Large Cars Are Safer In A Collision. Many Large Cars Have Seats With A Vertical Adjustment Feature. My Bonneville has this feature and it would get a small driver up where they can see and also up so that an airbag would be aimed at the driver properly and that goes for the side-curtain airbags, too. Be sure you have those.
My two kids (23 yr. old son and 16 yr. old daughter) always drive larger cars and I'd never put them in a small one and they know better not to buy one. I see that car accident death tolls in my state are climbing with the sales of more and more small cars. People sacrifice safety to save on gas money.
I just read an article in this morning's paper and it said although they (little high MPG cars) are being made safer all the time, even David Zuby, the Chief Reserch Officer at The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety said that, "Despite advances, small, lightweight cars simply don't protect their occupants as well as bigger, heavier ones . . . The laws of physics are in affect for cars."
Don't trust crash ratings alone. The crash ratings don't tell the whole story. The ratings simulate a crash with a similar size vehicle, but there are many large cars, SUVs and trucks out on the roads. I'd go with a larger car, something in a Ford Fusion size or larger. In a collison, large vehicles almost always win. Put the odds on your daughter's side.
I've had several "accidents" over the years, none my fault (I was legally stopped and another was a driver running a red light at a blind intersection) and have had cars totalled. Because we drive larger cars there were no injuries to people in our cars, but there were in smaller cars that caused the accident.
Get a larger car. Get front and side-curtain airbags. You may want ABS brakes. You can thank me later,