Many Americans are downsizing when it comes to cars. Persistently high gas prices will do that. With fuel prices making SUVs like Hummers, Tahoes, Expeditions and Sequoias maddeningly expensive to own, car buyers have turned to smaller vehicles that can achieve much better fuel economy.

Safety has always been a major concern for people buying big. And it's true that the safest cars on the market are generally large utility vehicles and trucks. But small cars have come a long way, and are now safer than they've ever been. New technology and engineering has made it so some small sedans are some of the best places to be in the event of a crash.

If you're wondering how to choose a smaller vehicle without sacrificing safety -- and without going totally bite-sized -- read through our list of the safest cars for downsizing, as determined by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test ratings. These are our 10 best suggestions for getting better fuel economy than large sports utility vehicles, but still having the comfort of high safety ratings.

Before you begin, it's important to note that a new crash test has changed the game when it comes to the safety of small cars. Several of the most popular small sedans and hatchbacks, like the Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Cruze, are no longer rated as high because of their poor performance on the small front overlap test conducted by the IIHS. You can read more about the test here.
Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: Good
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $17,895 - $23,195
Invoice Price: $17,104 - $21,978
Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway

One of the only vehicles that received a "Good" score on the front small overlap crash test, the Subaru Impreza is a car that should be on your short list if safety is a top priority. Not only does it perform well in accidents, its all-wheel drive system allows it to tackle winter weather, and it gets 34 mpg on the freeway. If you're often finding yourself stuck in the snow, but don't want to break the bank with monthly payments and your gas bill, this is the vehicle for you.

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Honda Civic

Honda Civic

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: Good
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $18,190 - $22,740
Invoice Price: $16,915 - $21,128
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway

The Honda Civic achieved a "good" mark on all of the IIHS crash tests, solidifying it as one of the safest small cars around. This small sedan has been a perennial favorite for car shoppers nationwide, beloved for its reliability, value and fuel economy. Though it isn't the most fun vehicle to drive (power and handling leave something to be desired), commuters looking for something to get them from A to B every day with minimal problems should give this a look.

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Mazda3

Mazda3

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: Good
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $16,945 - $26,495
Invoice Price: $16,464 - $25,335
Fuel Economy: 29 mpg city, 41 mpg highway

The list of the stuff the Mazda3 does well is seemingly unending. It's the most attractive and best to drive car in its segment. It's also one of the most fuel efficient, achieving 41 mpg on the highway, and one of the safest, earning a "good" rating on all of the IIHS crash tests, including the front small overlap. Mazda makes great cars, but tends to fly under the radar for the average car shopper. Do yourself a favor and test drive this car.

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Chevrolet Spark

Chevrolet Spark

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: Acceptable
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $12,170 - $16,385
Invoice Price: $11,805 - $15,730
Fuel Economy: 31 mpg city, 39 mpg highway

The Chevrolet Spark might not be the most attractive car on the road and its interior leaves a little to be desired, but there's no denying that this is a solid option if you're downsizing, especially if you live in an urban area, This little hatchback can zip in and out of traffic and park almost anywhere. It's also the highest rated vehicle in the IIHS minicar segment.

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Scion tC

Scion tC

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: Acceptable
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $19,210 - $21,440
Invoice Price: $18,249 - $20,368
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway

The recently redesigned Scion tC offers a distinctive, and somewhat polarizing, new design and sporty driving demeanor. This is a good option if you're downsizing from a bulky SUV and want something more aggressive in both look and feel without sacrificing a good safety rating. With the exception of the front overlap crash rating, the tC received "good" marks in all of the IIHS tests.

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Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai Elantra

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: Acceptable
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $16,695 - $21,115
Invoice Price: $16,208 - $20,218
Fuel Economy: 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway

The Hyundai Elantra is one of the best small sedans on the market right now. It looks sharp, gets great fuel economy and comes with a wealth of standard and optional features on the inside. It's also quite safe. The Elantra earned a "good" rating in all of the IIHS tests except for the small overlap, on which it earned an "acceptable" mark. Drivers looking to downsize would be well-served to take this car for a test drive. The 2014 model, which has a refreshed exterior design, will be on dealer lots soon.

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Ford Focus

Ford Focus

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: Acceptable
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $16,810 - $24,065
Invoice Price: $15,843 - $22,441
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city, 36 mpg highway

The Ford Focus, which can be had in either hatchback or sedan form, is a handsome, little car popular for its fuel economy, affordable starting price and nice interior features. The Focus also offers lots of trunk space for a small car. It's one of the safest options in the small-car segment, earning "good" marks on every test except the front small overlap.

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Dodge Dart

Dodge Dart

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: Acceptable
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $15,995 - $22,995
Invoice Price: $15,974 - $22,364
Fuel Economy: 25 mpg City, 36 mpg Highway

The Dart hasn't been a big seller for Dodge. Critics don't love  its interior or driving dynamics, but it's still an option if safety is a top priority. This small sedan is also great on fuel and has an attractive, aggressive exterior design. For those reasons, it's certainly worth your time to take one for a test drive.

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Audi A3

Audi A3

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: N/A
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $27,270 - $30,850
Invoice Price: $25,361 - $28,691
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

Just because you're downsizing doesn't mean you have to sacrifice a luxury experience. The Audi A3 is a great option for the car shopper who doesn't need all the space, but still wants that German luxury and driving performance for which Audi has come to be known. The A3 performed quite well on the IIHS crash evaluation, earning a "good" rating on every test.

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Acura ILX

Acura ILX

Front Small Overlap Crash Test: N/A
Front Moderate Overlap Crash Test: Good
Side Crash Test: Good
Roof Strength: Good
Seats And Head Restraint: Good

Sticker Price: $26,900 - $29,200
Invoice Price: $25,378 - $27,507
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway

It's not our favorite luxury car on the market (the driving dynamics aren't as sporty as we'd like), but the Acura ILX has an affordable starting price, great fuel economy and very good safety ratings from IIHS. Like the A3, the ILX gives car shoppers a safe, small luxury option if they're looking to downsize from a larger luxury car or SUV.

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