Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Automotive News
  4. IIHS Safety Tests

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Tests and Awards

Recent Articles

Sort by:

Design improvements win BMW 5 series top IIHS award

Across-the-board good crashworthiness made the difference

A revamped BMW 5 series offering good protection in a small overlap front crash helped the series capture the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) top award for safety.

The previous generation of the large luxury car failed to hold up well during that test.

Across-the-board good crashworthiness, an optional front crash prevention system with a superior rating, and available good-rated headlights made the difference for the 2017 5 series, qualifying it for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

In order to earn that award, a vehicle must have good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, as well as an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.

Small overlap improvements

In the small overlap test of the 2017 model, the driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of five inches at the footrest. The airbags and safety belt worked well together to control the dummy's movement, and measures taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of any significant injuries in a real-world crash of the same severity.

In contrast, when the earlier model was tested, maximum intrusion reached 12 inches at the footrest, and the steering column was pushed back three inches toward the driver. Measures taken from the dummy indicated that injuries to the left lower leg would be likely in a real-world crash, with possible injuries to the left foot as well.

The 2017 5 series has two different optional front crash prevention systems -- both earning a superior rating. In IIHS track tests, cars equipped with each system avoided collisions at 12 mph and 25 mph.

The 5 series also has two different headlight systems available. Those that come with the optional lighting or premium package earn a good rating, while the standard ones are rated marginal.

A revamped BMW 5 series offering good protection in a small overlap front crash helped the series capture the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIH...

An IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award for redesigned Kia Cadenza

The vehicle scored well in all five crashworthiness tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined that the 2017 Kia Cadenza is worthy of it's highest safety award.

The large-sized car earned good crashworthiness ratings, a superior-rated front crash prevention system, and acceptable headlights.

The redesigned Cadenza was the first to be tested by IIHS for small overlap front protection. The driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of four inches at the parking brake pedal.

The airbags and safety belt worked well together to control the dummy's movement, and measures taken from the dummy showed a low risk of significant injuries.

Other test results

In addition to the good rating in the small overlap front test, the Cadenza scored well in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

The optional front crash prevention system avoided collisions in IIHS track tests at 25 mph and 12 mph. It also has a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The LED lights that come with the Limited and Technology trims earn an acceptable headlight rating, with fair to good visibility in all scenarios. However, the halogen lights that come with the Premium trim earn a poor rating.

To earn the 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests, an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating, and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined that the 2017 Kia Cadenza is worthy of it's highest safety award.The large-sized car e...

Honda CR-V earns IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award

The vehicle's crash avoidance system was rated superior

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has selected the redesigned Honda CR-V as the latest recipient of its 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

The 2017 CR-V, like the previous generation of the small SUV, earned across-the-board good crashworthiness ratings. In addition, it's available with an optional front crash prevention system that earns a superior rating and acceptable-rated headlights.

When equipped with front crash prevention, the vehicle avoided collisions in the Institute's 12 mph and 25 mph track tests. The system also has a forward collision warning system that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The LED headlights that come with the CR-V's Touring trim received an acceptable rating. The halogen lights on the model's other trim levels are rated marginal.

To earn the 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, a vehicle must have good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

It also must have an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has selected the redesigned Honda CR-V as the latest recipient of its 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.The...

Missed it by THAT much

Two all-electric cars fall short of earning an IIHS safety award

A pair of all-electric vehicles -- the 2017 Tesla Model S and the BMW i3 -- just missed meeting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) awards criteria.

"There's no reason the most efficient vehicles can't also be among the safest," said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "We hope Tesla and BMW will continue to refine the designs of their electric models to maximize driver protection and -- especially in the case of Tesla -- improve their headlights."

The Tesla shortfall

The Tesla Model S, a large luxury sedan, earned good ratings in all IIHS crashworthiness evaluations except the small overlap front crash test. In that test, it received an acceptable rating.

Despite lengthening the side curtain airbags to improve small overlap protection in the Model S, Tesla ran into problems in the test when the safety belt let the dummy's torso move too far forward, and the dummy's head hit the steering wheel hard through the airbag.

Measurements from the dummy indicated injuries to the head, along with the lower right leg, would be possible in a real-world crash of the same severity.

The ratings for the Model S apply to 2016 and 2017 cars built after October 2016. Tesla says it made a production change on January 23 to address the head-contact problem. IIHS will test the updated vehicle for small overlap protection as soon as it can be delivered.

i3 problems

The i3, a small car, was rated only acceptable in the head restraint and seat evaluation, which measures a vehicle's ability to protect against neck injuries in a rear crash. While such injuries are rarely fatal, they are the most common type of crash injury and can cause debilitating pain.

The i3 received good ratings in the other crashworthiness tests and is available with an optional front crash prevention system that earns an advanced rating.

The system reduced the impact speed by an average of 9 mph in the 12 mph track test and by 7 mph in the 25 mph test. Its warning component meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The i3's only available headlight system earned an acceptable rating.

"BMW clearly thought a lot about safety when designing the i3," said Zuby. "It's a shame that it missed the mark on head restraints, which is something most of today's vehicles get right. Among small cars, the i3 is the only 2017 model that doesn't earn a good rating."

IIHS plans to test another green car, the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, once it becomes widely available later this year.

A pair of all-electric vehicles -- the 2017 Tesla Model S and the BMW i3 -- just missed meeting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) awards...

Toyota Highlander earns top IIHS award

The vehicle's front crash prevention system earned a superior rating

A superior-rated front crash prevention system and acceptable-rated headlights have earned the 2017 Toyota Highlander the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top award.

Unlike most TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners, which only meet the front crash prevention and headlight criteria when they are equipped with optional features, the Highlander qualifies for the award with standard equipment.

In IIHS track tests of the 2017 system, the midsize SUV avoided a collision in the 12 mph test. In the 25 mph test, it avoided a collision in 4 out of 5 runs and slowed 21 mph the fifth time.

The new standard front crash prevention system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To qualify for 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five IIHS crashworthiness tests -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints -- as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and an acceptable or good headlight rating.

A superior-rated front crash prevention system and acceptable-rated headlights have earned the 2017 Toyota Highlander the Insurance Institute for Highway S...

IIHS: Most child booster seats do a fine job

That doesn't mean there aren't problems, though

Child seat manufacturers have finally gotten the hang of it.

Out of 53 new models evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) 48 earn the top rating of BEST BET. That means they're likely to provide good belt fit for a 4 to 8 year-old in almost any car, minivan, or SUV.

By comparison, when the IIHS first started rating boosters in 2008, only a quarter of those evaluated earned the BEST BET designation.

Problems persist

However, several seats that don’t do their job and are rated Not Recommended can still be found on store shelves. Among them are two brand new models from Dorel Juvenile.

“Parents looking for a safe option for kids who have outgrown seats with built-in harnesses have more choices than ever,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Jessica Jermakian. “Unfortunately, we can’t declare total victory because manufacturers continue to sell subpar boosters.”

Of the 53 new seats, the Cosco Easy Elite and the Cosco Highback 2-in-1 DX -- both made by Dorel -- are rated Not Recommended. Three others, the Britax Parkway SGL in backless mode, the Lil Fan Club Seat 2-in-1 in highback mode, and the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 are rated Check Fit, meaning they may work for some children in some vehicles. The remaining new seats are BEST BETs.

All told, there are 118 BEST BETs among currently available boosters, including old models. Additionally, there are nine GOOD BETs (seats that provide acceptable belt fit in most vehicles), 27 Check Fit, and five Not Recommended.

A range of prices

Top-rated boosters are available in all different price ranges. Of the boosters introduced this year, the most affordable is the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe, available at Walmart for less than $25.

The most expensive is the $330 Graco 4Ever All-in-1 with Safety Surround, a rear-facing infant seat that converts first to a forward-facing child restraint and then to a booster as the child grows.

Complete ratings may be found at www.iihs.org/.

Child seat manufacturers have finally gotten the hang of it.Out of 53 new models evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) 48 ear...

Most pickup trucks in the dark when it comes to headlight ratings

Seven of eight vehicles tested got poor ratings

When it comes to throwing sufficient light on the subject, most pickup trucks don't get the job done.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), all four small late-model pickups and three out of seven large vehicles that were evaluated got poor ratings.

In fact, only one large pickup -- the Honda Ridgeline -- is available with good-rated headlights, though all but the most expensive trim levels come with poor ones.

Pickups are the third vehicle category to be put through the IIHS headlight evaluations. Midsize cars were the first, followed by small SUVs.

"These latest ratings follow the same disappointing pattern as the other groups," says Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer. "As vehicle safety has improved in recent years, this important equipment has been overlooked."

How they are tested

In the IIHS evaluations, engineers measure how far light is projected from a vehicle's low beams and high beams as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers also is measured.

There are 23 possible headlight combinations for the 11 trucks evaluated. Fourteen of them have excessive glare, contributing to their poor ratings. A vehicle cannot earn a rating better than marginal if it produces too much glare in any of the five test scenarios.

How'd we do?

A bright spot in the ratings is the headlight system on the Ridgeline's RTL-E and Black Edition trims. The LED projector low beams provide fair to good visibility on most approaches, with inadequate visibility only on the gradual left curve.

High-beam assist, a feature that automatically switches on high beams if no other vehicles are present, makes up for some of the deficiencies of the low beams.

The GMC Sierra has acceptable-rated headlights available on certain trims. Other versions earn a marginal or poor rating.

The two kinds of headlights available on the Nissan Titan both earn a marginal rating. The Ram 1500 has marginal headlights on certain trim levels, while others have poor ones.

The Ford F-150, the centerpiece of the best-selling F-Series line, is among the poorest performers. Both the base halogen and the optional LED low beams provide inadequate visibility in all test scenarios, including both sides of the straightaway, on sharp curves in both directions and on gradual curves in both directions.

The headlights with the worst visibility are on the Chevrolet Colorado. The halogen reflector low beams on the pickup's base trim illuminate to only 123 feet on the right side of the straightaway. In contrast, the Ridgeline LED low beams illuminate to 358 feet.

IIHS is incorporating headlights into the criteria for its highest award, TOP SAFETY PICK+. To qualify for the 2017 award, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights.

When it comes to throwing sufficient light on the subject, most pickup trucks don't get the job done. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway S...

An IIHS top safety award for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The midsize luxury car aced the battery of tests

And the winner is...

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS) has bestowed its TOP SAFETY PICK+ award on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The award came as the midsize luxury car earned good ratings in all five of the Institute's crashworthiness evaluations -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.

The vehicle also has a standard front crash prevention system that earns an advanced rating. An additional, optional system boosts the car's front crash prevention rating to superior.

The C-Class was redesigned for 2015, but IIHS only recently evaluated it for crashworthiness. The car's structure held up well in the challenging small overlap test with maximum intrusion into the occupant compartment of just 4 inches. The earlier generation of the C-Class had intrusion of 20 inches at the footrest and earned a marginal rating.

The roof strength test also yielded notable results. The C-Class was found to have a strength-to-weight ratio of 7, among the highest ever registered. A ratio of 4 or higher is required for a good rating. Roof strength is important for protection in a rollover crash.

To qualify for 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five IIHS crashworthiness tests and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

And the winner is... The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS) has bestowed its TOP SAFETY PICK+ award on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Th...

IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award goes to the 2017 Kia Sedona

Optional automatic braking technology made the difference

The addition of optional automatic braking technology has qualified the 2017 Kia Sedona for the highest award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Like earlier models, the minivan earned good ratings across the board in IIHS crashworthiness evaluations. The addition of autobrake boosts its front crash prevention rating from basic to superior.

In IIHS track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph, a Sedona equipped with the new front crash prevention system avoided collisions. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

It also must earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

The addition of optional automatic braking technology has qualified the 2017 Kia Sedona for the highest award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safe...

New Buick SUV takes top IIHS safety award

It's the first Chinese-built vehicle that IIHS has tested

A new midsize SUV from Buick has qualified for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

The Envision -- the first Chinese-built vehicle that IIHS has tested as part of its consumer ratings -- earned good ratings across the board for crashworthiness.

Two braking systems offered

The vehicle is available with Front Automatic Braking, an advanced-rated front crash prevention system that's optional for both 2016 and 2017 models.

A different system -- Forward Collision Alert -- earns a basic rating. Forward Collision Alert is standard on all 2016 Envisions not equipped with autobrake but is optional on 2017 models.

In the IIHS 12-mph track test, the Envision with the autobrake system avoided a collision. In the 25-mph test, its impact speed was reduced by 9 mph.

The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

It also must earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

A new midsize SUV from Buick has qualified for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.The Envision -- the first Chine...

Cadillac's new SUV earns top IIHS safety award

The vehicle performed well in all five safety tests

The new 2017 Cadillac XT5 midsize luxury SUV has been awarded the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

In addition to earning good ratings in all five of the Institute's crashworthiness evaluations, the midsize luxury SUV -- when equipped with optional front crash prevention -- received a superior or advanced rating, depending on the package selected.

Varying braking packages offered

When equipped with both Front Automatic Braking and Low-Speed Front Automatic Braking, the XT5 earns a superior rating for front crash prevention.

In the 12 mph IIHS track test, it consistently avoided a collision. In the 25 mph test, it avoided a collision in four out of five runs and slowed but didn't stop completely in the fifth.

When equipped with low-speed autobrake only, the XT5 earns an advanced rating. It avoided a collision in the 12 mph test, while in the 25 mph test, the impact speed was cut by 9 mph.

Both front crash prevention packages also include forward collision warning that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for a 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests. It also must have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

The new 2017 Cadillac XT5 midsize luxury SUV has been awarded the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.In addition to...

Chrysler Pacifica earns top IIHS safety award

It's the first minivan to do so

The Chrysler Pacifica, which replaces the Town & Country, is the first minivan to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

The newly introduced vehicle has good ratings in the IIHS five crashworthiness tests. However, the good rating in the small overlap front test applies only to Pacificas manufactured after August, when changes were made to prevent the driver door from opening during a small overlap crash. Before those improvements were made, the door was torn from its hinges and came open at the front.

Major improvements

Fiat Chrysler strengthened the upper hinge and reinforced the joint between the door hinge pillar and inner body panel in front of the pillar. When the vehicle was tested a second time, the door remained attached and closed -- resulting in a good rating. In contrast, the Town & Country was rated poor for small overlap protection, due to severe intrusion into the driver space.

The Pacifica is available with an optional front crash prevention system, which earns a superior rating. In IIHS track tests at 25 mph and 12 mph, the vehicle avoided collisions. The system also gets credit for a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for a 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

It also must have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

The Chrysler Pacifica, which replaces the Town & Country, is the first minivan to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 2016 TOP SAFETY PI...

IIHS finds improvement in child seat installation hardware

Most models are now rated good or acceptable

What a difference a year makes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says it's now a lot easier to secure your child in a late-model vehicle than it was just 12 months ago.

In the institute's LATCH ease-of-use ratings of child seat installation hardware in vehicles for June 2015, the majority of the 102 vehicles rated were poor or marginal. This year, a total of 170 current models were evaluated, and most were good or acceptable. In fact, three models -- the Audi Q7, the Lexus RX, and the Toyota Prius -- earn the top rating of good+, a distinction that no vehicle achieved last year.

LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is intended to make it easier for caregivers to install child restraints properly. Child restraints installed with LATCH are more likely to be put in correctly than restraints installed using the vehicle safety belt, IIHS research has shown. A properly installed, age-appropriate child restraint can protect a child much better in a crash than a safety belt alone.

"Frustrating child seat installations have become a familiar rite of parenthood," said Jessica Jermakian, an IIHS senior research engineer. "Unfortunately, these frustrations lead to mistakes that can have real consequences in the event of a crash. We're pleased to see automakers taking this issue seriously and making improvements in response to our ratings."

The ratings

In the IIHS ratings system, LATCH hardware is considered good if it meets the following criteria:

  • The lower anchors are no more than ¾ inch deep within the seat bight or slightly deeper if there is open access around them.
  • The lower anchors are easy to maneuver around. This is defined as having a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees.
  • The force required to attach a standardized tool representing a child seat connector to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds.
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle's rear deck or on the top 85 percent of the seatback. They shouldn't be at the very bottom of the seatback, under the seat, on the ceiling, or on the floor.
  • The area where the tether anchor is found doesn't have any other hardware that could be confused for the tether anchor. If other hardware is present, then the tether anchor must have a clear label located within 3 inches of it.

To earn a good rating, two LATCH positions in the second row must meet all five criteria, and a third tether anchor must meet both tether criteria. The good+ rating is for vehicles that meet the criteria for a good rating and provide additional LATCH-equipped seating positions.

The good+ designation is intended to encourage manufacturers to give parents greater flexibility when seating children in a vehicle.

Vehicle ratings

Here's how the vehicles that were tested are rated:

GOOD+
2017 Audi Q7Lexus RXToyota Prius
GOOD
2017 Audi A4BMW 5 seriesMercedes-Benz GL-Class
Audi A6Mercedes-Benz C-ClassMercedes-Benz GLE-Class
BMW 2 seriesMercedes-Benz E-ClassVolkswagen Passat
ACCEPTABLE
Acura ILXFord FlexLexus GX 460
Acura MDXFord Focus hatchbackLincoln MKX
Acura RDXFord Focus sedan Lincoln MKZ
Audi A3Ford TaurusMazda 3 hatchback
Audi Q3GMC TerrainMazda 3 sedan 
BMW X1GMC Yukon XLMazda CX-3
Buick EnclaveHonda Accord sedan Mazda CX-5
Buick EncoreHonda Civic sedanMazda CX-9
2017 Cadillac XT5Honda Civic coupeMini Cooper Countryman
Chevrolet Cruze LimitedHonda OdysseyMitsubishi Outlander
Chevrolet EquinoxHonda PilotMitsubishi Outlander Sport
Chevrolet Impala2017 Hyundai ElantraNissan Juke
Chevrolet Malibu Limited2017 Hyundai Santa FeNissan Maxima
Chevrolet Spark2017 Hyundai Santa Fe SportNissan Murano
Chevrolet TahoeHyundai TucsonNissan Pathfinder
Chevrolet TraverseHyundai VelosterNissan Versa
Chevrolet TraxJeep CherokeeToyota Avalon
Chrysler 300Jeep CompassToyota Camry
Chrysler Town & CountryJeep PatriotToyota Corolla
Dodge ChallengerKia ForteToyota Sienna 
built after 3/16
Dodge DartKia OptimaVolkswagen Golf
Dodge DurangoKia SedonaVolkswagen Tiguan
Dodge Grand Caravan2017 Kia SorentoVolvo S60
Ford EdgeKia SoulVolvo V60
Ford Expedition2017 Kia SportageVolvo XC90
Ford ExplorerLexus ES 350 
built after 8/15
MARGINAL
Acura TLX2017 Ford FusionNissan Quest
Audi Q5Ford MustangNissan Rogue
BMW 3 seriesGMC AcadiaNissan Sentra
BMW X3Honda Accord coupe Ram 1500 crew cab
BMW X5Honda CR-VRam 1500 extended cab
Buick EnvisionHonda HR-VScion FR-S
Buick LaCrosseHyundai Accent sedan Scion iA
Cadillac CTSHyundai GenesisSubaru Crosstrek
Cadillac Escalade ESVHyundai SonataSubaru Forester
Cadillac SRXInfiniti QX60Subaru Impreza
Chevrolet CamaroJeep Grand CherokeeSubaru Legacy
Chevrolet MalibuJeep RenegadeSubaru Outback
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ext. cabJeep Wrangler 2-doorSubaru WRX
Chevrolet SonicJeep Wrangler 4-doorToyota 4Runner
Chevrolet SuburbanKia RioToyota Highlander
2017 Chevrolet VoltLexus CT 200hToyota Prius c
Chrysler 200Lexus ISToyota Prius v 
built after 1/16
2017 Chrysler Pacifica 
built after 8/2016
Lexus NXToyota RAV4
Dodge ChargerLexus RCToyota Tundra crew cab 
built after 4/2016
Dodge JourneyLincoln NavigatorToyota Tundra extended cab 
built after 2/2016
Fiat 500XMazda 6Volkswagen CC
Ford C-Max HybridMini CooperVolkswagen Jetta
2017 Ford EscapeNissan AltimaVolvo XC60
Ford F-150 crew cabNissan Frontier crew cab
Ford F-150 extended cabNissan Leaf
POOR
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cabGMC Sierra 1500 crew cabInfiniti QX50
Ford Fiesta hatchbackHyundai Accent hatchback Subaru BRZ
Ford Fiesta sedanInfiniti Q70

What a difference a year makes.The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says it's now a lot easier to secure your child in a late-model vehicl...

