Monash University's Accident Research Centre (MUARC) has partnered with Australia's peak motoring bodies, including RACV, RACQ and NRMA, to rank Australia's safest used cars.
This year's Used Car Safety Ratings Buyer's Guide lists 184 older cars, ranked by how well occupants are protected in a crash.
The vehicles are also ranked by how much damage and injury is caused to other vehicles, occupants and pedestrians in a collision.
The list covers the most popular used vehicles sold in Australia, manufactured locally or imported from overseas. The ranking is based on analysis of police reports for road crashes in Australia and New Zealand between 1987 and 2009.
The study showed that the level of protection in the different categories of vehicles studied varied widely. The risk of injury or death was 8.2 times higher in the worst rated vehicle, the 1996 Daihatsu Mira, than in the best vehicle, the 2008-2009 FG Falcon.
“The 19 used vehicles that earned the Safe Pick rating ranged in size from smaller hatchbacks to larger SUVs, challenging the myth that only larger cars can be safe,” RACQ's Steve Spalding said.
The release of the Used Car Safety Ratings followed the worldwide launch of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, which aims to reduce the predicted level of road fatalities by 50 percent across the globe by 2020.
The 2011 Used Car Safety Ratings ranks passenger vehicles with one to five stars, from poor safety to "safe pick", and includes vehicles from the small, medium, large and light cars, vans, utes and 4WD segments.
In the light car segment, no option managed a score higher than three stars, and the vast majority were given only a one-star rating.
Five cars in the small segment received the top five-star rating, including the Honda Civic (2006-09), Peugeot 307 (01-09), Volvo S40/V40 (97-04), and two generations of the Volkswagen Golf hatch and Bora/Jetta sedans (99-04, 04-09) topping the range.
“One of the benefits of choosing a smaller but safe vehicle is the ability to save on fuel costs without compromising safety,” Mr Spalding said.
“The Volkswagen Golf is a good example of a Safe Pick that is also economical to run.”
Five-star options in the medium segment included the 5 Series (96-03), the Mazda6, the Accord (99-02, 03-07), the Prelude (97-02), the Saab 900/9-3 (94-02), the Saab 9000 (86-97), and the Subaru Liberty and Outback (03-09).
The full list and brochure can be downloaded from www.mynrma.com.au/motoring/reviews/safety.htm