Sacrificing safety for economy is typically never an option. Economy is a luxury; safety is a necessity. However, sometimes economy falls into the category of necessity as well. That’s why you need to know about the safest cars under $20,000. These are the cars that won’t pinch your wallet but won’t sacrifice your safety either. They have many of the features and luxuries that come with the big boys but won’t make you feel like you’ve paid for them come time to write the check. So, if you’re looking for that splendid blend of economical protection, check out the safest cars under $20,000.

1. 2010-2011 Mazda 3          New Model MSRP: $15,345

It costs a bit more than the Ford Fiesta but its safety standards are identical and it offers a more luxurious cabin and options. It utilizes front head restraints and front side and side-curtain airbags to protect the driver, however stability and traction control are only available on trim levels of 3i Touring and above. It is a class leader in terms of interior design, quality and gadgetry. “The 3s Grand Touring adds automatic bi-xenon headlights with auto-leveling and corner swivel illumination, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and an eight-way power driver seat with driver memory functions.” (www.edmunds.com, www.iihc.com, www.consumerreports.org)

2. 2010-2011 Ford Fiesta          New Model MSRP: $13,320

“The Ford Fiesta gives economy car shoppers reason to celebrate with its fun-to-drive personality, nicely trimmed cabin, tight build quality and unexpected features.” Antilock brakes, front and side-curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and stability and traction control top the list of safety features. The 1.6L 4-cylinder engine generates 120 horsepower. It’s not the speediest car on the block, but it will probably give the best fuel efficiency at 30/40 mpg. Handling and ride quality are both on par with more luxurious models as it handles corners with ease and leaves the driver on a bed of air. (www.edmunds.com, www.iihs.com, www.consumerreports.org)

3. 2010-2011 Hyundai Sonata          New Model MSRP: $19,195

Slightly larger than others in this class, the Sonata gives the choice of a 2.4L 4-cylinder or 3.3L V6 engine, either of which give average fuel economy at 22/32 mpg and 19/29 mpg, respectively. It scored a perfect five stars in all government crash tests and earned a rating of Good from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Hyundai has also stepped up in build quality in previous years, offering superb options such as Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats and a 240-watt Infinity sound system with six-disc CD changer. (www.edmunds.com, www.iihs.com, www.consumerreports.org)

4. 2010-2011 Kia Forte          New Model MSRP: $13,695

Some safety for the rear passengers is sacrificed with this one, but that’s typical in crash testing on cars of this size. The bevy of airbags and mechanical safety equipment make the Forte a safe option that won’t break the bank. The 2.0L 4-cylinder engine comes standard, as do antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control, and active front head restraints. “Materials quality is good enough to satisfy expectations in this segment. Unfortunately, the telescoping steering column is only available on the SX, meaning taller drivers might have a hard time getting comfortable in the LX and EX.” Despite its smaller size, trunk space is ample at 14.7 cubic feet. (www.edmunds.com, www.iihs.com, www.consumerreports.org)

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