Improved small overlap rating earns Hyundai Elantra IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+

The rating applies only to vehicles built after March

Across-the-board good ratings for crashworthiness -- including in the challenging small overlap test -- have earned the redesigned Hyundai Elantra the top award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

The redesigned 2017 Elantra also has an available front crash prevention system that earned a superior rating.

The small vehicle's good small overlap rating is an improvement over the previous generation, which rated acceptable. The earlier model's structure did not fare well in the test. Maximum intrusion into the occupant space was nine inches. In the new Elantra, it's only 2 inches.

The good rating applies only to 2017 Elantras built after March, when additional modifications were made. Those changes included strengthening the junction between the door sill and the hinge pillar and modifying the frontal airbag.

The Elantra's optional front crash prevention system avoided a collision in the Institute's 12 mph track test. In the 25 mph test, the car's impact speed was cut by an average of 22 mph. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests. It also must have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Across-the-board good ratings for crashworthiness -- including in the challenging small overlap test -- have earned the redesigned Hyundai Elantra the top ...

IIHS: Most small SUV headlights rated as poor

Only a a handful received an acceptable rating

Disappointing results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) headlight evaluations, as not one small SUV out of 21 tested earned a good rating. Furthermore, only four are available with acceptable-rated headlights.

There are 47 different headlight combinations available among the 21 vehicles. More than two-thirds of them are rated poor, making the group even more deficient when it comes to lighting than the midsize cars that were the first to be rated earlier this year.

Headlight performance in today’s vehicles varies widely. Government standards are based on laboratory tests which, according to IIHS, don’t accurately gauge performance in real-world driving. About half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or around dawn or dusk.

As with midsize cars, the IIHS evaluations of small SUVs showed that a vehicle’s price tag doesn’t correspond to the quality of headlights. More modern lighting types, including high-intensity discharge (HID), LED lamps, and curve-adaptive systems, which swivel in the direction of steering, also are no guarantee of good performance.

“Manufacturers aren’t paying enough attention to the actual on-road performance of this basic equipment,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Matthew Brumbelow. “We’re optimistic that improvements will come quickly now that we’ve given automakers something to strive for.”

For 2017, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights in order to qualify for the Institute’s highest award, TOP SAFETY PICK+.

While studies have pointed to advantages for advanced lighting systems, the IIHS rating system doesn’t favor one type of technology over the other. Instead, it simply measures the amount of usable light provided by low beams and high beams as vehicles travel on straightaways and curves.

Conducting the test

Engineers evaluate headlights on the IIHS Vehicle Research Center’s track after dark. A special device is used to measure how far the light is projected as the vehicle is driven on five approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve and a gradual right curve.

Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers is also measured in each scenario. A vehicle with excessive glare on any of the approaches can’t earn a rating higher than marginal.

The only type of technology given an explicit nod in the ratings is high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high and low beams based on the presence of other vehicles. Vehicles can earn extra credit for this feature because of its potential to increase low rates of high-beam use.

Best and worst

The best-performing headlights in the small SUV group belong to a new model, the Mazda CX-3, and are available on its Grand Touring trim. They are curve-adaptive LED lights with optional high beam assist. The low beams perform well on both right curves and fairly well on the straightaway and sharp left curve; however, they provide inadequate light on the gradual left curve. The high beams perform well on most approaches.

The other vehicles available with acceptable headlights are the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V, and the Hyundai Tucson. None of the three are curve-adaptive, and only the Escape has high-beam assist. Still, all of them provide fair or good illumination in most scenarios.

The worst headlights among the small SUVs belong to a different Honda -- the new-for-2016 HR-V. The illumination provided by the HR-V’s halogen low beams and high beams is inadequate on all four curves and on the straightaway. The HR-V is one of 12 small SUVs that can’t be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights.

For those vehicles available with higher-rated headlights, consumers need to make sure they’re getting the right ones. For example, the Tucson’s acceptable headlight combination is available on the SUV’s Limited version, but the headlights on other trim levels of the Tucson earn a poor rating. Even the Limited, when equipped with curve-adaptive headlights, earns a poor rating because of excessive glare.

Seventeen of the rated SUV headlight combinations have unacceptable glare. They include all types of lights -- halogen, HID, and LED -- and none of the headlight types is more likely than the others to have excessive glare. Three of the 17 fell short of an acceptable rating on the basis of glare alone.

“Glare issues are usually a result of poorly aimed headlights,” said Brumbelow. “SUV headlights are mounted higher than car headlights, so they generally should be aimed lower. Instead, many of them are aimed higher than the car headlights we’ve tested so far.”

IIHS plans to conduct headlight tests on pickups next.

Disappointing results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) headlight evaluations, as not one small SUV out of 21 tested earned a good r...

IIHS considers safety test with focus on passenger protection

As it stands now, there isn't much

A new safety test may be in the works at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- one that would rate passenger-side protection as part of the small overlap crash test.

While drivers can expect to be protected well in a front crash involving the left corner of the vehicle, a new study shows that good protection doesn't always extend across the front seat to the passengers sitting next to them.

The Institute conducted 40 mph passenger-side small overlap tests on seven small SUVs with good driver-side small overlap ratings. Only one -- the 2016 Hyundai Tucson -- performed at a level corresponding to a good rating; the others ran the gamut from poor to acceptable.

"This is an important aspect of occupant protection that needs more attention," said Becky Mueller, an IIHS senior research engineer and the lead author of the study. "More than 1,600 right-front passengers died in frontal crashes in 2014."

Thus, the IIHS is considering a passenger-side rating as part of its TOP SAFETY PICK criteria.

Driver-side only

IIHS currently conducts its tests for front ratings with a driver dummy and with the barrier overlapping the driver side. The reason is simple: every vehicle on the road has a driver, but there isn't always a passenger riding along.

"It's not surprising that automakers would focus their initial efforts to improve small overlap protection on the side of the vehicle that we conduct the tests on," said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "In fact, we encouraged them to do that in the short term if it meant they could quickly make driver-side improvements to more vehicles. As time goes by, though, we would hope they ensure similar levels of protection on both sides."

Protection differences

The recent passenger-side tests show how big the differences can be. In the group of small SUVs that was tested, most didn't perform as well when they were crashed into a barrier on the right side instead of the left. That was even true of models that appeared symmetrical after removing bumper covers and other external components.

"When structural improvements are visible only on the driver side, there are large differences in performance," Mueller says. "But the inverse is not true. Some vehicle structures look the same on both sides, but they don't perform the same. That's why we can't rely on visual analysis but need to monitor this issue and possibly begin rating vehicles for passenger-side protection."

The IIHS passenger-side small overlap testing program could start next year and make it a requirement for one of its safety awards as early as 2018.

A new safety test may be in the works at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- one that would rate passenger-side protection as part of the ...

Audi A4 named winner of top IIHS award

A redesign enhanced many occupant protections

By offering good protection in a small overlap front crash and a superior-rated, standard front crash prevention system, the redesigned Audi A4 has earned a TOP SAFETY PICK+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The luxury midsize car rated poor in the small overlap evaluation in its previous generation. In that test, the structure didn't hold up, with intrusion into the driver's space reaching 11 inches at the footwell and the instrument panel.

Additionally, the steering column moved toward the driver and to the right, and the dummy's head slipped off the left side of the airbag. The driver door opened, which would put the driver at risk of ejection in a real crash.

Changes make the difference

On the other hand, the 2017 A4 had maximum intrusion of only 3 inches at the footrest. The dummy's head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound.

Like its predecessor, the 2017 model earns good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

The redesigned model has a superior-rated, standard front crash prevention system -- a step up from the advanced-rated system that was only available as an option on earlier models. In the 12 mph IIHS track test, the vehicle avoided a collision. In the 25 mph track test, impact speed was reduced by an average of 22 mph. The system also has a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

A different, optional front crash prevention system available on the A4 also earns a superior rating.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests and an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

By offering good protection in a small overlap front crash and a superior-rated, standard front crash prevention system, the redesigned Audi A4 has earned ...

Redesigned BMW X1 earns top IIHS award

The vehicle also offers an optional front crash prevention system

BMW tweaked its 2016 X1 model and walked away with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top award for safety.

The key was earning a good small overlap rating. The driver's space was maintained reasonably well in the test, with maximum intrusion of about 4 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and at the instrument panel.

In the test of the previous version, intrusion reached 16 inches at the footwell, trapping the dummy's right foot.

Like its predecessor, the new X1 earns good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

Optional front crash prevention system

The X1's newly available front crash prevention system earns an advanced rating from IIHS. In track tests at 12 mph, impact speed was reduced by an average of 10 mph.

In the 25 mph tests, impact speed was reduced by 7 mph. The system includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests and an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

BMW tweaked its 2016 X1 model and walked away with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top award for safety.The key was earning a good ...

Muscle cars come up short in IIHS safety tests

None qualify for a TOP SAFETY PICK award

The term “muscle car” conjures up images of performance, speed, and power. Safety? You would think these behemoths would offer all the protections you need. But, as the song goes, “it ain't necessarily so.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently ran three top sports coupes through their tests and found that none of them racked up the scores necessary for a TOP SAFETY PICK award.

The Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang took part in the full battery of crashworthiness evaluations, with the Mustang coming closest to earning TOP SAFETY PICK. The Camaro missed the mark in one category and lacks an available front crash prevention system. The Challenger is most in need of improvement.

To qualify for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK, vehicles must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint evaluations and have a basic-rated front crash prevention system.

How they stack up

The Camaro, Challenger and Mustang earn good ratings for occupant protection in a moderate overlap front crash, as well as a side impact.

In the small overlap front test -- the newest and toughest IIHS crashworthiness evaluation -- the Camaro earns a good rating, the Mustang earns an acceptable rating, and the Challenger is rated as marginal.

"The Mustang is just one good rating away from earning TOP SAFETY PICK," IIHS President Adrian Lund pointed out. "Its small overlap rating holds it back."

The small overlap test replicates what happens when a vehicle runs off the road and hits a tree or pole or clips another vehicle that has crossed the center line. It is an especially challenging test because it involves a vehicle's outer edges, which aren't well-protected by the crush-zone structures.

The Challenger wasn't up to the challenge of the small overlap test. Extensive intrusion into the lower occupant compartment limited the driver's survival space and resulted in a poor rating for structure and for leg/foot protection. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a high likelihood of serious lower leg injuries.

In contrast, survival space for the driver in the Camaro was well-maintained, and the risk of injuries to the dummy's legs and feet was low. The Camaro was redesigned for the 2016 model year.

"The Camaro's safety cage is built to resist intrusion in a small overlap crash, and that's good news for Camaro drivers," Lund says.

The Camaro and Mustang earn good ratings for head restraints and seats to protect against neck injuries in rear crashes. The Challenger's head restraints are rated as acceptable.

The Mustang earns a good rating for roof strength, and the Camaro and Challenger earn acceptable ratings.

Consumer inquiries

IIHS doesn't typically crash-test sports cars, as they make up a small share of the consumer market. However, IIHS engineers decided to evaluate these models with optional V-8 engines because they are big sellers in their class, and consumers often ask how they would perform in crash tests.

Insurance data points to high losses for sports cars. As a group, they have the highest losses among passenger vehicles for crash damage repairs under collision coverage, data from the Highway Loss Data Institute shows. Collision coverage insures against physical damage to the at-fault policyholder's vehicle in a crash.

"Given that sports cars have high crash rates, it's especially important that they offer the best occupant protection possible in a crash," Lund concluded.

The term “muscle car” conjures up images of performance, speed, and power. Safety? You would think these behemoths would offer all the protections you need...

IIHS releases results of large pickup truck safety tests

Only the Ford F-150 earned a top safety rating for small overlap protection

The results are in for the new round of crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and three out of seven large pickup trucks evaluated earned an acceptable or higher rating for occupant protection in a small overlap front crash.

Two body styles of each 2016 model-year pickup (crew cab and extended cab) were included in the tests. Crew cabs have four full doors and two full rows of seating. Extended cabs have two full front doors, two smaller rear doors and compact second-row seats.

Top marks for Ford

By improving the 2016 model F-150 SuperCab, Ford clinched a good rating in the small overlap crash test -- up from the 2015 model’s marginal rating. The F-150 is the only large pickup in the latest test group to earn the test's top rating. It joins the F-150 SuperCrew in earning a 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK award when equipped with Ford’s optional basic-rated forward collision warning system.

“Ford is leading the way among large pickup manufacturers when it comes to protecting people in a range of crashes and offering technology to warn drivers of imminent frontal crashes,” said Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the IIHS Vehicle Research Center. “We commend Ford for taking last year’s test results to heart and upgrading protection for SuperCab occupants in small overlap crashes.”

Vehicles that earn a basic rating for front crash prevention in addition to good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint evaluations qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK. To qualify for 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five crashworthiness tests and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

The also-rans

Differences were observed in performance between the extended-cab and crew-cab versions of two other pickups. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Double Cab and the Toyota Tundra Double Cab both earned an acceptable rating for occupant protection in a small overlap crash. Survival space for the driver in these extended-cab pickups was maintained reasonably well overall, contributing to their acceptable ratings for structure.

The story was different for the larger crew cabs. The Silverado 1500 Crew Cab and the Tundra CrewMax earned a marginal rating in the small overlap front test. Both models had considerable intrusion into the occupant compartment that compromised survival space for the driver.

Ratings for both of the Silverado pickups extend to their GMC Sierra 1500 twins.

The worst-performing pickups in the small overlap test are the Ram 1500 Crew Cab and the Ram 1500 Quad Cab. Both earned a marginal rating overall and a poor rating for structure. The force of the crash pushed the door-hinge pillar, instrument panel, and steering column back toward the driver dummy. In the Ram Crew Cab test, the dummy’s head contacted the front airbag but rolled around the left side as the steering column moved to the right, allowing the head to approach the intruding windshield pillar.

IIHS plans to test the redesigned 2016 Nissan Titan and Honda Ridgeline later this year. The 2015 Titan Crew Cab is rated as good in the moderate overlap front test, acceptable for roof strength, and good for head restraints. The Ridgeline was last sold as a 2014 model. It earns good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint evaluations.

The results are in for the new round of crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and three out of seven large pickup tru...

Improvements earn Toyota Prius top safety award

An improved front crash prevention system made the difference

Acing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test has helped the 2016 Toyota Prius earn the organization's TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. Additionally, the small hybrid's optional front crash prevention system has improved to earn a superior rating.

To qualify for the top IIHS award, vehicles have to get good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, and must have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

The previous generation of the Prius had good ratings in four of the five crashworthiness tests, but rated only acceptable for small overlap protection because its structure didn't hold up well in the test.

Significant improvements

In contrast, the 2016 Prius had maximum intrusion of just two inches at the upper door-hinge pillar and at the brake and parking brake pedals. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and measures taken from the dummy showed a low risk of injury in a crash of the same severity.

The optional front crash prevention system has improved over what was available on the previous model. The new Prius avoided collisions in both the 12 mph and 25 mph IIHS track tests. It also has a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

Acing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test has helped the 2016 Toyota Prius earn the organization's TOP SAFETY PICK...

IIHS: Time to turn on the headlights

New ratings show most need improvement

The headlights are probably the last thing you think about when deciding which new car to buy.

However, a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests you may want to move that up on your list of priorities

According to the first-ever headlight ratings conducted by the IIHS, the Toyota Prius v is the only midsize car out of 31 evaluated to earn a good rating. The best available headlights on 11 cars earn an acceptable rating, while nine only reach a marginal rating. Ten of the vehicles can't be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights.

"If you're having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame," said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer.

More doesn't always mean better

The car's price tag is no guarantee of decent headlights. Many of the poor-rated headlights belong to luxury vehicles.

Among the 44 headlight systems earning a poor rating, the halogen lights on the BMW 3 series are the worst. A driver with those headlights would have to be going 35 mph or slower to stop in time for an obstacle in the travel lane. A better choice for the same car is an LED curve-adaptive system with high-beam assist, a combination that rates marginal.

Curve-adaptive systems don't always lead to better ratings. The Cadillac ATS, Kia Optima, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class all earn poor ratings even when equipped with adaptive low and high beams.

In the case of the Optima, a big problem is glare. Its curve-adaptive system provides better visibility than its non-adaptive lights, but produces excessive glare for oncoming vehicles on all five low beam approaches.

How headlights are evaluated

Headlights are evaluated on the track after dark at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center. A special device measures the light from both low beams and high beams as the vehicle is driven on five different approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve, and a gradual right curve.

Glare for oncoming vehicles is also measured from low beams in each scenario to make sure it isn't excessive.

How they did

2016 midsize cars 
Best available headlight system for each model

(Graph via IIHS)

The headlights are probably the last thing you think about when deciding which new car to buy.However, a new report from the Insurance Institute for Hi...

Redesigned Audi Q7 earns TOP SAFETY PICK+ award

The vehicle's standard front crash prevention system got a superior rating

A superior rating for its standard front crash prevention system has earned the redesigned 2017 Audi Q7 a TOP SAFETY PICK+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The large luxury SUV also received good ratings in all five of the IIHS crashworthiness tests.

The IIHS doesn't routinely test large SUVs, and the Q7 is the first to be put through the challenging small overlap front crash test, which was introduced in 2012. The Q7 was tested because Audi nominated it for TOP SAFETY PICK+ and paid for the vehicles used.

In 2016, vehicles qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ if they have good ratings in all five crashworthiness evaluations -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints, as well as an available front crash prevention system.

If the system earns a basic rating, the vehicle qualifies for TOP SAFETY PICK. The "plus" is awarded to vehicles with an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

In the front crash prevention evaluation, the Q7 avoided a collision in the 12 mph track test. In the 25 mph test, the vehicle's speed was cut by an average of 23 mph. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

A superior rating for its standard front crash prevention system has earned the redesigned 2017 Audi Q7 a TOP SAFETY PICK+ award from the Insurance Institu...

Toyota Highlander earns Top IIHS safety award

It's the second year in a row for the vehicle

Toyota's 2016 Highlander has earned a good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test -- improving from acceptable -- to clinch a 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

Last year's model was also a TOP SAFETY PICK+, but the criteria for the award was tightened for 2016. Previously, an acceptable rating for small overlap protection was enough, but now a good rating is required. Toyota made structural modifications to improve small overlap performance for 2016.

During the test of the 2016 Highlander, the dummy's movement was better controlled than in the test of the earlier model. The head hit the front airbag, which stayed in front of the dummy until rebound. The dummy in the previous test slid off the airbag's left side.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in all five crashworthiness evaluations -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.

TOP SAFETY PICK winners also have an available front crash prevention system that earns a basic rating; vehicles earning the "plus" have an “advanced” or “superior” rating. The Highlander's optional front crash prevention is rated “advanced.”

Toyota's 2016 Highlander has earned a good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test -- improving from accepta...

Front crash prevention technology works well

An IIHS study finds autobrake has slashed police-reported rear-end crashes

In the first study of its kind, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found vehicles equipped with front crash prevention are much less likely to rear-end other vehicles.

Systems with automatic braking reduce rear-end crashes by about 40% on average, while forward collision warning alone cuts them by 23%, the study found. The autobrake systems also greatly reduce injury crashes.

If all vehicles had been equipped with autobrake that worked as well as the systems studied, there would have been at least 700,000 fewer police-reported rear-end crashes -- 13% of police-reported crashes overall -- in 2013.

"The success of front crash prevention represents a big step toward safer roads," says David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. "As this technology becomes more widespread, we can expect to see noticeably fewer rear-end crashes. The same goes for the whiplash injuries that often result from these crashes and can cause a lot of pain and lost productivity."

