You didn't speficfy if it had to be new or not. I would lean more towards a used vehicle for a first car.
A lot of people seem concerned with passive safety - things like airbags and crumple zones, and I think those are very important, but they only help you when you crash. I think the idea here would be to not crash.
I would look for something that is comfortable for my son/daughter to sit in, where they can see everything, and where they can reach everything. I think visibility is especially important. I would have them get all the mirrors adjusted and go stand in various points around the vehicle to see if I am visible to them. Once I knew they fit, I would look at how they maneuver the vehicle.
When they drive the car, how well does it do what they are expecting? Is the handling sloppy or secure? The vehicle should be stable enough that it will respond in an emergency situation, but not quite so stable that it encourages getting into the situation in the first place.
I think it is important to understand what the safety features of a vehicle are and how they work. It is important to understand what they do and don't do. I think all wheel drive is a great feature in bad weather, but it is definitely not a guarantee that the car won't go in a ditch. These features help drivers, but they don't change physics. Stability control is the same way. It can be helpful, but it might just be the difference between hitting something with the front of the car or hitting something with the back of the car.
I think what I am trying to say is the biggest factor in how safe the vehicle is for your child is the driver, your daughter, so I would be more inclined to find something she feels comfortable in and go from there.