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Hyundai, Subaru Lead in New IIHS Safety Ratings

New passenger offset tests lowers number of top-ranked vehicles.

by on Dec.07, 2017

IIHS President Adrian Lund explains the testing processes implemented for the "Top Pick Plus" ranking.

With new tougher standards in place for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s coveted “2018 Top Pick Plus” rating, just 15 vehicles earned the distinction compared with 38 for 2017.

The safety advocacy group, which performs a variety of crash tests on vehicles, added two new tests in the past year: one for improved headlights, which was included in the 2017 “Top Pick Plus” ranking, but not in the “Top Pick” results, and the new passenger-side small overlap front crash.

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Overall, Hyundai posted six vehicles and Subaru four in the “Top Pick Plus” category. In addition to the 15 “Top Pick Plus” designees, there were 47 “Top Pick” vehicles. Toyota led the pack with 11 vehicles in the “Top Pick Plus” and “Top Pick” categories combined with Hyundai (9) and Subaru (7) taking the next two spots.

“We’re pleased to have so many vehicles recognized by IIHS, especially with the completely redesigned 2018 Camry receiving its highest safety award,” said Chris Nielsen, executive vice president of product support and chief quality officer of Toyota Motor North America.

(IIHS implements offset impact testing for new vehicles. Click Here for the story.)

Subaru had four vehicles earn the IIHS "Top Pick Plus" safety designation.

“Toyota and Lexus remain committed to providing safe and reliable vehicles and we’re proud to have Toyota Safety Sense and Lexus Safety System+ as standard equipment on almost every new model in our line-up.”

This year, vehicles must receive a good or acceptable rating passenger-side protection in the small overlap front crash test to get the institute’s highest ranking. It was this test that caused the significant drop in the number of vehicles earning the top rating.

“Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are,” says IIHS President Adrian Lund. “Manufacturers have been taking this issue seriously since we first shed light on it, and we’re confident that good small overlap protection will become the norm on the passenger side, just as it has on the driver side.”

However, there is a problem with the rankings overall. In order to meet the top ranking, and in some instances, simply being a “Top Pick,” the vehicle must be upgraded. In short, base models rarely make the grade. For instance, automatic braking is a key requirement for the getting the “Top Pick Plus” rating, and in most vehicles, that comes at a significant price increase.

IIHS is placing more emphasis on the impact of headlights on the safety rating of new vehicles.

(Click Here to see why the federal government was sued over seat belt warnings.)

While automakers are claiming that kind of technology will be standard equipment in the near future, it won’t be in all cases so if you are driving one of the “Top Pick Plus” vehicles, you may be simply driving its lower-priced, and lower rated, sibling instead.

Here are the 15 vehicles that earned the “Top Pick Plus” ranking:

  • Small cars: Kia Forte, Kia Soul, Subaru Impreza and Subaru WRX
  • Midsize cars: Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback and Toyota Camry
  • Large luxury cars: BMW 5 Series, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Lincoln Continental and Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • Midsize SUVs: Hyundai Santa Fe and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • Midsize luxury SUVs: Mercedes-Benz GLC

Also relatively new are the headlight ratings, which were first instituted in March 2016, and the initial results were poor. The track tests, which measure how well low beams and high beams illuminate the road ahead on the one hand, and the amount of glare they produce for drivers of oncoming vehicles on the other.

(Not buckling up in back? You’re putting everyone at risk. For the story, Click Here.)

“Headlights have long been treated as design elements instead of the critical safety equipment that they are,” Lund says. “We’re pleased to see this changing. Every one of the 62 award winners for 2018 is available with headlights that are at least acceptable.”

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