Still optional -- for now

Front crash prevention is steadily becoming more prevalent, but in most cases it is offered as optional equipment. That may soon change, however. In September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and IIHS announced an agreement in principle with automakers to make autobrake standard on all models.

Using police reports allows researchers to identify front-to-rear crashes in order to gauge front crash prevention systems' effectiveness specifically for the type of collision they are designed to address.

The study

For the study, researchers looked at police-reported rear-end crashes in 22 states during 2010-14 involving Acura, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Volvo vehicles with optional front crash prevention.

The crash rates of vehicles equipped with the technology were compared with the crash rates of the same models without front crash prevention. Individual vehicles with the technology were identified using trim level information or, in some cases, lists of vehicle identification numbers supplied by the manufacturers.

A separate analysis of City Safety, Volvo's standard low-speed autobrake system, was conducted by comparing the S60 model with other midsize luxury four-door cars and the XC60 with other midsize luxury SUVs. Unlike the City Safety-equipped Volvos, none of the comparison vehicles had standard front crash prevention.

Only rear-end crashes in which the study and comparison models struck other vehicles were considered. Crashes in which those vehicles were struck from behind but didn't strike a vehicle in front were left out since front crash prevention wouldn't be expected to prevent them.

The analyses show that forward collision warning alone reduces rear-end crashes by 23%, while forward collision warning with autobrake reduces them by 39%. The reduction for City Safety is 41%.

The study also shows that autobrake reduces injuries. The rate of rear-end crashes with injuries decreases by 42% with forward collision warning with autobrake and 47% with City Safety. Forward collision warning alone is associated with a 6% decrease in rear-end injury crashes, though that finding isn't statistically significant.

"Even when a crash isn't avoided, systems that have autobrake have a good chance of preventing injuries by reducing the impact speed," says Jessica Cicchino, the study's author and the IIHS vice president for research. "Still, it's surprising that forward collision warning didn't show more of an injury benefit, given that the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) has found big reductions in injury claims with the feature."

Caveats

One difficulty in studying optional front crash prevention systems is that they often are packaged with other crash avoidance technologies. For example, all of the study vehicles except for some Honda Accords and most of the City Safety-equipped Volvos had adaptive cruise control. Adaptive cruise control works like regular cruise control but uses sensors to track the vehicle in front to maintain a safe following distance.

It is possible that some of the observed benefit for front crash prevention systems in avoiding rear-end collisions is actually a result of adaptive cruise control. However, unlike front crash prevention, drivers must activate adaptive cruise control every time they use it, and the feature generally isn't used for all types of driving.

Lane departure warning was packaged with front crash prevention on the Hondas, Subarus, and some Volvos included in the study, but it is unlikely to have affected rear-end crashes.

Speed a factor

Cicchino performed an additional analysis of City Safety vehicles to see how the effect of the system varied depending on a road's speed limit. The study vehicles had a version of City Safety that works at speeds up to 19 mph. (A newer version works at speeds up to 30 mph.)

Despite its speed limitation, City Safety had the biggest effect on roads with speed limits of 40-45 mph. The equipped Volvos rear-ended other vehicles 54% less frequently than comparable vehicles on those roads. The reduction was 39% on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less and 25% on roads with speed limits of 50 mph or higher.

"At first blush it's surprising that this low-speed system was most effective on 40-45 mph roads," Cicchino said. "However, these roads tend to have many traffic lights, which reduce actual travel speeds in places. In addition, City Safety can come into play whenever there is congestion on a higher-speed road."

In the first study of its kind, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found vehicles equipped with front crash prevention are much less lik...

Four vehicles added to IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ honor roll

Honda, Hyundai, Lexus, and Nissan are the big winners

Just one month after the initial crop of 48 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners was announced, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has added another four vehicles to the winner's circle.

The latest to earn the designation are the Honda Civic 4-door, Hyundai Sonata, Lexus RX, and Nissan Altima.

The requirements for TOP SAFETY PICK+ were tightened for 2016. Now, winners must earn good ratings in each of the Institute's five crashworthiness tests and have an available front crash prevention system earning an advanced or superior rating.

Those that meet the crashworthiness criteria but have only a basic-rated front crash prevention system qualify for the second-tier award -- TOP SAFETY PICK.

How they performed

The Civic, Sonata, RX, and Altima all come with superior-rated optional front crash prevention systems. In IIHS track tests, the first three vehicles avoided collisions at 12 mph and 25 mph. The Altima avoided a collision at 12 mph, while in the 25 mph test its impact speed was cut by 10 mph. All four systems include a warning function that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The Civic 4-door, a small car, and the RX, a midsize luxury SUV, were both redesigned for 2016. The 2015 Civic had qualified for TOP SAFETY PICK under the old criteria, while the previous generation of the RX had never been tested in the small overlap front crash.

The Sonata and the Altima, both midsize cars, were 2015 award winners. Both had their structure improved to raise their small overlap front ratings from acceptable to good. Previously, vehicles could qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ with an acceptable rating in the small overlap front test.

In the case of the Sonata, the improvements were made after production for the 2016 model year had already begun. The award applies only to Sonatas built after October.

Consumers can find a vehicle's manufacture date on the certification label typically located on or near the driver door.

Just one month after the initial crop of 48 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners was announced, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has added another fou...

Nearly 50 vehicles earn IIHS top safety award

Small overlap crash protection, front crash prevention were the keys

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named 48 vehicles as recipients of its TOP SAFETY PICK+ for earning good ratings in all five crashworthiness evaluations and an advanced or higher rating for front crash prevention.

An additional 13 models qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK.

“We asked auto manufacturers to do more this year to qualify for our safety awards, and they delivered,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “For the first time, a good rating in the challenging small overlap front crash test is a requirement to win, in addition to an available front crash prevention system. How that system rates determines whether a vehicle will earn TOP SAFETY PICK+ or TOP SAFETY PICK.”

Tougher standards

The baseline requirements for both awards are good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, as well as a standard or optional front crash prevention system.

The 48 winners of the “plus” award have a superior- or advanced-rated front crash prevention system with automatic braking capabilities. These vehicles must stop or slow down without driver intervention before hitting a target in tests at 12 mph, 25 mph, or both.

Models with a basic-rated front crash prevention system, which typically only issues a warning and doesn’t brake, qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK.

IIHS inaugurated TOP SAFETY PICK in the 2006 model year to help consumers home in on vehicles with the best safety performance. The TOP SAFETY PICK+ accolade was introduced in 2012 to recognize vehicles that offer an advanced level of safety.

Last year when IIHS announced the initial winners of the 2015 awards, 33 models qualified for TOP SAFETY PICK+ and 38 qualified for TOP SAFETY PICK. The ranks then grew to 51 TOP SAFETY PICK+ and 48 TOP SAFETY PICK winners. IIHS releases ratings as it evaluates new models, adding to the ranks of winners throughout the year.

Redesign does the trick

The 2016 winner’s circle includes some redesigned models with improved frontal crash protection and autobrake features, which help to prevent or mitigate certain frontal crashes.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima and Volkswagen Passat, for example, earn good ratings in the small overlap front test, while earlier models were rated acceptable. Nissan also improved occupant protection in rear crashes and rollovers, boosting the Maxima’s head restraints and seats rating from marginal to good and its roof strength rating from acceptable to good.

The Maxima’s optional front crash prevention system is rated superior, and the Passat’s is rated advanced. Both midsize cars earn the plus award.

The Chrysler 200 is the only domestic model to qualify for a 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. One other vehicle from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles -- the Fiat 500X -- earns the Institute’s highest award for 2016.

Ford has just one winning model this year, the F-150 SuperCrew, which earns TOP SAFETY PICK. The large pickup is the only Ford with a good small overlap rating.

Some don't measure up

A number of previous winners are missing from the new lists, including many small and midsize cars. Last year, vehicles with an acceptable small overlap rating could qualify for either award if their other four crashworthiness ratings were good.

An available front crash prevention system was required only for TOP SAFETY PICK+ and not TOP SAFETY PICK. More than 20 winners of the 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award and four plus-award winners don’t qualify under the 2016 criteria.

The Toyota Highlander and Sienna, for example, are available with an advanced-rated autobrake system, but less-than-good ratings in the small overlap front test put the midsize SUV and minivan out of contention for a 2016 accolade. The pair earned 2015 plus awards.

Lack of an available front crash prevention system is the issue with several vehicles with good small overlap ratings. The Audi Q3, for example, no longer qualifies for TOP SAFETY PICK because it doesn’t have front crash prevention.

IIHS wasn’t able to test the autobrake systems on the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (formerly the M-Class), Nissan Rogue, and Nissan Sentra in time for this initial release of winners. These TOP SAFETY PICKs may be upgraded to TOP SAFETY PICK+ following IIHS tests.

The M-Class earned a 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK+ and is rated superior for front crash prevention. The Rogue and Sentra earned 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK awards.

“Consumers who purchased a winning 2015 model that doesn’t qualify this year needn’t worry that their vehicles are now less safe,” said Lund. “As vehicles continue to improve, however, we think it’s important to recognize that progress and encourage further advances by making our ratings more stringent. This year’s winners are certainly safer than the vehicles that earned our first TOP SAFETY PICK awards 10 years ago.”

Greater availability of Autobrake

Among the TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners, there are 31 models with an available superior-rated front crash prevention system and 17 models with an advanced rating.

The Scion iA, a TOP SAFETY PICK+ winner, is the first low-priced car with a standard autobrake system. With a base price of about $16,000, the iA is rated advanced for front crash prevention and is the only minicar to earn a 2016 IIHS award. Besides the iA, autobrake is standard on just a few luxury vehicles. These include all Volvo models, some Mercedes-Benz models, and the Acura RLX.

More automakers are expected to make autobrake standard equipment in the near future under a voluntary agreement being developed by automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the IIHS.

“Ask for autobrake and forward collision warning features when you’re out shopping for a new vehicle,” Lund said. “Look for good ratings in IIHS evaluations and at least 4 of 5 stars from NHTSA. And remember that larger, heavier vehicles offer the best protection in a crash.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named 48 vehicles as recipients of its TOP SAFETY PICK+ for earning good ratings in all five crashwor...

IIHS booster seat ratings hold good news for parents

Twenty of 23 seats earn the highest safety rating

Back in 2008, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began rating boosters seats -- and the results were disappointing to say the least: Most models failed to consistently provide good belt fit, the main purpose of a booster.

What a difference seven years makes. All new models evaluated by IIHS now provide good or acceptable fit for typical 4-to-8year-olds in most cars, minivans, and SUVs.

Of 23 new models evaluated, 20 earn the highest rating of BEST BET, meaning they are likely to provide good belt fit for a child in almost any car, minivan, or SUV.

Another three models are rated GOOD BETs, meaning they provide acceptable fit in most vehicles. No new models were in the Not Recommended category, nor are there any with the Check Fit designation, which identifies seats that may work for some children in some vehicles.

“Our ratings have succeeded in getting child seat manufacturers to prioritize belt fit when they design boosters,” said Jessica Jermakian, IIHS senior research scientist. “The large number of BEST BETs on the market now makes it easier for parents to shop for a seat that will work for their child in virtually any vehicle.”

The need for boosters

Booster seats are designed for kids who have outgrown harness-equipped restraints. Children ages 4-8 are 45% less likely to sustain injuries in crashes if they are in boosters than if they are using safety belts alone. Boosters serve as an important bridge until children are large enough for vehicle safety belts to fit properly by themselves. For some kids, that’s not until age 12.

Until then, booster seats should be used to make safety belts fit correctly. Correct fit means the belt lies flat across a child’s upper thighs, not across the soft abdomen, and the shoulder belt crosses snugly over the middle of a child’s shoulder.

The IIHS online ratings (iihs.org/boosters) include many models that were evaluated in past years and are still on the market. Including the 2015 crop, as well as carryover models, there currently are 82 BEST BETs and eight GOOD BETs. Six boosters are Not Recommended, and 31 are in the Check Fit category.

“We hope manufacturers will move quickly to redesign or end production of the Not Recommended boosters and also phase out Check Fit seats and replace them with BEST BETs that perform their job reliably,” Jermakian says.

Variety of options

Top-rated boosters come in a variety of forms. Highback boosters have built-in shoulder belt guides, and their additional structure often makes it easier for children transitioning out of harness-equipped restraints to sit properly. Many manufacturers tout enhanced side impact protection on their highback seats, though IIHS doesn’t evaluate those claims.

Backless boosters come with an attached clip to position the shoulder belt. It’s important to look at how the shoulder belt fits on a child and to use the clip if it doesn’t fall across the middle of the shoulder.

The new seats for 2015 include seven dual-use models. Each of them counts twice in the evaluations, with a separate rating for highback and backless modes.

As in earlier years, several are combination or 3-in-1 seats, which start out as harness-equipped restraints and can be converted to boosters when the child outgrows the harness.

One recent improvement to combination and 3-in-1 seats is the addition of a place to stow harness straps when they are not in use. This allows parents to use the seat as a booster without having to remove the harness completely.

The least expensive booster in the new crop is the Little Tikes Backless Booster, available at Walmart for $13. The Evenflo Platinum Evolve -- a 3-in-1 seat that can be used as a forwardfacing restraint, highback booster, and backless booster -- and the Safety 1st Grow and Go -- which can be used as a rear-facing restraint, forward-facing restraint, and a booster -- each sell for about $170. 

New names, new designs

One big manufacturer, Britax, has no new or redesigned seats this year, but the names of its existing models have changed. The Frontier 90 highback is now the Frontier Clicktight, the Pinnacle 90 highback is the Pinnacle Clicktight, and the Pioneer 70 highback is simply the Pioneer. All three are BEST BETs. The Britax Parkway SG and Parkway SGL, both dual-use boosters that are BEST BETs in highback mode and Check Fit in backless mode, also are carried over.

The BubbleBum, an inflatable booster designed for portability, has a redesigned lap-belt guide intended to be easier to use. Like the earlier version, which still is on the market, the new one is a BEST BET.

There are 23 new models of booster seats for 2015, including 20 BEST BET boosters, and 3 GOOD BETs. There are no new models in the Check Fit or Not Recommended categories.

BEST BET

  • BubbleBum (backless)
  • Chicco KidFit (backless mode)
  • Chicco KidFit (highback mode)
  • Diono Cambria (backless mode)
  • Diono Cambria (highback mode)
  • Eddie Bauer Storage Booster (backless)
  • Evenflo Advanced Transitions (backless mode)
  • Evenflo Advanced Transitions (highback mode)
  • Evenflo Platinum Evolve (backless mode)
  • Evenflo Platinum Evolve (highback mode)
  • Graco Atlas 65 (highback)
  • Graco Tranzitions (backless mode)
  • Graco Tranzitions (highback mode)
  • Harmony Defender 360 (backless mode)
  • Harmony Defender 360 (highback mode)
  • Jané Montecarlo R1 (highback)
  • Lil Fan Box Seat (backless)
  • Little Tikes Highback Booster (backless mode)
  • Little Tikes Highback Booster (highback mode)
  • Little Tikes Backless Booster (backless)

GOOD BET

  • Cybex Solution M-Fix (highback)
  • Cybex Solution Q2-Fix (highback)
  • Safety 1st Grow and Go (highback)
Back in 2008, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began rating boosters seats -- and the results were disappointing to say the least: Most models fa...

IIHS corrects erroneous booster seat ratings

The group's BEST BET awards have been rescinded

“We goofed.” That's the upshot of an announcement by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that it's revising its booster seat ratings for 2014.

Two models of boosters -- the Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 and Safety 1st Summit 65 -- were awarded a BEST BET designation in error. These seats, which can be used either with internal harnesses or as boosters, should have been designated as Not Recommended.

Consumers are advised not to purchase these seats for use as boosters. However, IIHS says there is no problem with either of them when used with the internal harness.

The purpose of a booster seat is to make a vehicle safety belt, which is designed for an adult, fit a child correctly. Correct fit means the belt lies flat across a child's upper thighs, not across the soft abdomen, and the shoulder belt crosses snugly over the middle of a child's shoulder.

Booster concerns

The concern about the Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 and Safety 1st Summit 65, both manufactured by Dorel Juvenile, is that while the shoulder belt crosses the child's body at the middle of the shoulder, it is positioned too far forward. In that position, the shoulder belt would be less effective in a crash.

IIHS evaluates boosters using a test dummy representing an average-size six-year-old. Engineers measure how safety belts fit the dummy in each of the tested boosters under four conditions that span the range of safety belt configurations in vehicle models. Based on these measurements, a seat is designated a BEST BET, GOOD BET, Check Fit, or Not Recommended to reflect the likelihood that the booster will work in any vehicle.

The original booster rating protocol called for measuring only the shoulder belt’s lateral position. It didn't take into account whether the shoulder belt was close enough to the dummy's body.

During preparations for the 2014 booster ratings release, the protocol was changed to limit the distance allowed between a reference point on the dummy's chest and the shoulder belt to one (1) centimeter. If the belt is within that distance of the chest, it will be close enough to the shoulder to provide good crash protection. Booster manufacturers were informed of the revised protocol.

However, the Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 and Safety 1st Summit 65, though new for 2014, were mistakenly evaluated according to the old protocol. The gap between the chest reference point and the shoulder belt with these two boosters is more than one (1) centimeter in all of the Institute's test conditions.

This was discovered only recently, when the seats were re-evaluated as part of a research study. Since then, IIHS has re-evaluated every booster seat listed in the ratings and currently on the market and has not encountered the problem on any others.

Children who have outgrown the weight or height limit for the harness should continue to use the seats as boosters if no other booster is available. Parents are advised to purchase a different seat that provides better belt fit as soon as possible.

BEST BET boosters can cost as little as $20. Until a replacement can be obtained, a child for whom an adult safety belt doesn't yet fit properly is better off using any booster than none at all.

“We goofed.” That's the upshot of an announcement by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that it's revising its booster seat ratings for 2014...

IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award for Fiat 500X

It's the second Fiat Chrysler vehicle to win this year's award

The new Fiat 500X, a small SUV, qualifies for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award after earning good ratings in all five of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) crashworthiness tests and an advanced rating for front crash prevention.

For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, it's is the second vehicle -- after the Chrysler 200 -- to earn the Institute's highest award for 2015.

Strong test results

In the most challenging IIHS evaluation, the small overlap front crash test, the 500X's driver space was maintained reasonably well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the door hinge pillar and instrument panel. The dummy's head contacted the front airbag, though it then moved to the left side, leaving the head vulnerable to contact with forward structure.

The side curtain airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head on the left side. Measures taken from the dummy indicate that injuries to the left lower leg would be possible in a crash of this severity, but the likelihood of other injuries is low.

In the moderate overlap test, the only issue was possible injuries to the right foot. There were no problems with the side crash test performance. The vehicle also has good head restraints and seats for whiplash prevention in a rear crash and a good roof strength rating for rollover protection.

The 500X has an optional front crash prevention system that earns an advanced rating. In the Institute's 12 mph track test, a 500X equipped with the system avoided a collision in four out of five runs. In the 25 mph test, the impact speed was reduced by 5 mph. The system also has a forward collision warning function that meets criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To qualify for the 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award, vehicles must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, plus a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test.

For TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also need an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating.

The new Fiat 500X, a small SUV, qualifies for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award after earning good ratings in all five of the Insurance Institute for Highwa...

Two Acuras and two Hondas win top IIHS award

Honda now has a shelf full of awards

Modifications for the 2016 model year have earned two Acura models good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for small overlap front crash protection.

Additionally, the Acura RDX and ILX have available superior-rated front crash prevention systems and qualified for the IIHS 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

Also earning the institute's highest award are the 2016 Honda Accord sedan and coupe. Nine Honda Motor Co. models have now earned the IIHS 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

Acuras

The RDX, a midsize luxury SUV, had its front end and occupant compartment modified to improve protection in front crashes. In the small overlap test, the driver space was maintained well with maximum intrusion of five inches at the parking brake pedal. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and the front and side airbags worked together to protect the head. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

The ILX, a small car, was also modified for improved front crash protection. In the small overlap test, the driver space was maintained well with maximum intrusion of five inches at the footrest. Measures from the dummy showed that left lower leg injuries would be possible in a crash of this severity. There were no problems with the dummy's movement or the airbags.

