers have been developing new technology to help drivers avoid collisions and survive the ones that are unavoidable. While Consumer Reports' evaluations clearly show an increase in safety features across the board, some vehicles still ranked in the "acceptable" and "poor" categories.

Here are some of the best and worst car models for safety.

Best: Kia Soul

This car offers just about every electronic safety system there is, including antilock brakes, stability and traction controls, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. The Soul proves itself as a family vehicle by offering a Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system in the backseat. This is designed to keep child seats securely fastened. The Soul is in the small-car category, and tests showed only a 10% to 20% risk in emergency braking and handling, while it received a "good" rating in the IIHS airbag evaluation.

Best: Audi A4

The Audi A4 is one of the safest upscale sedans and boasts six airbags. In addition to the standard driver and passenger-side airbags, the A4 has seat-mounted chest side airbags and a Sideguard head-protection airbags with rollover sensors. Earning a perfect score across the board, the Audi A4 claims to create "a cocoon around the occupants for maximum protection."

Best: Hyundai Genesis

The 2009 Genesis is Hyundai's first rear-wheel-drive luxury car for the U.S. market. It's equipped with electronic stability and antilock brakes with brakeforce distribution technology. The airbags received five out of five stars from the NHTSA tests. The Genesis is Hyundai's first attempt at a luxury vehicle and actually seems to be competing with cars in its class such as the Acura, Lexus and Infiniti. There is finally a genuinely safe Hyundai model offering luxury at an affordable price.

Best: Honda CR-V

The Honda ( HMC) CR-V ranks among the best in occupant protection and crash compatibility in frontal collisions. Honda prides itself in offering a proprietary body design called the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE). ACE helps manage and reduce the forces in a crash and can help disperse the forces transferred to other vehicles in the event of a collision. The car's side-curtain airbags offer rollover sensors and a faster-inflating system. NHTSA tests indicate it has a 10% to 20% chance of rolling over.

Best: BMW X5

This mid-sized SUV offers comfort and safety, and the new model has an optional third-row seat and room for seven, along with more cargo capacity. It has a 17% chance of rollover, resulting in a four-star rollover score from the NHTSA. It has earned four out of five stars for emergency handling and breaking, which is good for its class.

Worst: Chevrolet Colorado

The GM Chevrolet Colorado was labeled as "marginal" to "acceptable" in the airbag category, based on IIHS tests. The NHSTA tests also say the Colorado offers subpar safety features. Until the 2010 model year, this pickup lacked side airbags, but General Motors added side-curtain airbags to the latest model. The Colorado also performed poorly in braking tests and emergency handling. However, the IIHS gives it a "good" rating, the best possible, for front-impact collisions.

Worst: Kia Rio

The 2010 Rio hasn't been tested by the insurance industry yet. However, the 2009 model received low ratings. In front-end crash and roof strength tests, it received the second-best rating of "acceptable." In side- and rear-impact tests, it was rated "poor," the lowest score. However, in rollover tests, the Rio earned a four-star rating, meaning it has only an 11% chance of a rollover in a single-vehicle crash.

Worst: Scion tC

The Toyota Scion tC may have earned five stars for driver protection and four stars for front passenger protection, but those sitting in the back might not have as much luck. The backseat airbags are considered "marginal" by the IIHS. The Scion tC comes with antilock disc brakes, a driver knee airbag, front-side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags and claims to have an "impact-absorbing body." When it comes to emergency handling, the risk of crashing is 20% to 30%.

Worst: Dodge Dakota

The GM Dodge Dakota pickup falls short when it comes to handling. In Consumer Reports tests, the Dakota received a "marginal" rating. The vehicle lacks traction control, a standard feature in most cars. Some extra safety features are optional, such as supplemental side airbags that cover the two rows, side-curtain airbags and antilock brakes.

-- Reported by Theresa McCabe in Boston.