Both vehicles have good ratings in the other IIHS crashworthiness tests -- moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.

The 2016 RDX and the ILX each earn a superior rating for front crash prevention when equipped with Acura's Collision Mitigation Braking System. In the 12 mph IIHS track test, both vehicles reduced their speed by 11 mph. In the 25 mph test, the RDX reduced its speed by 16 mph, while the ILX shaved off 15 mph. The system includes a forward collision warning component that meets criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Hondas

The Honda Accord sedan and coupe both have improved front crash prevention ratings for 2016. Previously, the midsize cars were available with forward collision warning only, earning a basic rating. Now their optional systems include automatic braking as well. The models avoided collisions in both the 12 mph and 25 mph track tests.

The Accords earn good ratings in all five IIHS crashworthiness tests.

To qualify for the 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award, vehicles must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, plus a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test.

For TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also need an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating.

Modifications for the 2016 model year have earned two Acura models earn good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for small overl...

Hyundai Tucson and Sonata collect top IIHS awards

A redesign for 2016 reaps rewards

Hyundai tweaked the designs for both the Tucson and Sonata, qualifying the vehicles for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

In the Tucson's small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained well, with a maximum intrusion of six inches at the parking brake pedal, but no more than three inches at other locations. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and the front and side curtain airbags worked well together to protect the head. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

In contrast, when the previous generation of the Tucson was tested, the intrusion was severe, reaching a maximum of 16 inches at the parking brake pedal. The steering column moved in and to the right, causing the dummy's head to slide off the left side of the front airbag. The head hit the instrumental panel, and the side curtain airbag didn't deploy.

Like its predecessor, the redesigned Tucson earns good ratings in the other crashworthiness tests -- moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.

Sonata changes

The midsize Sonata was redesigned for the 2015 model year. For 2016, Hyundai made changes to the driver's safety belt and the front suspension in hopes of improving the small overlap rating from acceptable to good. Those changes weren't enough, and the rating remains acceptable. It earns good ratings in the other crashworthiness tests.

Both the 2016 Sonata and the 2016 Tucson have an available front crash prevention system that includes automatic braking. The vehicles avoided collisions in IIHS track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph. The optional package also includes forward collision warning that meets criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That gives the vehicles the maximum six points for a superior front crash prevention rating.

To qualify for the 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award, vehicles must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, plus a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test. For TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also need an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating.

The Institute plans to raise the bar in 2016, requiring a good small overlap rating for either award. Vehicles with an acceptable rating, such as the Sonata, will need further improvements to qualify for 2016 honors.

Hyundai tweaked the designs for both the Tucson and Sonata qualifying the vehicles for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+...

TOP SAFETY PICK award for Ford Edge

Occupant protection is improved in small overlap front crashes

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the redesigned 2015 Ford Edge as a recipient of its TOP SAFETY PICK award.

The midsize SUV received good ratings for crash protection in four of five IIHS evaluations and an acceptable rating in the challenging small overlap front crash test. It also has an optional basic-rated front crash prevention system.

This is the first time the Institute has evaluated the Edge in the small overlap front test. Like the previous generation of the Edge, the 2015 model earns good ratings for occupant protection in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint evaluations.

Vehicle changes

Ford reinforced the door-hinge pillar on models built after May 2015 to improve occupant protection in small overlap front crashes. The driver space held up reasonably well in the small overlap test, according to IIHS, with maximum intrusion of five inches in the driver’s seating space measured at the upper hinge pillar.

The dummy’s movement was reasonably controlled. The head was largely protected by the frontal and side curtain airbags, but the safety belt allowed the head and torso to move too far forward toward the intruding A-pillar. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

To qualify for a 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK, vehicles must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, plus a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test.

For TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also need an available front crash system with an advanced or superior rating. The Edge doesn’t qualify for the “plus” award because it doesn’t have a front crash prevention system equipped with automatic braking.

IIHS plans to raise the bar to earn a 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK, requiring a good small overlap rating. Vehicles with an acceptable rating such as the Edge will need further improvements to qualify for the 2016 honor.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the redesigned 2015 Ford Edge as a recipient of its TOP SAFETY PICK award. The midsize SUV rec...

IIHS kudos for the Volvo XC90

The SUV aced the front crash prevention test

Stellar ratings for crash protection and for its standard front crash prevention system have won the redesigned Volvo XC90 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) highest award -- TOP SAFETY PICK+.

The previous generation of the midsize luxury SUV also had good ratings across the board for crashworthiness but had no available front crash prevention system.

The 2016 XC90 comes with an upgraded version of Volvo's City Safety feature. A previous version of City Safety -- standard on earlier Volvos, though not the XC90 -- was an automatic braking system that functioned only at low speeds.

The new version also functions at higher speeds. In IIHS track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph, the XC90 avoided collisions. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The vehicle earned the maximum six points from IIHS for a front crash prevention rating of superior.

Strong crashworthiness performance

The SUV earns good ratings in all five of the Institute's crashworthiness tests: small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.

In the small overlap test, the most challenging of the IIHS evaluations, the driver space held up very well, with intrusion of less than 2 inches at all measured points in the driver's seating space. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and the front and side curtain airbags worked well together to protect the head. Measures taken from the dummy showed a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, vehicles must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, plus a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test.

For TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also need an available front crash system with an advanced or superior rating.

Stellar ratings for crash protection and for its standard front crash prevention system have won the redesigned Volvo XC90 the Insurance Institute for High...

Two Toyota products win IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards

That gives the automaker ten top award recipients

Toyota has done it again.

Two of the Japanese automaker's products -- the Lexus ES, a luxury midsize car, and the Scion iA, a new minicar -- have won the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

Toyota now has 10 vehicles that qualify for the Institute's top award.

The Lexus ES

The 2016 ES -- including both the ES 350 and the hybrid ES 300h -- was modified for improved protection in small overlap front crashes. Changes were made to the front structure, A-pillar and roof rail, door hinge pillar, and door sill.

The car's performance in the small overlap test earned it a good rating. According to IIHS, the driver space was maintained very well with maximum intrusion of four inches at the parking brake pedal.

In addition, the dummy's movement was well-controlled and the front and side curtain airbags worked well together to protect the head. Measures taken from the dummy showed injuries to the right lower leg would be possible in a crash of this severity.

Improvements also were made to the vehicle's optional front crash prevention system, which went from an advanced to a superior rating. The car avoided a collision in track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph. It also has a forward collision warning component that meets criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Scion IA

The new iA also earned a good small overlap rating. The driver space was maintained very well, with maximum intrusion of two inches at the parking brake pedal, door hinge pillar, and instrument panel. As with the Lexus, the dummy's movement was well-controlled and the airbags worked well to protect the head. Measures taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

The minicar has a standard low-speed front crash prevention system that earned an advanced rating. The iA avoided a collision in the 12 mph track test. The system doesn't operate at higher speeds or include a warning feature.

Although many vehicles now have front crash prevention as an option, it is still relatively rare to have the technology standard and unprecedented for a vehicle as inexpensive as the iA.

Award criteria

Both the ES and the iA earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests. To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, vehicles must earn good ratings in those tests, plus a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test.

For TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also need an available front crash system with an advanced or superior rating.

Toyota does it again. Two of the Japanese automaker's products -- the Lexus ES, a luxury midsize car, and the Scion iA, a new minicar -- have won the Ins...

IIHS rates cars with automatic braking capability

Of the 19 tested, 14 received a superior rating

Driverless cars!! What a concept -- someday in the future. But vehicles that can brake without driver intervention if a crash is imminent are already on the nation's roads

To help consumers zero in on automatic braking systems with the most stopping power, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is putting these vehicles through their paces and rating them for front crash prevention in 2013.

More than a dozen of them have earned the highest rating of “superior” in the latest round of testing.

In its third year of releasing ratings for front crash prevention systems, IIHS rates vehicles as basic, advanced, or superior for front crash prevention depending on whether they offer autobrake and -- if so -- how effective it is in tests at 12 and 25 mph.

"Most motorists won't be riding in driverless cars anytime soon," says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "In the shorter term, automatic braking is an accessible technology that's within reach for many drivers. We've seen an uptick in the number of luxury and mainstream models with available autobrake. That's a welcome sign for highway safety and helps pave the way for the eventual deployment of fully autonomous vehicles."

How they rank

In the latest round of tests,14 new models earn a superior rating and five earn an advanced rating. Earning superior are:

2016 Acura ILX, MDX, RDX, and RLX;

  • 2016 BMW X3;
  • 2015 Chrysler 300 and its twin, the 2015 Dodge Charger;
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class (both Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Pre-Safe Brake equipped versions), CLA (both Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Distronic Plus equipped versions), and E-Class; and
  • the 2016 Mazda 6 and CX-5.

The 2016 Volkswagen Golf, Golf SportWagen, Jetta, and 2015 Volkswagen Touareg are rated advanced for front crash prevention.

The BMW X3 earns an advanced rating when equipped with camera-only system called City Braking Function and is rated superior when equipped with a camera- and radar-based system.

Rating the vehicles

Forward collision warning systems that meet performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and autobrake systems that provide only minimal speed reduction in IIHS tests earn a basic rating.

Vehicles that combine the warning with moderate speed reductions earn an advanced rating. It also is possible to qualify for an advanced rating with an autobrake system that doesn't first warn the driver before taking action. Models that provide major speed reductions in IIHS tests earn a superior rating.

Autobrake availability is on the rise, Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) data shows. Among 2015 models, 212 of 784 offer autobrake -- more than twice as many as in the 2012 model year.

Driverless cars!! What a concept -- someday in the future. But vehicles that can brake without driver intervention if a crash is imminent are already on th...

Honda Pilot aces safety test

Midsize SUV does very well in difficult small front overlap test

The Honda Pilot has always enjoyed a good safety reputation, and the latest safety tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has done nothing to diminish that. Rather, it's improved that reputation.

The newly redesigned 2016 midsize SUV came through IIHS' small overlap front test with flying colors. Its available front crash prevention system earned a superior rating, helping it qualify for the 2015 Top Safety Pick+ award.

“The 2016 model's good small overlap performance is a dramatic change from the earlier generation Pilot, which rated poor,” IIHS said in a statement

Front quarter, head on

The small overlap front test consists of a head on collision in which a front quarter of the vehicle encounters a hard, stationary object. In the past, it has been a particularly challenging test for most small and midsize SUVs, including the Pilot.

The IIHS video below demonstrates the test and shows how destructive it can be.

In the test of the latest model Honda Pilot, the driver space held up well, with maximum intrusion of four inches at the parking brake pedal. The test results reveal the dummy's movement was well-controlled, with the front and side curtain airbags working well together to keep the dummy in place and protect the head from contact with the intruding structure and outside objects.

The IIHS stated that measures taken from the dummy showed a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

Significant improvement

For the Pilot, it's a significant improvement. While the car scored well in many tests, the 2014 Pilot did not fare well in the small overlap front test. In fact, the driver space was “seriously compromised,” suggesting injuries to the driver.

In last year's test the parking brake pedal moved nearly 17 inches inward, and the door hinge pillar moved in about 14 inches. Video shows the dummy's head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off to the left, as the steering column moved to the right and toward the driver. The side curtain airbag didn't extend far enough forward to protect the head.

The new Pilot, like the previous models, scored good ratings in the Institute's four other crashworthiness tests — moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.

Top Safety Pick+

When equipped with front crash prevention, the Honda Pilot qualifies for a Top Safety Pick+ award.

Vehicles must earn a good or acceptable small overlap rating and good ratings in the four other tests to qualify for that ranking. To earn a plus sign, vehicles must also have an available front crash prevention system that garners an advanced or superior rating.

IIHS engineers rated the Pilot's optional system “superior.” They say the autobrake prevented a collision in the Institute's 12 mph track test and cut the vehicle's speed in half in the 25 mph test.  

The Honda Pilot has always enjoyed a good safety reputation, and the latest safety tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has done no...

Changes to Prius c minicar earn TOP SAFETY PICK award

The vehicle now has an acceptable rating in the small overlap front crash test

Toyota made a midyear change to the Toyota Prius c that took it from a poor to an acceptable rating in the small overlap front crash test. That was enough to put the vehicle on the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety's (IIHS) list of TOP SAFETY PICK winners.

To improve small overlap protection, Toyota made structural improvements to the front end of the occupant compartment of 2015models of the scaled-down version of the hybrid-only model that were built after May. The side curtain airbags also were lengthened.

Improved test results

When IIHS put the modified minicar through the small overlap test, the driver space was maintained reasonably well. Maximum intrusion was 9 inches at the lower door-hinge pillar, compared with 12 inches in the test of the earlier, poor-rated version. Upper intrusion also fell by 3 inches.

The performance of the vehicle's safety belts and airbags wasn't ideal. The dummy's head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off the left side. The safety belt allowed the dummy's head and torso to move too far forward, and the head hit the instrument panel. The driver's seat also tipped forward and toward the B-pillar.

The side curtain airbag deployed and, in contrast to the earlier model, had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.

Measures taken from the dummy indicate that injuries to the left lower leg would be possible in a crash of this severity. The risk of other significant injuries is low.

With good ratings in the Institute's other crashworthiness evaluations -- moderate overlap front, side, head restraints and roof strength -- the Prius c qualifies for the TOP SAFETY PICK award. It has no available front crash prevention system, so it isn't eligible for TOP SAFETY PICK+.

Changing criteria

Since the small overlap test was added to the Institute's awards criteria in 2013, IIHS has allowed vehicles to qualify with an acceptable rating in order to put awards within reach of more models.

Starting with 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK, a good small overlap rating will be required. Vehicles with an acceptable rating such as the Prius c will need further improvements if their manufacturers want to hold on to the honors.

Toyota made a midyear change to the Toyota Prius c that took it from a poor to an acceptable rating in the small overlap front crash test. That was enough ...

Audi Q3 earns IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK award

The small SUV received good crashworthiness ratings

A strong showing for the 2016 Audi Q3 in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crashworthiness tests.

The small SUV, which did well in the challenging small overlap front test, earned the 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and good ratings in the other four crashworthiness tests. Vehicles that also earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+.

The Q3 doesn't have an available front crash prevention system.

Overlap test results

The Q3's structure held up well in the small overlap test, with maximum intrusion of four inches at the lower door-hinge pillar. The driver dummy's movement was well-controlled, with the head hitting the front airbag and remaining in place until rebound.

The side curtain airbag deployed with sufficient coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. Measures taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of injuries in a crash of this severity.

The SUV also earned good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.

The Q3 was introduced in 2015. IIHS tested the 2016 model, but the good ratings apply to the first model year as well.

A strong showing for the 2016 Audi Q3 in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) c...

Ford F-150 crew cab pickup truck aces IIHS evaluations

But, the extended cab model struggled in the small overlap test

Call it a tale of 2 pickups.

The 2015 F-150 crew cab, which Ford calls the SuperCrew, earned good ratings for occupant protection in all 5 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crashworthiness evaluations -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations -- and earned a 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award.

However, the extended cab, or SuperCab, earned good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations but just a marginal rating for occupant protection in a small overlap front crash.

The Institute picked the F-150 to test first because it is not only the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. but also the first mass-market vehicle with an all-aluminum body.

“Consumers who wondered whether the aluminum-body F-150 would be as crashworthy as its steel-body predecessor can consider the question answered,” said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.

Both the crew cab and extended cab F-150 pickups are rated basic for front crash prevention when equipped with Ford’s optional forward collision warning system, which meets performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The F-150 crew cab isn’t eligible for TOP SAFETY PICK+ because it lacks an autonomous braking system. Vehicles that earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK.

To earn TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles also must have an available autobrake system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Evaluating 2 models

For vehicles with multiple body styles, IIHS typically evaluates the one with the biggest sales. Initially, only the F-150 crew cab was on the schedule.

“After we tested the crew cab in the spring, questions were raised about the extended cab’s ability to match the crew cab’s good small overlap performance'” said Zuby. “We did some initial analysis and decided to test the extended cab, too,”

“For starters, there’s been lots of buzz around the release of the first aluminum-body pickup and how it would perform in crash tests,” Zuby says. “What’s more, even the lower-selling extended cab sales top those of many of the passenger vehicles we rate.”

The small overlap test

In the small overlap front test, each F-150 traveled at 40 mph toward a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier. Twenty-five percent of the pickup’s total width struck the barrier on the driver side, where a Hybrid III dummy representing an average-size man was positioned at the steering wheel. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

The two versions of the F-150 had markedly different outcomes.

“In a small overlap front crash like this, there’s no question you’d rather be driving the crew cab than the extended cab F-150,” Zuby says.

The crew cab’s occupant compartment remained intact. The front-end structure crumpled in a way that spared the occupant compartment significant intrusion and preserved survival space for the driver.

Measures recorded on the test dummy indicated low risk of injuries to the dummy’s head, chest, legs and feet.

The front and side curtain airbags worked together to keep the dummy’s head from contacting injury-producing stiff interior structures or outside objects. The dummy’s head loaded the front airbag, which stayed in place until the dummy rebounded.

The extended cab is a different story. Intruding structure seriously compromised the driver’s survival space, resulting in a poor structural rating. The toepan, parking brake and brake pedal were pushed back 10-13 inches toward the dummy, and the dashboard was jammed against its lower legs.

Measures recorded on the dummy indicated there would be a moderate risk of injuries to the right thigh, lower left leg and left foot in a real-world crash of this severity. The steering column was pushed back nearly 8 inches and came dangerously close to the dummy’s chest. The dummy’s head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off to the left and hitting the instrument panel.

“Ford added structural elements to the crew cab’s front frame to earn a good small overlap rating and a TOP SAFETY PICK award but didn’t do the same for the extended cab,” Zuby noted. “That shortchanges buyers who might pick the extended cab thinking it offers the same protection in this type of crash as the crew cab. It doesn’t.”

Call it a tale of 2 pickups. The 2015 F-150 crew cab, which Ford calls the SuperCrew, earned good ratings for occupant protection in all 5 Insurance Insti...

IIHS rates LATCH hardware in vehicles for ease-of-use

Most vehicles are sorely lacking; BMW, Mercedes, VW models earn good rating

Of the more than 100 vehicles evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only three have child restraint installation hardware that earns a good rating for ease of use. More than half have hardware that is poor or marginal.

LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is intended to make it easier to install a child seat properly. Child restraints installed with LATCH, rather than with vehicle safety belts, are more likely to be installed correctly, research has shown.

The Institute's new LATCH ratings will serve as a resource for families looking for a vehicle that makes it easy to transport their children safely. They also are intended to encourage vehicle manufacturers to pay attention to this equipment and make improvements.

Greater protection offered

Properly installed, age-appropriate child restraints provide considerably more protection for children in crashes than safety belts alone. However, observational studies have found that parents and caregivers often fail to secure them tightly or make other installation mistakes.

But in many vehicles, LATCH hardware could be better. Parents are more likely to install the seat correctly when the LATCH hardware meets certain key ease-of-use criteria.

"LATCH is meant to simplify child seat installations, but it doesn't always succeed," said Jessica Jermakian, an IIHS senior research scientist. "Parents often struggle to locate the anchors in the vehicle or find it’s difficult to attach the seats to them. We believe fixing these problems will make the task less frustrating for parents and increase the likelihood that children will ride in properly installed seats.”

Good LATCH defined

LATCH has been required in vehicles and on child restraints since 2002. In a vehicle, the lower anchors are located where the seatback meets the bottom seat cushion, an area known as the seat bight. Attachments at the bottom of the child restraint connect to these. The top tether connects the top of the child seat to an anchor located on the vehicle's rear shelf, seatback, floor, cargo area or ceiling.

Child restraints can be installed with lower anchors or safety belts. A top tether should be used with every forward-facing child restraint, whether it is secured using the safety belt or using the lower anchors.

In the new ratings system, vehicle LATCH hardware is rated good if it meets the following criteria:

  • The lower anchors are no more than 3/4-inch deep in the seat bight.
  • The lower anchors are easy to maneuver around. This is defined as having a clearance angle greater than 54%.
  • The force required to attach a standardized tool to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds. (The tool
  • represents a lower connector of a child seat, though the actual force required when installing a seat varies depending on the specific connector.)
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle's rear deck or on the top 85% of the seatback. They shouldn't be at the very bottom of the seatback, under the seat, on the ceiling or on the floor.
  • The area where the tether anchor is found doesn't have any other hardware that could be confused for the tether anchor. If other hardware is present, then the tether anchor must have a clear label located within 3 inches of it.

Under federal regulations, most vehicles must have at least two rear seating positions with full LATCH hardware and a third with at least a tether anchor. The IIHS ratings are based on the best two LATCH positions available in the vehicle's second row.

To earn a good rating, two LATCH positions must meet all 5 criteria, and a third tether anchor also must be easy to use. For an acceptable rating, 2 LATCH positions must each meet at least 2 of the 3 requirements for lower anchors and at least 1 of the 2 tether anchor requirements. If either position meets neither of the tether anchor requirements or meets only one of the lower anchor requirements, then the vehicle is marginal. If even fewer criteria are met, the vehicle is poor.

The ratings measure ease of use only. A correct installation in a vehicle with poor LATCH is just as safe as a correct installation in a vehicle with good LATCH. The same is true for an installation with a vehicle safety belt: If it's done correctly -- including attaching the tether in the case of a forward-facing restraint -- the child will be just as safe as with an installation using lower anchors.

How vehicles rate

Of 102 current models that IIHS has rated for LATCH, the three good ones are the BMW 5 series, a large luxury car; the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, a large SUV; and the Volkswagen Passat, a midsize car. Of the rest, 44 are acceptable, 45 are marginal, and 10 are poor.

The poor-rated vehicles run the gamut of vehicle types from minicars to large pickups. Most glaring is the Toyota Sienna. As a minivan, it's commonly bought to ferry children.

The online ratings information helps consumers understand exactly why a vehicle gets the rating it does. A diagram for each vehicle shows the location of all LATCH-equipped seating positions and which criteria those positions meet and which they miss. The location of extra tether anchors, for use with restraints attached with vehicle safety belts, is also shown.

In some cases, center seating positions don't have their own lower anchors, but manufacturers allow anchors to be "borrowed" from adjacent positions. The rating diagrams show when such borrowing is allowed by the vehicle manufacturer. (Some child restraint manufacturers advise against using borrowed anchors; consumers should check the restraint manual.)

"Even if you're not in the market for a new vehicle, our ratings can be a helpful source of information about a vehicle you already own," Jermakian says. "We're essentially providing you with a map of where child seats can be installed most easily in your vehicle, including the specific hardware available for each seating position."

Seating configurations and LATCH hardware can vary depending on the trim level or type of seats. The rating details indicate which specific vehicle was measured.

Good+ to reward greater flexibility

The Institute plans to award extra credit to vehicles with good-rated LATCH that also provide parents with additional LATCH options beyond the two required seating positions. In particular, the "good+" rating would encourage the availability of LATCH in the second-row center position, the safest place for children to travel. Currently, no vehicles qualify for good+.

A 2-row vehicle that meets the criteria for a good rating and also has acceptable or good LATCH in the center will be rated good+. The center LATCH position may use either dedicated anchors or borrowed anchors.

A 3-row vehicle must have one additional full LATCH position and tether anchors in all rear seating positions to earn good+. If the vehicle has a second-row center seating position, it must have the ability to use LATCH there as well.

Of the more than 100 vehicles evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only 3 have child restraint installation hardware that earns ...

Improvements earn Audi Q5 the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating

The car offers added protection in small overlap front crashes

The 2015 Audi Q5, a midsize luxury SUV, earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest award after its structure was improved for protection in small overlap front crashes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award and the good rating in the small overlap test have been awarded to to the Audi Q5.

The rating and the IIHS's top award went to vehicles that have come off the line after January with a reinforced front end and occupant compartment giving them protection in small overlap front crashes..

Strong overlap showing

During the crash, in which a vehicle is sent toward a barrier at 40 mph so that only its left front corner collides with it, the driver dummy's movement was well-controlled. The driver's space was maintained reasonably well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the lower door hinge pillar.

The dummy's head hit the front airbag and stayed cushioned until rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed and provided enough forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.

Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of injuries in a crash of this severity.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+, vehicles must earn a good or acceptable small overlap rating and a good rating in the Institute's four other crashworthiness tests -- moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.

The "plus" is awarded to vehicles that have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating from IIHS.

The Q5's optional system earns an advanced rating.

The 2015 Audi Q5, a midsize luxury SUV, earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest award after its structure was improved for protection in...

Small overlap tests on midsize SUVs yield mixed results

Three vehicles from Chrysler and one from Hyundai struggle

Results from the latest round of small overlap front crash testing of midsize SUVs are in, and the results are mixed.

Three vehicles achieved good or acceptable ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but many models -- including three newly rated SUVs from Fiat Chrysler and one from Hyundai -- continue to struggle with the test.

The Nissan Murano earns a good rating and, with a superior-rated optional front crash prevention system, qualifies for the Institute's highest award, TOP SAFETY PICK+. The Ford Flex earns an acceptable rating and qualifies for TOP SAFETY PICK.

Choices abound

Consumers looking for a midsize SUV now have seven choices that qualify for awards from IIHS. The earlier winners are the Toyota Highlander with TOP SAFETY PICK+ and the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Kia Sorento and Nissan Pathfinder, which all earn TOP SAFETY PICK.

Among the seven 2015 models in this round of testing, the Jeep Wrangler four-door model also picked up a good small overlap rating. However, the Wrangler offers only marginal protection in side and rear crashes, so it's not a recommended choice. It also lacks a fixed roof, so it can't provide good protection in rollover crashes.

Aside from the Wrangler, three other Fiat Chrysler SUVs were tested for small overlap protection and didn't fare well. The Dodge Journey earns a poor rating, and the Dodge Durango and Jeep Cherokee earn marginal ratings. The Hyundai Santa Fe also earns a marginal rating.

The test

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test is more difficult than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test. That's because, in a small overlap test, the main structures of the vehicle's front-end crush zone are bypassed, making it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy. The occupant compartment can collapse as a result.

Since IIHS began small overlap testing in 2012, manufacturers have responded to the challenge in two ways: One is by taking the test into account when models are redesigned. The other is by making smaller modifications to beef up the front structure and improve airbags even before a model gets a full overhaul.

"This test presented a major challenge for manufacturers when it was introduced three years ago, and many have adapted quickly," said IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby. "Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep have had some successes with redesigned models, but they haven't done much in the way of interim improvements. As a result, they still have many models that rate poor or marginal."

Murano tops the list

The best performer in the current group of seven is the redesigned 2015 Murano. It hit all the marks for ideal small overlap protection. The driver space held up well, with maximum intrusion of 5 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and its head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound.

The side curtain airbag deployed with sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

In addition to earning a good small overlap rating, the Murano improved its roof strength rating to good from the previous generation's marginal rating. The optional front crash prevention also is new for 2015. The Murano's autobrake nearly avoided a collision in the 12 mph IIHS track test and reduced the vehicle's speed by 11 mph in the 25 mph test. The Murano also earns a point for meeting federal criteria for forward collision warning systems.

Journey at the bottom

The Journey is the worst performer in the group and a classic example of poor small overlap protection. The occupant compartment failed to hold up, with intrusion measuring as much as 9 inches at the instrument panel and the parking brake pedal, which tore through the dummy's left lower leg. Injuries to the left hip, left knee and right lower leg also would be possible.

The dummy's head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off the left side, as the steering column moved to the right. The side curtain airbag failed to deploy, leaving the dummy's head vulnerable to contact with side structure and outside objects.

The Journey was introduced in 2009, and its poor rating applies to the previous models.

Results from the latest round of small overlap front crash testing of midsize SUVs are in, and the results are mixed. Three vehicles achieved good or acce...

Chevy Sonic earns IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK award

All it took was some midyear changes

Chevrolet has made changes to the structure and airbags of its 2015 Sonic, lifting the small car's rating for small overlap front crash protection from marginal to good.

That was enough for the vehicle to qualify for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK award.

The new rating applies to both sedan and hatchback versions of the Sonic built after February 2015. The modifications were made to the front-end structure, door sill and door hinge pillar. In addition, the side curtain airbags were lengthened and reprogrammed to deploy earlier in small overlap crashes.

Improved test results

In the latest test, the driver space was maintained reasonably well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the footrest and adjacent footwell. That's less than the 6 inches of intrusion in the lower interior that occurred in the earlier test.

The lower intrusion likely contributed to better injury indicators. Measures taken from the dummy in the earlier test showed that leg injuries would be possible. The new test indicated significant injuries would be unlikely in a crash of this severity.

The dummy's movement in the latest test was well-controlled. The head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed and had enough forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.

In contrast, the curtain airbag in the earlier test deployed too late, and the dummy's head ended up between the airbag and the side structure.

The Sonic also has good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must have good ratings in those four tests and a good or acceptable small overlap rating.

The Sonic is available with an optional forward collision warning system that earns a basic rating from IIHS for front crash prevention.

Chevrolet has made changes to the structure and airbags of its 2015 Sonic, lifting the small car's rating for small overlap front crash protection from mar...

Modified Audi A6 earns top IIHS safety award

The vehicle was modified to improve small overlap protection

Modifications to the 2016 Audi A6 stellar performance in the small overlap front test earns the vehicle the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ award.

The large luxury car already had good ratings in the Institute's other crashworthiness tests and an advanced rating for its optional front crash prevention system. The good small overlap rating applies to A6s built after January.

Test results

In the small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the foot rest. The dummy's movement was well-controlled. The head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound, and the side curtain airbag deployed with sufficient coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

Vehicles that earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, vehicles must also have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Modifications to the 2016 Audi A6 stellar performance in the small overlap front test earns the vehicle the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS)...

Buick SUV and its Chevy twin earn IIHS safety award

Improvements in small overlap front protection raised the vehicles' rating

The Buick Encore SUV -- along with its newly introduced, lower-priced twin, the Chevrolet Trax -- has qualified for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK award,

The Encore is the first vehicle from the Buick brand to qualify for the award since 2013. The award follows improvements to the SUV's structure for better small overlap front protection. The 2015 model earns a good rating in the small overlap test.

From poor to good

In contrast, the 2013-14 Encore rated poor in the test. The driver's space was seriously compromised with intrusion measuring as much as 13 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. The dummy's head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off the left side, as the steering column moved to the right. The side curtain airbag deployed too late and didn't have sufficient forward coverage to protect the head.

In the latest test, the driver space was maintained reasonably well, with maximum intrusion of 6 inches at the door hinge pillar and instrument panel. The dummy's movement was well-controlled. The head hit the front airbag and remained there until rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed on time and had sufficient forward coverage. Measures taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of injuries in a crash of this severity.

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole. To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and a good rating in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

The Encore's ratings in the latter four evaluations carry over from 2014.

The Buick Encore SUV -- along with its newly introduced, lower-priced twin, the Chevrolet Trax -- has qualified for the Insurance Institute for Highway Saf...

Nissan Sentra earns IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK award

Improvement in the small overlap front crash test was the key

Improving from a poor to good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front crash test, has won the 2015 Nissan Sentra the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK award.

The big change? The small car's front structure, A-pillar and door sill were modified to reduce intrusion in small overlap crashes. Also, the side curtain airbag was lengthened to protect the driver's head.

In the latest test, IIHS said, the driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of less than 5 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. The dummy's movement was well-controlled; the head hit the front airbag and stayed there until rebound, while the side curtain airbag had enough forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of injuries in a crash of this severity.

Big improvement

In contrast, the 2013-14 Sentra didn't hold up as well in the test. Intrusion measured as much as 13 inches at the lower hinge pillar. The dummy's head slid off the left side of the frontal airbag, and the side curtain airbag didn't offer adequate coverage. Measures from the dummy indicated that injuries to the left leg would be possible in a crash of this severity.

The Sentra's good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests carry over to the 2015 model year.

To qualify for the 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK award, a vehicle must have good ratings in those four tests and a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

Improving from a poor to good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front crash test, has won the 2015 Nissan Sentra...

Redesigned Kia Sorento wins top safety award

The midsize SUV's makeover paid off in a higher safety rating

The 2016 Kia Sorento got a makeover that paid off in terms of its ratings with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

A redesign of has taken the midsize SUV's small overlap front rating from poor to good, earning it a TOP SAFETY PICK award.

In the small overlap crash test, the driver space of the new Sorento was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of less than 4 inches at the footrest, according to IIHS. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and the front and side curtain airbags worked well together to keep the head away from any stiff structure or outside objects. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

Big improvement

It's a marked improvement from the previous generation Sorento. In the test of the 2014 model, the driver's space was seriously compromised, with intrusion measuring as much as 11 inches at the parking brake pedal. The side curtain airbag didn't deploy, and the dummy's head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off the left side, as the steering column moved to the right. Measures from the dummy indicated a high likelihood of injuries to the left lower leg and possible injuries to the left thigh and knee in a crash of this severity.

The small overlap test, which was introduced in 2012, replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

Like the previous generation, the 2016 Sorento earns good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. The across-the-board good ratings mean the Sorento qualifies for 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK.

The award is given to vehicles that earn a good or acceptable small overlap rating and good ratings in the other four crashworthiness tests.

The Sorento is available with optional forward collision warning, earning it a basic rating for front crash prevention.

The 2016 Kia Sorento got a makeover that paid off in terms of its ratings with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). A redesign of has taken...

Seventy-one vehicles garner IIHS safety awards

Ranks of winners grow, despite tougher standard

Consumers now have more choices for optimum protection in car crashes.

The number of vehicles earning either of two awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has jumped to 71 from 39 this time last year, while the number of winners in the top tier -- TOP SAFETY PICK+ -- has increased by 11 for 2015, despite a tougher standard for front crash prevention.

"This is the third year in a row that we are giving automakers a tougher challenge to meet," says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "The quest for TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards is driving improvement in the small overlap front crash test and getting manufacturers to offer automatic braking technology on more and more vehicles."

While the bar has been raised for TOP SAFETY PICK+, the criteria for TOP SAFETY PICK are unchanged from 2014: a good or acceptable rating in the challenging small overlap front test and a good rating in each of the Institute's four other crashworthiness evaluations -- moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.

The 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK+ designation is awarded to vehicles that meet those criteria and also have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Changing criteria

For 2014, vehicles could qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+ with only a basic rating for front crash prevention. Warning systems that meet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) performance criteria but don't include autobrake qualify for a basic rating. For an advanced or superior rating, vehicles must stop or slow down without driver intervention before hitting a target in IIHS tests at 12 mph, 25 mph or both.

As a result of the change in criteria for 2015, 15 vehicles that qualified for 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK+ are now simply TOP SAFETY PICK winners. In all, there are 33 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners and 38 TOP SAFETY PICK winners.

"Although forward collision warning on its own is a valuable feature, we decided to tighten our criteria to encourage manufacturers to offer autobrake. Systems that don't require a driver response to avoid or mitigate a crash have the most potential for reducing crashes," Lund says. "Nevertheless, the models that are losing their plus signs are still great choices for safety, as are all the TOP SAFETY PICK winners."

The small overlap challenge

Most vehicles produced in recent years have had little trouble with the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. The small overlap front test, which replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole, represented a new hurdle when it was introduced in 2012.

For 2013, IIHS continued to award TOP SAFETY PICK to vehicles that earned good ratings in the four older tests, regardless of their small overlap ratings. Those with good or acceptable small overlap ratings earned TOP SAFETY PICK+. Only 13 vehicles managed it at the beginning of the award year.

Since then, automakers have steadily increased the number of good or acceptable small overlap ratings by factoring in the test when they redesign a vehicle or introduce a new model and by making modifications to the structure and airbags between redesigns.

The Honda CR-V, a 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winner, is an example of a vehicle that was successfully modified for improved protection. The small SUV earned a marginal rating when it was tested in 2012. The structure did not hold up, with intrusion into the driver space exceeding 1 foot. The dummy's head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off as the steering column moved to the right.

Honda made changes to the vehicle's front end structure, occupant compartment and restraint system for the 2015 model year. In the most recent test, maximum intrusion was 5 inches at the parking brake pedal, and the dummy's head remained on the front airbag until rebound. Today's CR-V earns a good rating.

The Toyota Prius v, which also earns TOP SAFETY PICK+, saw even greater improvement. The midsize car had been one of the worst performers ever in the small overlap test. In the 2012 test, the structure collapsed, and the dummy's head hit the instrument panel and ended up between the side curtain airbag and the door. Measures from the dummy showed left hip and lower leg injuries were very likely.

After the structure was improved and the side curtain airbag was lengthened, the 2015 Prius v performed well all-around, with low levels of intrusion, good restraint performance and low injury measures.

Front crash prevention spreads

The list of 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners shows how quickly front crash prevention systems with autobrake are spreading. In total, there are 27 superior-rated 2015 models and 33 with an advanced rating. (Some of those vehicles don't qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+ because they don't meet all the crashworthiness criteria.)

Most of the TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners earn the award only when equipped with optional front crash prevention systems. However, when not equipped, they still meet the crashworthiness criteria for TOP SAFETY PICK.

Currently only three automakers offer standard front crash prevention systems. Volvo models have standard City Safety, a low-speed autobrake system. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class and E-Class have a warning and autobrake system, but the standard autobrake components haven't been tested yet. The Mercedes-Benz M-Class and CLA and the Acura RLX offer standard warning systems. All these vehicles are available with optional systems that earn higher ratings than the standard equipment. The CLA, which earns an advanced rating with its optional system, hasn't been tested for crashworthiness.

Consumers now have more choices for optimum protection in car crashes. The number of vehicles earning either of two awards from the Insurance Institute fo...

Minivans show major flaw in IIHS safety test

Three models earned poor ratings in the small overlap test

Three out of four minivans recently tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) came up woefully short, with only one vehicle performing acceptably.

The Nissan Quest, the Chrysler Town & Country and its twin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, all earn poor ratings. The only exception is the 2015 Toyota Sienna, which earned an acceptable rating, joining the Honda Odyssey, which last year earned a good rating in the small overlap crash test, in the ranks of TOP SAFETY PICK+ award winners.

“Minivans are popular among parents, a group that tends to be safety conscious,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, “but we've only seen two so far that offer decent protection in small overlap crashes.”

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole. The crash forces bypass the vehicle's main energy-absorbing structure. These crashes may be especially difficult for minivans to handle because minivans are typically built on car platforms, but are wider than cars. As a result, more of the vehicle is located outside the main structure. Minivans also are heavier than cars.

Sienna the exception

In the case of the Sienna, Toyota modified the front structure of the 2015 model to improve small overlap protection. Still, it didn't hold up that well in the test, with intrusion measuring as much as 5½ inches at the upper door hinge pillar and instrument panel. The dummy's head contacted the front airbag but immediately slid off the left side. The safety belt also allowed the dummy to move too far forward.

On the plus side, the side curtain airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from intruding structure. Measures taken from the dummy showed that the risk of any injuries would be low in a crash of this severity.

Quest

While the Sienna managed an acceptable rating despite subpar structural performance, all bets were off for the Quest. The structure was pushed in nearly 2 feet at the lower hinge pillar, and the parking brake pedal moved 16 inches toward the driver. The dummy's left leg was trapped between the seat and instrument panel, and its right foot was caught between the brake pedal and toe pan. Following the tests, technicians had to cut the entire seat out and then use a crowbar to free the right foot.

The Quest receives a good subrating for restraints and kinematics, but that is deceiving. This component of the rating measures how well the safety belt and airbags work to control the dummy's movement. In the Quest, the dummy was held in place by the intruding structure, and the airbag was shoved into its face.

"That kept the measured risk of head injury low, but that's about the extent of what can be expected from the restraint system when the basic structure collapses so completely," said Zuby.

The forces measured all along the dummy's left leg, from the thigh to the foot, were very high, in some cases exceeding the limits of the sensors.

"A real person experiencing this would be lucky to ever walk normally again," Zuby points out. A broken right femur also would be possible. The Quest's poor rating applies to 2011-15 models.

Town & Country

The Town & Country's structure also collapsed around the dummy. Intrusion measured 15 inches at the lower hinge pillar and the instrument panel. The skin on the dummy's left lower leg was gouged by the intruding parking brake pedal, and its left knee skin was torn by a steel brace under the instrument panel.

The head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off and hitting the instrument panel, as the steering column moved to the right. The door sill and the steering column both moved in toward the driver. The side curtain airbag deployed but lacked sufficient forward coverage.

Measures taken from the dummy indicate that injuries to the left hip, left knee and left lower leg would be likely in a crash of this severity. As with the Quest, some of the forces were off the scale.

These results apply to the 2008-15 Town & Country and the 2008-15 Grand Caravan. (They also apply to another, discontinued twin, the 2009-12 Volkswagen Routan.)

The only minivan sold in the U.S. not rated by the Institute is the Kia Sedona. The manufacturer has told IIHS it plans to make a change to the vehicle in the coming weeks to improve small overlap protection, so it will be tested shortly.

Ratings criteria

The IIHS introduced the small overlap front test in 2012. In the test, which is more challenging than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the Institute's moderate overlap front test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

Vehicles with a good or acceptable small overlap rating, along with good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, qualify for the 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK award. Vehicles that meet those criteria and also earn a basic or higher rating for front crash prevention qualify for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

The Sienna earns its "plus" on the basis of an advanced front crash prevention rating. Its optional system includes forward collision warning and an automatic braking function that reduced impact speeds by an average of 9 mph in the Institute's 12 mph test and by 7 mph in the 25 mph test.

Three out of four minivans recently tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) came up woefully short, with only one vehicle performing ac...

Lincoln MKS, BMW 5 get poor ratings in safety test, Infiniti Q70 earns top score

The results run the gamut from good to poor in small front overlap tests

Of the 3 luxury autos that were recently put through the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test for the first time, only 1 -- the Infiniti Q70 -- achieved a good rating and qualified for the 2014 IIHS "Top Safety Pick+" award.

The Lincoln MKS earned a poor rating, and the BMW 5 series earned a marginal. In fact, the MKS and 5 series are the worst performers out of 7 large luxury cars tested so far for small overlap protection.

The Q70

In the test of the Q70, the driver space was maintained reasonably well, and the dummy's movement was properly controlled. The dummy's head hit the front airbag, which stayed in place, and the side curtain airbag provided sufficient coverage to protect the head from side structure and intruding objects. Measures taken from the dummy showed low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

The good small overlap rating applies to the 2014-15 Q70 and the 2013 Infiniti M, as the car was previously called. Good ratings in the Institute's four other crashworthiness evaluations and an available front crash prevention system, helped the Q70 qualify for the 2014 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.

Lincoln MKS disappoints

The performance of the Lincoln MKS in the small overlap test couldn't have been more different. The driver space was severely limited after the crash, with the structure pushing in as much as 12 inches. The steering column moved 5 inches inward and 6 inches to the right. The dummy's head barely contacted the front airbag before sliding off the left side and hitting the instrument panel. Injury measures from the dummy showed that left hip injuries would be likely and left knee and lower leg injuries would be possible. The vehicle's poor rating applies to 2009-15 models.

BMW 5 so-so

The BMW 5 series performed somewhat better, earning a marginal rating. Like the MKS, the 5 series also saw as much as 12 inches of intrusion. However, there was considerably less intrusion in the upper interior. The dummy's movement was well controlled, with both the front and side airbags doing their jobs. Injury measures indicated that left leg injuries would be likely. The marginal rating applies to 2011-15 models.

In the small overlap evaluation, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. The crash replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

A good or acceptable small overlap rating is a requirement for Top Safety Pick, along with good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must also earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

The Q70 is the fourth model from Nissan/Infiniti to earn either Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ for 2014. It is the fifth large luxury car to qualify for the 2014 Top Safety Pick+ award. The others are the Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, Volvo S80 and Acura RLX.

"The five manufacturers that have already achieved the Top Safety Pick+ designation for their cars are offering consumers state-of-the-art safety," said IIHS President Adrian Lund. "Meanwhile, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus and Lincoln are playing catch-up in the large luxury category."

Of the 3 luxury autos that were recently put through the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test for the first time, only ...

High marks for the Volkswagen Jetta in small overlap protection

That helped the vehicle qualify for the IIHS “Top Safety Pick+” award

A structural upgrade to improve small overlap protection and the addition of an optional front crash prevention system led the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta earning the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest award -- "Top Safety Pick+."

Although the midsize sedan didn't get a full redesign, the A-pillars and door sills were strengthened for the 2015 model year. As a result, the Jetta's small overlap rating improved to good from the marginal rating of earlier models.

In the test, the driver's space was maintained well, and measures taken from the dummy in the driver seat indicated a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of the same severity.

The side airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from striking side structure and outside objects. However, the dummy's head slid off the frontal airbag after hitting it, and the safety belt allowed the dummy's head and torso to move too far forward.

Other areas perform well

In addition to the good small overlap rating, the Jetta earns good ratings in the Institute's four other crashworthiness evaluations. An optional forward collision warning system earns the car a basic rating for front crash prevention. When equipped with the system, the Jetta qualifies for the Top Safety Pick+ award.

IIHS introduced the small overlap evaluation in 2012. In the test, which is more challenging than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the Institute's moderate overlap test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. The crash replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. Top Safety Pick+ winners must meet those same criteria and also earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

A structural upgrade to improve small overlap protection and the addition of an optional front crash prevention system led the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta earnin...

Kia Soul qualifies for IIHS "Top Safety Pick"

The automaker improved small overlap front protection of 2 small cars

After previously being given a poor rating poor in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test, the Kia Soul now has earned a good rating in the tough crash test, following structural improvements for the 2015 model year.

Coupled with good ratings in the Institute's four other crashworthiness evaluations, the small car  qualifies for the IIHS Top Safety Pick award.

A second small car from Kia, the Forte, also improved after the manufacturer made changes, but only to a marginal rating.

Improving the Soul

The 2013 Soul and the 2014 Forte both earned poor ratings in the small overlap test. The Soul was redesigned for the 2014 model year, but wasn't tested then because the company told IIHS it didn't believe it would perform well. The front end and occupant compartment were strengthened for 2015.

In the test of the 2015 Soul, the driver space was maintained reasonably well with a small amount of intrusion. The dummy's movement was well controlled, and its head hit the frontal airbag, which stayed in position during the crash.

Additionally, the side curtain airbag deployed and provided sufficient coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. All measurements recorded on the dummy indicated a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

Upgrades for the Forte

Like the Soul, the Forte also got significant structural upgrades to the occupant compartment. Compared with the 2014 model -- one of the worst performers of any vehicle tested by IIHS for small overlap protection -- the 2015 model fared much better, but its overall rating still is only marginal. Even with the stronger occupant compartment, the driver's space wasn't maintained well, with intrusion approaching 8 inches at the lower hinge pillar.

Also, the dummy's head slid off the frontal airbag and struck the instrument panel, as the safety belt allowed too much forward motion. The side airbag also lacked sufficient coverage to protect the head. Nevertheless, injury measures on the dummy were low.

IIHS introduced the small overlap evaluation in 2012. In the test, which is more challenging than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the Institute's moderate overlap test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. The crash replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

After previously being given a poor rating poor in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front test, the Kia Soul now has earne...

Honda Fit earns IIHS Top Safety Pick designation

The vehicle overcame a setback in the small overlap test

The redesigned 2015 Honda Fit, showing a significant improvement over the 2009-13 model, has qualified for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award.

After the earlier model was rated “poor” in the institute's challenging small overlap test, the new edition of the minicar earned an “acceptable” rating and earned “good” ratings in four other crash tests.

Second time's the charm

IIHS conducted two small overlap tests of the new Fit. In the first, the bumper beam -- a steel bar located behind the plastic bumper cover -- broke free of the frame rail on the passenger side early in the crash. This caused much more of the crash energy to be absorbed by the driver side of the car, resulting in extensive intrusion into the occupant compartment and excessive upward movement of the steering column.

In response to that initial test, Honda engineers improved the strength of the bumper beam welds, and the company asked to have the the car tested again. With the improved welds, the bumper beam stayed attached to the frame rail. Intrusion into the occupant compartment was reduced, and the steering column was much more stable, resulting in an acceptable rating. The rating applies to vehicles built after June 2014.

Mass replacement planned

Honda will initiate a "product update" to replace the bumper beams on approximately 12,000 2015 Fits that were sold earlier this year, prior to the change to the bumper welds. Owners will be notified by mail, and dealers will do the work free of charge. This modification will significantly improve protection in small overlap crashes.

Only cars with the replacement bumper beam earn the acceptable rating in the small overlap test and qualify for the Top Safety Pick designation.

"We commend Honda for its quick response to the test and for taking the additional step of replacing the bumper beams on early-production vehicles," said IIHS President Adrian Lund. "People who bought cars produced earlier in the year should take advantage of this free replacement to improve protection in small overlap crashes."

In the the small overlap test, which is more challenging than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the IIHS moderate overlap test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. The crash replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn a “good” or “acceptable” rating for small overlap protection and “good” ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

The redesigned 2015 Honda Fit, showing a significant improvement over the 2009-13 model, has qualified for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS...

A "Top Safety Pick+" rating for Subaru

The 2015 Legacy and Outback performed well in the small overlap test

Top marks in every measurement category of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front crash test helped the redesigned Subaru Legacy and Outback earn a "Top Safety Pick+" designation. The midsize vehicles' optional front crash prevention system was also a factor.

The previous generation Legacy also was a Top Safety Pick+ winner, earning an acceptable rating overall in the small overlap front test. Structural performance improved to good for the 2015 Legacy, compared with a marginal score for the outgoing model.

Impressive showing

The driver space was maintained well, with the safety cage preventing excessive intrusion into the occupant compartment. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and the frontal and side curtain airbags worked together to protect the head from contact with interior structures. Ratings for restraints, dummy kinematics, and injury measures for the head and neck, chest, pelvis, and legs and feet are all good.

In the small overlap evaluation, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

The Legacy and Outback, which is the station wagon version of the Legacy, earn superior ratings for front crash prevention when equipped with EyeSight, their optional forward collision warning system with autobrake. In track evaluations, the system completely stopped the vehicle in the Institute's 12 and 25 mph front crash avoidance tests.

Strong track record

Subaru has the most 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK awards of any brand. Its other winners include the BRZ, Impreza, Forester, WRX and XV Crosstrek.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, as well as good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

Top Safety Pick+ winners must meet those same criteria and also earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

Top marks in every measurement category of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front crash test helped the redesigned Subaru ...

Chrysler 200 passes small overlap front crash test with flying colors

The results helped the vehicle earn the IIHS top safety award

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the redesigned 2015 Chrysler the top rating of good in its small overlap front crash test -- a step up from the previous generation's rating of acceptable.

The midsize moderately priced car received good ratings in all five of the IIHS crashworthiness evaluations. That, plus an available front crash prevention system that earns a superior rating, qualifies the 200 for the IIHS "TOP SAFETY PICK+" award.

'Low risk' of significant injuries

In the small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained well, and injury measures recorded on the dummy indicated a low risk of any significant injuries in a real-world crash of this severity, IIHS said. The dummy's head was well controlled by the frontal airbag, which stayed in position during the crash. The side curtain airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structures.

The 200 earned a good rating in every measurement category for small overlap protection including structure, restraints and dummy kinematics, and injury measures for the head and neck, chest, pelvis, and legs and feet.

The small overlap evaluation was add to the IIHS testing lineup in 2012. In the crash, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole.

The 200 earns a superior rating for front crash prevention when equipped with its optional forward collision warning system with auto brake, part of a package called Safety.

In track evaluations, the system completely stopped the vehicle in the Institute's 12 mph test and significantly reduced the vehicle's speed in the 25 mph test.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, plus a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the redesigned 2015 Chrysler the top rating of good in its small overlap front crash test -- ...

IIHS gives mixed ratings to small cars in small overlap front crash test

Only 1 model wins a good rating while 6 are marginal or poor

A dozen small cars were put through their paces by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- tests that included the small overlap front crash test.

When the smoke had cleared, only 1 -- the Mini Cooper Countryman -- had earned a good rating.

Among the others, the electric-powered Chevrolet Volt (with a gasoline engine “range extender”) was rated “acceptable,” while its battery-electric rival, the Nissan Leaf, was ranked “poor.” The Ford C-Max Hybrid, a small four-door wagon, earned an acceptable rating, and another small four-door wagon -- the gasoline-powered Mazda 5 -- was rated poor.

Five models of small cars, all 2014s, earn an acceptable rating, two were ranked marginal and four earned poor ratings for occupant protection in a small overlap crash in the latest round of evaluations. The IIHS now has evaluated 32 small cars for small overlap front crash protection. Just 19 earned a good or acceptable rating; the other 13 were marginal or poor.

A challenging test

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25% of a vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test is more difficult than either the head-on crashes conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test. In the small overlap test, the main structures of the vehicle’s front-end crush zone are bypassed, making it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy. The occupant compartment can collapse as a result.

A “solid performance”

“The Mini Cooper Countryman gave a solid performance,” said Joe Nolan, the Institute’s senior vice president for vehicle research. “The Countryman’s safety cage held up reasonably well. The safety belts and airbags worked together to control the test dummy’s movement, and injury measures indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a real-world crash this severe.”

The Countryman, introduced in 2011, is a larger four-door version of the two-door Mini Cooper. The small overlap rating for the Countryman doesn’t apply to the two-door model, which hasn’t been tested.

Making the grade

To earn the top rating of good, automakers need to focus on overall crash protection. That means an occupant compartment that resists intrusion, safety belts that prevent a driver from pitching too far forward and side curtain airbags that provide enough forward coverage to cushion a head at risk of hitting the dashboard or window frame or things outside the vehicle. Collapsing structures can knock front airbags and seats out of position, making the problem worse.

“Collapse of the occupant compartment is the downfall for four small cars in this group, including the Fiat 500L, Mazda 5, Nissan Juke and Nissan Leaf,” Nolan explained. “A sturdy occupant compartment allows the restraint systems to do their job, absorbing energy and controlling occupant motion.”

Volt and Leaf electrics

Back in 2011, the Volt and Leaf were the first mainstream plug-in electric models to undergo IIHS crash test evaluations. The 2011 models earned top ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, head restraint and roof-strength evaluations. That’s still the case with the 2014 versions of both cars.

“Electric vehicles have a unique challenge in the small overlap test because of their heavy batteries. The Volt performed reasonably well, earning an acceptable rating, while the Leaf struggled,” Nolan says.

Driver space in the Volt was maintained reasonably well in the test, and injury measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries to a person in a similar crash.

In the Leaf, the dummy seated at the steering wheel had a different experience. The Leaf chalked up as much as 16 inches of intrusion in the lower occupant compartment and 14 inches in the upper occupant compartment. The instrument panel, parking brake pedal and steering column were all pushed back toward the driver. Injuries to the left knee and left lower leg would be likely in a crash of this severity, and injuries to the left thigh would be possible.

Award winners

The Volt, which has a basic-rated optional forward collision warning system, is the only car in this test group to earn a 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. The C-Max Hybrid, Countryman, Mitsubishi Lancer and Scion FR-S and its twin the Subaru BRZ qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, the Institute’s second-highest award. These models miss the “plus” award because they don’t have an available front crash prevention system.

To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, a good rating in the Institute's other four tests, and a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention. To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and a good rating in the other four tests.

“Consumers in the market for a small car now have six models to consider on our list of 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award winners, and an additional 13 that earn TOP SAFETY PICK,” said Nolan. “Consumers trading the inherent safety of a larger vehicle for the convenience or fuel economy of a small car should focus their search on these vehicles with state-of-the-art safety designs.”

A dozen small cars were put through their paces by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), tests that included the small overlap front crash te....

Hyundai Sonata earns top IIHS safety award

The vehicle performed well in front crash tests

An acceptable rating in the small overlap front crash test and a basic rating for front crash prevention have earned the 2015 Hyundai Sonata the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) "Top Safety Pick+" award.

The midsize moderately priced car also earns good ratings in each of the IIHS other four tests -- moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.

Hyundai redesigned the Sonata for the 2015 model year, improving the car's small overlap front rating from the previous generation's marginal rating.

Adequate protection

The driver's space was maintained well in the small overlap test. During the test, the safety belt allowed the dummy's upper body to move too far forward. The dummy's head hit the steering wheel through the airbag, indicating that head injuries would be possible in a real-world crash of this severity. The side curtain airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structures.

In the small overlap test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or object like a tree or a utility pole.

The Sonata has an optional forward collision warning system. The IIHS rates vehicles as basic, advanced or superior for front crash prevention depending on whether they offer autobrake and, if so, how effective it is in the tests at 12 and 25 mph.

Forward collision warning systems that meet performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and autobrake systems that provide only minimal speed reduction in IIHS tests earn a basic rating.

The Sonata is the second Hyundai model to earn the institute's highest award for 2014. To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, a good rating in the Institute's other four tests, and a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

An acceptable rating in the small overlap front crash test and a basic rating for front crash prevention have earned the 2015 Hyundai Sonata the Insurance ...

BMW midsize luxury car earns top IIHS safety award

The 2 series is a redesign of an earlier model

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the 2014 BMW 2 series its Top SAFETY PICK+ award.

The midsize luxury car turned in a good performance in the IIHS crashworthiness evaluations and received an advanced rating for front crash prevention.

It's the first Beemer model to earn either of the institute's safety awards for 2014, and the first to earn a good or acceptable rating in the challenging small overlap front crash test.

Strong test results

BMW redesigned the 1 series for the 2014 model year and renamed it the 2 series. It earned good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations. The head restraint rating applies only to models manufactured after June 2014.

In the small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained reasonably well. Injury measures recorded on the driver dummy indicated a low risk of any significant injuries in a real-world crash of this severity.

The dummy's head made good contact with the frontal airbag, which stayed in position during the crash, and the side curtain airbag deployed to protect the head from contact with side structures.

The small overlap test is more challenging than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the IIHS moderate overlap test. Twenty-five percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph, replicating what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or object like a tree or a utility pole.

An optional forward collision warning and braking system, called City Braking, earns the 2 series an advanced rating for front crash prevention. The system has automatic braking technology that significantly reduced the vehicle's speed in the Institute's 12 mph test.

The 2 series is the fifth midsize luxury car to earn the IIHS highest award for 2014. To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, a good rating in four other tests, and a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the 2014 BMW 2 series its Top SAFETY PICK+ award. The midsize luxury car turned in a good pe...

Mercedes-Benz E-Class earns top IIHS safety award

The luxury car did well in nearly every test

A good rating in the challenging small overlap front crash test and a standard front crash prevention system have earned the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIIHS) "Top Safety Pick+" award.

The large luxury car also earned good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations.

Beginning with 2014 models manufactured after January, Mercedes strengthened the footwell area of the occupant compartment to improve protection in small overlap front crashes. These changes apply to the 4-door E-Class models.

Driver well-protected

In the small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained well. Injury measures recorded on the driver dummy indicated that lower leg injuries would be possible in a real-world crash of this severity.

The dummy's head was reasonably controlled by the frontal airbag, but it rotated around and hit the vehicle's A-pillar because the head and torso moved too far forward. The side curtain airbag deployed to protect the head from contact with other side structures.

Despite the head contact, risk of significant injuries to the head and chest was low.

A standard forward collision warning system, called Collision Prevention Assist, earns the E-Class a basic rating for front crash prevention. When equipped with the optional Pre-Safe Brake system, the E-Class earns a superior rating for front crash prevention.

The E-Class is the fourth large luxury car to earn the Institute's highest award for 2014. To qualify, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, a good rating in the Institute's other four tests, and a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

A good rating in the challenging small overlap front crash test and a standard front crash prevention system have earned the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class the...

Volkswagen Golf, GTI earn IIHS "Top Safety Pick+"

The vehicles performed well in various crash tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has presented its Top Safety Pick+ award to the Volkswagen Golf and its twin, the GTI.

The vehicles were cited for good performance in each of the institute's crashworthiness evaluations -- including the small overlap test -- and available front crash prevention. In addition, the two small cars, redesigned for 2015, offer an optional forward collision warning system that earns a basic rating.

Test results

In the small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained well and injury measures recorded on the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

While the dummy's head nearly slid off the left side of the airbag, the side curtain airbag deployed to protect the head from contacting side structure and outside objects.

The small overlap evaluation, which was introduced in 2012, is more challenging than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the IIHS moderate overlap test.

In this test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. The crash replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.

VW consistency

The Golf and GTI are the latest Volkswagen models to earn a 2014 safety award from IIHS after the Passat qualified for "Top Safety Pick."

To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and a good rating in the other four tests.

The "plus" is awarded to vehicles that meet those criteria and also earn a rating of basic or higher for front crash prevention.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has presented its TOP SAFETY PICK+ award to the Volkswagen Golf and its twin, the GTI. The vehicles were cited ...

Better automatic braking means higher safety ratings

The improvement comes less than a year into a new program

More vehicles are earning top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when it comes to front crash prevention.

Less than a year into the new IIHS rating program, auto manufacturers are making moving to adopt the most beneficial systems with automatic braking capabilities, and are offering the features on a wider variety of models.

As a result, 21 of 24 cars and SUVs -- all 2014 models unless noted -- earn an advanced or higher rating in the latest round of IIHS evaluations.

“We are already seeing improvements from automakers since the initial launch of our ratings last September,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “BMW and Lexus, for example, have added more braking capability to their systems, which has paid off in higher ratings.”

Large family cars and large luxury cars make up the bulk of the test group. Four midsize luxury/near luxury cars, three midsize luxury SUVs and a midsize SUV were tested also.

Cream of the crop

Four vehicles earn perfect scores when equipped with certain options: the BMW 5 series large luxury car, BMW X5 midsize luxury SUV, 2015 Hyundai Genesis large luxury car and Mercedes-Benz E-Class large luxury car.

In all, eight models earn the highest rating of superior, 13 earn advanced, and three earn a basic rating.

In addition to familiar luxury brands, consumers will find mainstream nameplates among the newest rated vehicles, including Buick, Chevrolet, Dodge and Toyota.

The ratings

IIHS rates vehicles as basic, advanced or superior for front crash prevention depending on whether they offer autobrake and -- if so -- how effective it is in tests at 12 and 25 mph.

Forward collision warning systems that meet performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and autobrake systems that provide only minimal speed reduction in IIHS tests earn a basic rating.

Vehicles that combine the warning with moderate speed reductions earn an advanced rating. It is possible to qualify for an advanced rating with an autobrake system that doesn’t first warn the driver before taking action.

Models that offer a warning and provide major speed reduction in IIHS tests earn a superior rating. Some models have multiple ratings because they are available with different versions of front crash prevention systems and their test performance varies. In the current group, this is the case with the BMW 3 series, 5 series and X5.

“We know that this technology is helping drivers avoid crashes,” Zuby says. “The advantage of autobrake is that even in cases where a crash can’t be avoided entirely, the system will reduce speed. Reducing the speed reduces the amount of damage that occurs to both the striking and struck cars and reduces injuries to people in those cars.”

Front crash prevention systems use various types of sensors, such as camera, radar or laser, to detect when the vehicle is getting too close to one in front of it. Most systems issue a warning and precharge the brakes to maximize their effect if the driver responds by braking. Many systems brake the vehicle autonomously if the driver doesn’t respond. In some cases, automatic braking is activated without a preliminary warning.

Availability

Most front crash prevention systems have to be purchased as part of an optional package, but consumers will find that availability is growing, especially for autobrake. More than 20% of 2014 models in the Highway Loss Data Institute's vehicle features database offer a front crash prevention system with autobrake capabilities -- twice as many as in 2012. Forward collision warning is offered as an option on nearly 40% of 2014 models.

“Sorting through the various trade names and features can be confusing, even if you’re looking at models from the same manufacturer. Before buying, consumers should consult the IIHS ratings to find out if the specific model they are considering comes with a top-rated front crash prevention system,” Zuby advises.

More vehicles are earning top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when it comes to front crash prevention. Less than a year int...

Hyundai Genesis earns top safety award

The luxury sedan did well in a wide range of IIHS tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named the redesigned 2015 Hyundai Genesis a recipient of its "Top Safety Pick+" award.

The honor came, according to IIHS, “thanks to a good rating in the challenging small overlap front crash test and a superior rating for front crash prevention.”

The large luxury car also earned good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations.

Low risk of injury

In the small overlap test, the driver’s space was maintained well, and injury measures recorded on the driver dummy indicated low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity, according to IIHS.

In addition, the dummy’s head made good contact with the front airbag, which stayed in position during the crash, and the side curtain airbag deployed to protect the head from contact with side structures.

IIHS added the small overlap evaluation to its testing lineup in 2012. In the crash, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole.

New safety offering

The optional front crash prevention system, which is being offered for the first time on the 2015 model, earns a superior rating because of its automatic braking capabilities. In track tests, the car stopped completely before hitting the target in tests at 12 mph and 25 mph.

The Genesis is one of only three large luxury cars to earn the Institute’s highest award for 2014. To qualify for "Top Safety Pick+", a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, a good rating in the Institute’s other four tests, and a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named the redesigned 2015 Hyundai Genesis a recipient of its prestigious TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. The honor...

Midsize SUVs disappoint in the IIHS small overlap crash test

Just 2 models -- both from GM -- earned good ratings; Honda Pilot comes in last

Two out of nine. That's how may SUVs did well in the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small overlap front crash test.

Only the Chevrolet Equinox and its twin -- the GMC Terrain -- earned a good rating, with both qualifying for the Institute’s highest award for 2014, TOP SAFETY PICK+. The Toyota Highlander -- a midsize SUV whose acceptable small overlap rating was announced in December -- also qualifies.

The award is given to vehicles with a good or acceptable small overlap rating, good ratings in four other occupant protection tests, and a rating of basic or higher for front crash prevention.

Three other midsize SUVs in the test group rate poor for small overlap protection, and three are marginal.

Not all SUVs are equal

“SUVs have gotten much safer over the past few generations, but some are better than others at providing comprehensive front crash protection,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “When it comes to midsize SUVs, General Motors is showing the way forward. The Equinox and Terrain score well in all components of the small overlap test -- structure, restraints and kinematics, and injury measures for four body regions.”

The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25% of a vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test is more difficult than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test. In a small overlap test, the main structures of the vehicle’s front-end crush zone are bypassed, making it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy. The occupant compartment can collapse as a result.

Retooling makes the difference

The Equinox and Terrain were able to overcome this challenge, thanks to modifications on 2014 models to their front structure and door-hinge pillars.

In the test, which was conducted on an Equinox but applies to the Terrain as well, the driver space was well-maintained, and the dummy’s movement was well-controlled. The dummy’s head hit the frontal airbag and stayed there.

It would have been a perfect test performance if the side curtain airbag had provided more forward coverage. As it was, there was a gap in the inflated portion, which, in a slightly different crash, could leave the head vulnerable to hitting the door or intruding objects.

Honda strikes out

The Honda Pilot was the worst performer in this group. The driver’s space was seriously compromised by intruding structure. In the worst instance, the parking brake pedal moved inward 16½ inches. The dummy’s head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off the left side, as the steering column moved 5½ inches to the right.

Measures taken from the dummy showed injuries to the left hip would be likely in a crash of this severity, and injuries to the left knee and both lower legs would be possible.

Poor structure ratings

A structure that can withstand a crash is the most fundamental aspect of occupant protection. In addition to the Pilot, four other midsize SUVs received a poor rating for structure.

One of them, the Mazda CX-9, saw its hinge pillar pushed in 17 inches, bringing the left front wheel even with the dummy’s knee. The side airbag didn’t deploy, and the door frame ended up so far inside the occupant compartment that the dummy’s head struck it after sliding off the frontal airbag.

In the Ford Explorer, the door hinge pillar was nearly severed from the door sill.

In five vehicles, the dummy’s head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off it. Only the Equinox/Terrain and the Toyota 4Runner tests showed good engagement with the frontal airbag.

In the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the dummy’s head for the most part stayed on the airbag, but too much give in the safety belt allowed the head to move toward the intruding A-pillar.

Stricter standards

For the first time in 2014, a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, along with good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, is a requirement for TOP SAFETY PICK.

The Equinox, Terrain and Highlander earn the higher accolade of TOP SAFETY PICK+ because each is available with an optional front crash prevention system.

The Highlander earns an advanced rating for front crash prevention. Its system includes both forward collision warning and an automatic braking function that reduced speeds by more than 5 mph in IIHS tests at 12 and 25 mph. The Equinox and the Terrain have warning systems only, and thus earn a basic rating for front crash prevention.

Two out of nine. That's how may SUVs did well in the latest Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small overlap front crash test. Only the Chevrol...

Chevy Malibu gets top safety pick title

The vehicle performed well in the IIHS small overlap front crash test

A bit of good news for General Motors for a change.

The Chevrolet Malibu has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) "Top Safety Pick Plus" award for its improved performance in the small overlap front crash test.

In addition to a good small overlap rating, the 2014 Malibu -- a midsize moderately priced car -- also has good ratings for moderate overlap front protection, side protection, roof strength and head restraints and seats. Its optional forward collision warning system earns it a basic rating for front crash prevention.

Structural changes

For the 2014 model year, Chevrolet modified the Malibu's front structure and door sill to improve small overlap performance. The 2013 Malibu rated marginal in the test.

In the latest small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained well, and injury measures recorded on the driver dummy indicated low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

The dummy's head made good contact with the front airbag, which stayed in position during the crash, and the side curtain airbag deployed to protect the head from contact with side structures.

In the crash, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick Plus, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, a good rating in the IIHS's other four tests and a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

A bit of good news for General Motors for a change. The Chevrolet Malibu has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ awa...

Audi A3 earns Insurance Institute's highest safety rating

The midsize luxury car performed well in crashworthiness tests

Good performance in five crashworthiness tests and an advanced rating for front crash prevention has won the 2015 Audi A3 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) "Top Safety Pick+" rating.

The midsize luxury car was completely redesigned for 2015 and is now a sedan instead of a wagon like its predecessor. It's the first Audi model to earn either the 2014 "Top Safety Pick" or "Top Safety Pick+" award and the first ever to earn a good or acceptable rating in the challenging small overlap front crash test.

The small overlap evaluation, which was introduced in 2012, is more challenging than either the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the IIHS moderate overlap test.

In the test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. The crash replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.

Good protection provided

In the small overlap test of the A3, the structure held up well, with a minimal amount of intrusion into the driver's space. The dummy's movement was well-controlled, and injury measures taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of injury.

The A3 is available with an optional front crash prevention system that qualifies for an advanced rating from IIHS. The system has automatic braking technology that avoided a crash in the Institute's 12 mph test.

To qualify for 2014 "Top Safety Pick+" a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection, a good rating in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, and a rating of basic, advanced or superior for front crash prevention.

Good performance in five crashworthiness tests and an advanced rating for front crash prevention has won the 2015 Audi A3 the Insurance Institute for Highw...

Nissan Rogue earns IIHS top safety award

The redesigned SUV performed well in the small overlap test

The Nissan Rogue has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award for good performance in each of the Institute's five crashworthiness evaluations -- plus a basic rating for front crash prevention.

To qualify for the Institute's highest designation, vehicles must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test.

A new requirement for 2014 is that vehicles also must earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention. The Rogue's optional forward collision warning system is rated basic for meeting performance criteria established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The small overlap test

In the small overlap test, the driver's space was maintained reasonably well. Injury measures recorded on the dummy indicated low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity. The dummy's head made good contact with the front airbag, which stayed in position during the crash, and the side curtain airbag deployed to protect the head from contact with side structures.

The small overlap test was added to the IIHS lineup of vehicle safety evaluations in 2012. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

The new Rogue, a small SUV redesigned for the 2014 model year, is an improvement over the previous generation, which was rated marginal in the small overlap test and acceptable in the roof strength evaluation. It offers an optional forward collision warning system, a first for the model.

The old Rogue, manufactured since 2008, is still in production and sells as the Nissan Rogue Select.

The Nissan Rogue has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ award for good performance in each of the Institute's five...

IIHS: Don't count on minicars for front crash protection

Fiat 500, Honda Fit fare the worst, Chevrolet Spark the best

It was not a good showing for minicars.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says only one of the 11 minicars it tested achieved an acceptable rating in the institute's small overlap front crash test. That makes them the worst performing group of any evaluated so far.

The Chevrolet Spark earned a 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK award after achieving an acceptable rating in the test, along with good ratings in four other IIHS crashworthiness evaluations. The Spark was among the initial award winners announced in December. The small overlap test results for the rest of the minicar group mean that no other models in this size category join the Spark in the winner's circle yet.

Difficult test

The small overlap test, which was introduced in 2012, replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph.

The test is more difficult than the head-on crashes conducted by the government or the longstanding IIHS moderate overlap test because most of the vehicle's front-end crush zone is bypassed. That makes it hard for the vehicle to manage crash energy, and the occupant compartment can collapse as a result. Nevertheless, in many size categories, manufacturers have found ways to improve vehicle structures to meet this challenge.

"Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why it’s even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection," says Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research. "Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash.”

In contrast to the minicar group’s performance, most models in the small car category -- which are a little larger -- have done much better in the test. There are five good ratings and five acceptable ratings among 17 small cars that have been evaluated so far.

Low marks all around

Looking at the component ratings that make up the overall marks, every minicar -- including the Spark -- rates marginal or poor for structure, the most fundamental element of occupant protection. When a vehicle’s structure doesn’t hold up, injury risk is high. Collapsing structures can knock frontal airbags and seats out of position, making things worse. The Chevrolet Spark is the only minicar tested to earn an acceptable rating in the small overlap front test.

All the vehicles except the Spark and the Mazda 2 also earn low ratings for restraints and kinematics. Seven of the 11 were downgraded for allowing too much occupant forward motion during the crash. In these cases, either the safety belt didn't do a good enough job holding the dummy in place, or the dummy's head missed or slid off the frontal airbag.

The side curtain airbag, which has an important role to play in small overlap frontal crashes, provided insufficient forward coverage in eight of the minicars and didn’t deploy at all in the Toyota Yaris. In many models, the steering column moved sideways, and in three cars the seat tipped.

Fit and Fiat flunk

The two worst performers are the Honda Fit and the Fiat 500. In both cases, intruding structure seriously compromised the driver’s space, and the steering column was pushed back toward the driver.

In the case of the Fit, the dummy’s head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off and hitting the instrument panel. During the test of the 500, the driver door opened after the hinges tore. An open door creates a risk that the driver could be partially or completely ejected.

Injury measures on the dummy’s left legs are marginal or poor for many models. In most cases, potential injuries involved the lower leg, but the Fit, 500 and Hyundai Accent were downgraded for left thigh or hip injury. The Fit and 500 were the only vehicles to record elevated injury risk to the right leg as well.

Despite its marginal structure, the Spark achieves an acceptable overall rating because the dummy’s movement was fairly well controlled and its injury measures were low. The Spark is the only vehicle with good injury measures for all body regions, including the lower leg and foot, generally a problematic area in the small overlap test. This may be related to the fact that the structure around the lower part of the occupant compartment held up better than other minicars, despite intrusion in the upper part.

What to do

Consumers should remember that the Spark, while offering more small overlap protection than other minicars, weighs less than 2,500 pounds and doesn't protect as well as a larger and heavier vehicle with a comparable rating. Frontal crash test results can't be compared across weight classes.

In addition, neither the Spark nor the other minicars in the test group offer front crash prevention, an increasingly common safety feature that can prevent or mitigate some kinds of frontal crashes. For 2014, vehicles must be available with front crash prevention to qualify for the highest safety award from IIHS -- TOP SAFETY PICK+.  

It was not a good showing for minicars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says only one of the 11 vehicles it achieved an acceptable ratin...

And the winners are....

IIHS says 39 vehicles met its tougher safety criteria

A high level of protection in crashes and the availability of front crash prevention technology to avoid many collisions in the first place means you're likely to be safer on the road.

By meeting those standards, 22 vehicles earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) highest safety award for 2014, TOP SAFETY PICK+. An additional 17 earn TOP SAFETY PICK by meeting the crashworthiness criteria alone.

New criteria

The institute is using new criteria for the awards this year. TOP SAFETY PICK requires good performance in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and -- for the first time -- good or acceptable performance in the small overlap front test introduced in 2012. The same level of performance in those tests, along with at least a basic rating for front crash prevention, is required for the higher accolade, TOP SAFETY PICK+.

"We've made it more difficult for manufacturers this year," says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "Following a gradual phase-in, the small overlap crash is now part of our basic battery of tests, and good or acceptable performance should be part of every vehicle's safety credentials. We also felt it was time to offer extra recognition to manufacturers that are offering a proven crash avoidance technology."

The winners

The front crash prevention features of the TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners run the gamut from basic warning systems, such as those offered on the Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and Honda's four winners, to Subaru's EyeSight warning and autobrake system. EyeSight avoids a collision in tests at both 12 mph and 25 mph and is available on the Forester, Legacy and Outback.

Most of the TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners qualify for the award only when equipped with optional front crash prevention systems. When those vehicles aren’t equipped with the features, they still meet the regular TOP SAFETY PICK criteria. The Volvo S60, S80 and XC60 and the Honda Civic hybrid earn TOP SAFETY PICK+ on the basis of standard equipment.

The 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners include eight models that didn’t earn the award in 2013. Among them are fully redesigned models, including the Acura MDX and RLX, Infiniti Q50, Mazda 3 and Toyota Highlander. Among TOP SAFETY PICK winners, the Chevrolet Spark minicar is a new model.

Some winners that did not undergo a full redesign were modified to improve small overlap performance. This includes the popular Toyota Camry, which now qualifies for TOP SAFETY PICK. The 2012-13 Camry models were rated poor for protection in a small overlap front crash, but the 2014 model earns an acceptable rating. The Toyota Prius and the Mazda CX-5 also were tweaked and now earn TOP SAFETY PICK+. Changes to these vehicles and some others were made after the 2014 model year started. See the list of winners for manufacture dates.

Newbies and repeaters

The Volvo S80, a large luxury car, is new to the TOP SAFETY PICK+ list because it hadn’t been previously tested for small overlap performance. However, it has had the same basic design since 2007, so its good small overlap result applies to earlier models as well.

Honda/Acura has the most winners of any automaker, with six models earning TOP SAFETY PICK+ and two earning TOP SAFETY PICK.

With the changes to the criteria, the number of TOP SAFETY PICK+ and TOP SAFETY PICK winners falls from a combined 130 at the time of the initial announcement of 2013 winners to 39 for 2014. Vehicles that have fallen off the list have less than acceptable ratings for small overlap protection or they haven’t been tested yet. All models that made it to the 2013 winners' circle continue to offer a high level of protection in four main crash types -- moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear.

A high level of protection in crashes and the availability of front crash prevention technology to avoid many collisions in the first place means you're li...

Redesigned Toyota Corolla misses the mark in overlap front crash test

A marginal rating is the best it can do

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released the results of its test of the redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla and the news isn't good.

The small car earned only a marginal rating because, according to IIHS, structural performance was poor and the driver’s space was seriously compromised by intruding structure.

The institute says measures from the dummy indicate that injuries to the left lower leg would be possible in a real-world crash of this severity. Additionally, the dummy’s head contacted the front airbag but rolled to the left as the steering wheel moved 4 inches to the right. That left the head vulnerable to contact with forward structures like the windshield pillar and dashboard. Still, the side curtain airbag did deploy and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with forward side structure like the roof rail and interior door panel and outside objects.

Earlier tests

In August, IIHS released results for 12 other small cars but didn’t test the Corolla because the redesigned model was about to be released. If design changes are imminent, the institute delays tests to ensure that its ratings don’t soon become obsolete. The practice also encourages automakers to improve designs more quickly.

In the earlier tests of the small cars, half earned a good or acceptable rating for occupant protection in a small overlap crash and qualified for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ designation. Six other small cars earned marginal or poor ratings.

New test added

The Institute added the small overlap test to its lineup of vehicle safety evaluations last year. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole.

In the test, 25% of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

The Corolla currently qualifies for the 2013 TOP SAFETY PICK award, without the +, for good ratings in the Institute’s four other tests -- moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released the results of its test of the redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla and the news isn't good. The small ...

Seven midsize vehicles earn top marks for front crash prevention

The ratings are based on forward collision warning and automatic braking systems

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded its top marks for front crash prevention to seven vehicles: Cadillac ATS sedan and SRX SUV, Mercedes-Benz C Class sedan, Subaru Legacy sedan and Outback wagon, Volvo S60 sedan and XC60 SUV.

The rating system is based on research by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) indicating that forward collision warning and automatic braking systems are helping drivers avoid front-to-rear crashes.

Rating the vehicles

Models with optional or standard front crash prevention systems are rated as superior, advanced or basic depending on whether they offer autonomous braking, or autobrake, and -- if so -- how effective it is in tests at 12 and 25 mph.

Vehicles rated superior have autobrake and can avoid a crash or substantially reduce speeds in both tests. For an advanced rating a vehicle must have autobrake and avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in 1 of 2 tests. To earn a basic rating, a vehicle must have a forward collision warning system that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performance criteria.

For a NHTSA endorsement, a system must issue a warning before a specified time in 5 of 7 test trials under three scenarios.

Dozens tested

Moderately priced and luxury midsize cars and SUVs are the first to be evaluated in the new IIHS test program. These include 74 vehicles, all 2013-14 models. Seven earn the highest rating of superior when equipped with optional autobrake and forward collision warning systems.

In addition to the seven models that were deemed “superior,” six models earn an advanced rating when equipped with autobrake and forward collision warning. These include the 2014 Acura MDX SUV, Audi A4 sedan and Q5 SUV, 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, Lexus ES sedan and the 2014 Mazda 6 sedan.

In addition, the Volvo S60 and XC60 earn an advanced rating when they aren't equipped with an option called Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection. The S60 and XC60 are the only models in the new test program with standard autobrake. Called City Safety, the system brakes to avoid a front-to-rear crash in certainlow-speed conditions without warning the driver before it takes action.

Twenty-five other vehicles earn a basic rating. Three models available with forward collision warning earn higher ratings when equipped with autobrake. They are the 2014 Acura MDX and the Cadillac ATS and SRX. Thirty-six models either don’t offer a front crash prevention system, or they have a system that doesn't meet NHTSA or IIHS criteria.

“Front crash prevention systems can add a thousand dollars or more to the cost of a new car. Our new ratings let consumers know which systems offer the most promise for the extra expense,” said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.

The front crash prevention ratings complement the IIHS’s long-standing crash test program telling consumers how well passenger vehicles protect people in a range of crash configurations.

In its crashworthiness program, the Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded its top marks for front crash prevention to seven vehicles: Cadillac ATS sedan and SRX SUV, M...

Shopping for a car with safety in mind

Automakers improving safety in response for consumer demand

The commercial for the sleek BMW isn't promoting the car's pick up and race car handling. Rather, the highlight of the spot is the car's warning system that alerts the driver that there's a cow standing in the roadway.

In the 1960s U.S. cars didn't even have seat belts, unless you ordered them as an option. Over the years, auto safety has become a top consumer priority and a major selling point for manufacturers.

Volvo built its reputation on safety, pioneering many safety improvements now taken for granted. Mercedes Benz recently escalated the marketing of its safety features, highlighting its accident avoidance system in a number of television commercials.

Consumers – especially ones with young families -- now want and expect safe cars and manufacturers in nearly every price range are now designing their vehicles with safety in mind. The safety features address two areas; ways to help you avoid getting into an accident and giving you added protection if an accident occurs.

High-tech improvements

To avoid accidents carmakers over the years have added improved stability control and braking – in addition to the high-tech collision avoidance systems available on the Mercedes and other high-priced vehicles. Common now, on even many entry-level cars – are multiple airbags, improved chassis designs and crumple zones that can keep the occupants safer in a crash.

Cars with six airbags, including ones on the side called “curtain airbags,” have become the norm, especially on vehicles earning spots on the official and unofficial safe car lists.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains the official auto safety list, awarding 5-Star Safety Ratings to the safest vehicles, broken down by vehicle type and class. Starting with 2011 models, NHTSA introduced tougher tests and a new 5-Star Safety Ratings that provide more information about vehicle safety and crash avoidance technologies. Because of the more stringent tests, 2011 and newer vehicles are held to a higher standard than those that came before.

To shop for a safe car or truck, consumers can start here, comparing the safety ratings on the vehicles they are considering. 

Safety ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is one of the major non-government testing agencies that rates automobiles for their safety. To determine crashworthiness — how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash — IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in five tests: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.

In its latest ranking, the 2014 Honda Odyessy – a minivan – earned the Institute's top safety rating for good performance in all five IIHS crash evaluations, including the challenging small overlap front test, which is getting more attention from safety engineers. The Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in the moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover and rear crash evaluations. The video below shows why it's important.

In August the Institute issued its small overlap front crash test results, showing a range of performance among many of the most popular small cars on U.S. highways. Of the 12 models evaluated, half earned a good or acceptable rating and qualified for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

Honda Civic No. 1

The standout in the group was the Honda Civic. The two- and four-door models were the only small cars to earn the top rating of good in the test. The Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and 2014 model Scion tC earn acceptable ratings.

As a group, the small cars didn't perform as well as their midsize, moderately-priced counterparts in the same test. However, they had better results than small SUVs.

"The small cars with marginal or poor ratings had some of the same structural and restraint system issues as other models we've tested," said David Zuby, IIHS's chief research officer. "In the worst cases safety cages collapsed, driver airbags moved sideways with unstable steering columns and the dummy's head hit the instrument panel. Side curtain airbags didn't deploy or didn't provide enough forward coverage to make a difference. All of this adds up to marginal or poor protection in a small overlap crash."

The good news, says Zuby, is that there are six small cars qualifying for IIHS's highest safety award. That, he says, broadens the choices for consumers who are looking for safety and affordability.

In the 1960s cars didn't have seat belts, unless you ordered them as an option. Over the years, auto safety has become a top consumer priority and a major ...

Honda Odyssey makes safety history

It's the first minivan to earn the IIHS "TOP SAFETY PICK+" award

For the first time ever, a minivan has earned the top safety designation given by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The 2014 Honda Odyssey scored well in all five IIHS crash evaluations, including the challenging small overlap front test. Vehicles are rated good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in the moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover and rear crash evaluations.

Structural changes highlighted

The 2014 Odyssey is the first minivan to be evaluated in the small overlap front test. Honda asked the institute to test the vehicle to highlight structural changes the automaker made to improve occupant protection in a small overlap front crash. When tests are conducted at a manufacturer's request, the automaker reimburses IIHS for the cost of the vehicle.

Honda introduced the upgraded Odyssey as a 2014 model. While there are no major styling changes, the new model has advanced high-strength steel in the front door frames, floor pan and front wheel wells for a more rigid occupant compartment.

The side curtain airbags extend farther forward to offer comprehensive head protection in both a side crash and a small overlap front crash. Even with these modifications, the Odyssey's weight didn't change much because Honda engineers were able to reduce it elsewhere to compensate for the strengthened structure.

The test

The small overlap test was added to the IIHS lineup of vehicle safety evaluations last year. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

In the Odyssey test, the driver's space was maintained reasonably well. Injury measures on the dummy indicated a low risk of injury in a crash of this severity. Because the structure helped keep the steering column stable, the front airbag stayed in front of the driver dummy during the crash to provide good protection. The side curtain airbag deployed and had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with the side structure and outside objects.

High priority

"Safety is high on the list for parents when it comes to shopping for a family vehicle," says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "Consumers look for models with the highest safety ratings. Honda is ahead of many of its competitors in building state-of-the-art crashworthiness into its vehicles."

Honda and Acura brands have earned six TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards among 20 current models that the Institute has rated. They are the Honda Accord 2-door and 4-door, Civic 2-door and 4-door, Odyssey and Acura TL. Winners must earn good ratings for occupant protection in 4 of 5 evaluations and no less than acceptable in the fifth test.

For the first time ever, a minivan has earned the top safety designation given by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The 2014 Honda Odysse...

As a group, small cars lag in front crash test

Only the Honda Civic earned top honors

Small cars are nimble, easy to park and thrifty to operate. But they don't necessarily to well in collisions, according to the latest insurance industry tests.

Of the 12 cars put through their paces in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front crash test, only half earn a good or acceptable rating.

The 2-door and 4-door models of the Honda Civic are the only small cars to earn the top rating of good in the test. IIHS evaluated the Civics earlier this year and released the results in March. The Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and 2014 model Scion tC earn acceptable ratings, with the Civics, Dart, Elantra, Focus and tC earning the "Top Safety Pick+" accolade.

So far, 25 models have earned the top honor. The “plus” indicates good or acceptable performance in the overlap test. Winners must earn good ratings for occupant protection in 4 of 5 evaluations and no less than acceptable in the fifth test.

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in a moderate overlap front crash, small overlap front crash, side impact and rollover test, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

Recent addition

IIHS added the small overlap front test to its lineup of vehicle evaluations last year. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle hits another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25% of a vehicle’s front end on the driver's side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

Small cars are the fourth group of vehicles to be tested. All but the tC and Kia Forte are 2013 models.

IIHS also has evaluated midsize luxury cars, midsize cars and small SUVs. Results for minicars will be released later this year.

As a group, small cars fared worse than their midsize moderately-priced counterparts in the same test but better overall than small SUVs.

“The small cars with marginal or poor ratings had some of the same structural and restraint system issues as other models we’ve tested,” says David Zuby, the IIHS chief research officer. “In the worst cases safety cages collapsed, driver airbags moved sideways with unstable steering columns and the dummy’s head hit the instrument panel. Side curtain airbags didn’t deploy or didn’t provide enough forward coverage to make a difference. All of this adds up to marginal or poor protection in a small overlap crash.”

Consumer choice

Having six small cars qualify for the Institute’s highest safety award broadens the choices for consumers looking to buy a small car. The latest results highlight how some automakers are designing models to perform well in the demanding small overlap test. At the same time, other automakers have more work to do.

“Manufacturers need to focus on the whole package,” Zuby says. “That means a strong occupant compartment that resists the kinds of intrusion we see in a frontal crash like this, safety belts that prevent a driver from pitching too far forward and side curtain airbags to cushion a head at risk of hitting the dashboard or window frame.”

Of the 12 autos put through their paces in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) small overlap front crash test, only half earn a good or ac...

A poor rating for the Toyota RAV4 in small overlap front crash test

Design changes for the 2013 model year weren't enough to lift performance

The changes just weren't enough.

That's the verdict from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on the 2013 Toyota RAV4.

Even though the automaker made additional changes to models of the small SUV built after April to better control the stability of the steering column and to provide extra padding under the footwell carpeting, the RAV4 earned a poor rating for its performance in the IIHS small overlap front crash test.

IIHS determined that the changes weren't enough to lift the vehicle's performance, saying that a combination of poor structure and inadequate control of the dummy's movement prevented the RAV4 from earning better than a poor rating overall.

Missing the mark

The driver's space was seriously compromised by intruding structure, according to the testers, and the dummy's left foot was trapped by crushed and buckled sheet metal in the footwell. Injury measures on the dummy indicated a high risk of injury to the lower left leg.

The dummy's head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off the left side as the steering column moved more than 7 inches to the right, resulting in little airbag cushioning for the chest.

Additionally, the safety belt allowed excessive forward movement of the dummy's head and torso, contributing to the head hitting the instrument panel.

Testing delay

IIHS released results for 13 other small SUVs in May, but delayed testing the RAV4 because Toyota was making changes to the redesigned model. If design changes are imminent, the institute delays tests to ensure that ratings don't soon become obsolete. The practice also encourages automakers to improve designs more quickly.

In the earlier tests of small SUVs, only the Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport earned a good or acceptable rating for occupant protection in a small overlap crash and qualified for the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation. Eleven other small SUVs are rated marginal or poor.

"This is a challenging test," says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "Most manufacturers are going to need to make significant changes to their vehicles in order to improve protection in these kinds of serious frontal crashes."

Test added

The institute added the small overlap test to its lineup of vehicle safety evaluations last year. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

The 2013 RAV4 previously earned the Top Safety Pick award for good ratings in the Institute's four other tests -- moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear.

The changes just weren't enough. That's the verdict from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on the 2013 Toyota RAV4. Even though the autom...

Subaru Forester gets top marks in tough new crash test

Only two SUVs earned an IIHS top honor

It's the first time it has happened: One vehicle -- the 2014 Subaru Forester -- has aced every aspect of the challenging small overlap front crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In fact, it was the only one of 13 small SUVs to earn an overall rating of good in the test.

The Forester and the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, which earned acceptable, are the latest vehicles to qualify for the Institute’s recently inaugurated top honor, "Top Safety Pick+." Each of the other 11 SUVs tested earned either a poor or marginal rating.

“With the redesigned Forester, Subaru’s engineers set out to do well in our new test, and they succeeded,” says Joe Nolan, the Institute’s vice president for vehicle research. “This is exactly how we hoped manufacturers would respond to improve protection for people in these kinds of serious frontal crashes.”

This is not the first time that the Forester has stood out in a new IIHS crash test. When the Institute first rated small SUVs for side protection in 2003, the Subaru model performed the best and was one of only two to earn good ratings.

Small overlap test

IIHS added the small overlap test to its lineup of vehicle safety evaluations last year. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object like a tree or a utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat.

Most vehicles today are designed to do well in the government’s full-width front crash test and in the Institute’s moderate overlap front test, but that is no guarantee of good performance in a small overlap crash. In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants.

In many vehicles the impact at a 25 percent overlap misses the primary structures designed to manage crash energy. That increases the risk of severe damage to or collapse of the occupant compartment structure. Also, vehicles tend to rotate and slide sideways during this type of collision, and that can move the driver’s head outboard, away from the protection of the frontal airbag.

Small SUV susceptibility

Those difficulties were apparent in the small SUV group. Two-thirds of the vehicles had poor ratings for structure, and about half of them were poor or marginal for restraints and kinematics, meaning the dummy’s movements weren’t well-controlled to prevent contact with hard surfaces.

In one example of poor structure, the front pillar of the Nissan Rogue’s door frame was pushed far inside the occupant compartment and after the crash was almost touching the driver seat. The Jeep Patriot was among the worst for restraints and kinematics.

The dummy’s head slid off the frontal airbag as the steering wheel moved 8 inches up and nearly 6 inches to the right. The side curtain airbag didn’t deploy, and the safety belt allowed the dummy’s head and torso to move too far forward.

In contrast, the Forester had good ratings for structure, restraints and kinematics, and all four injury measures on the dummy. The airbags worked as intended, and the space around the dummy was well-maintained. The Outlander Sport was acceptable for structure and restraints and kinematics and also had good injury measures.

IIHS ratings

The Forester and the Outlander Sport bring the number of Top Safety Pick+ winners to 20. The award is based on performance in the small overlap front test, as well as in the moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests. To qualify, a vehicle must earn good ratings in 4 of the 5 tests and no less than acceptable in the fifth.

IIHS continues to award Top Safety Pick (without the “+”) to vehicles with good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear tests, regardless of their small overlap ratings. Of the small SUV test group, nine earn Top Safety Pick, including the BMW X1 and the Buick Encore, which are new to the U.S. market for 2013.

The others are the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V, the Hyundai Tucson and its twin, the Kia Sportage, the Mazda CX-5, the Volkswagen Tiguan and the 2014 Patriot. The 2013 Patriot also qualifies for Top Safety Pick when equipped with optional side torso airbags. Another small SUV, the 2013 Toyota RAV4, earns Top Safety Pick, but it won’t be put through the small overlap test until later this year. Toyota asked for the delay so it could make changes to the RAV4 to improve performance in the test.

The test group also includes the Rogue and the Jeep Wrangler 2-door. Aside from the Forester, all small SUVs tested are 2013 or 2012 models. The small overlap ratings of the 2012 vehicles carry over to 2013 models because no significant design changes were made.  

It's the first time it has happened: One vehicle -- the 2014 Subaru Forester -- has aced every aspect of the challenging small overlap front crash test con...

Insurance Institute Unveils New Crash Test

The idea is to improve protection for people in frontal crashes

Only three of 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars evaluated earn good or acceptable ratings in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) new small overlap frontal crash test -- the latest addition to a suite of tests designed to help consumers pick the safest vehicles.

The Acura TL and Volvo S60 earn good ratings, while the Infiniti G earns acceptable. The Acura TSX, BMW 3 series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC earn marginal ratings. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350 earn poor. All of these cars are 2012 models.

The test

In the test, 25 percent of a car’s front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th

percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat. The test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. Outside of some automakers’ proving grounds, such a test isn’t currently conducted anywhere else in the United States or Europe.

Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the Institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year,” Institute President Adrian Lund says. “Small overlap crashes are a major source of these fatalities. This new test program is based on years of analyzing real-world frontal crashes and then replicating them in our crash test facility to determine how people are being seriously injured and how cars can be designed to protect them better. We think this is the next step in improving frontal crash protection.”

The number of drivers of 0-3-year-old passenger vehicles involved in fatal frontal crashes has fallen 55 percent since 2001. Much of the improved outlook is due to the success of consumer information testing like the New Car Assessment Program begun by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 1978 and crashworthiness evaluations the Institute started in 1995. In NHTSA’s frontal test, passenger vehicles crash at 35 mph into a rigid barrier covering the full width of the vehicle. In the Institute’s 40 mph offset frontal test, now called a moderate overlap frontal test, 40 percent of the total width of a vehicle strikes a deformable barrier on the driver side.

In a 2009 Institute study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants. Another 24 percent of the frontal crashes were moderate overlap crashes, although they likely occurred at much higher speeds than the Institute’s moderate overlap test. An additional 14 percent occurred when passenger vehicles underrode large trucks, SUVs or other high-riding passenger vehicles. The Institute is exploring countermeasures for large truck underride crashes and in other research has found that the problem of crash incompatibility between cars and SUVs is being reduced.

Only three of 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars evaluated earn good or acceptable ratings in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) new s...

Subaru Wins Top Safety Ratings for Every 2012 Model

Stronger roofs bolster safety ratings of many models

Cars keep getting safer but Subaru is the only manufacturer this year to win the distinction of having every one of its models chosen as a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which gave the designation to a total of 115 models covering every size range.

In all, 69 cars, 38 SUVs, 5 minivans, and 3 pickups earned the IIHS' top safety award, which recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes

Because the federal government now requires all 2012 and later passenger vehicles to have electronic stability control to help drivers avoid loss-of-control crashes, ESC no longer is a requirement to win as it was in prior years.

The winners' circle includes 18 new recipients for 2012, while 97 models that previously qualified for the 2011 award carry over to 2012.

"For the second year running a record number of models qualify," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "It's tough to win, and we commend auto manufacturers for making safety a top priority."

That commitment to protecting people in crashes is evident in the fast pace of design improvements automakers have made during the past year, Lund said. Initially 66 vehicles qualified for last year's award as less-than-perfect rollover ratings held back many contenders. Later the number climbed to 100 as manufacturers redesigned roofs to make them stronger or introduced new models to win.

Again this year every major automaker has at least one winner. Subaru remains the only manufacturer with the distinction of earning awards for every model it builds. Subaru picks up five awards, including one for the redesigned Impreza, a small car.

Toyota/Lexus/Scion has 15 winners for 2012, more than any other auto manufacturer. General Motors is next with 14, followed by Volkswagen/Audi with 13, and Ford/Lincoln and Honda/Acura with 12 awards apiece.

Honda improves

Ten of the 18 new additions are Honda/Acura models, including the midsize Accord sedan, which hasn't earned the top pick since the Institute toughened criteria to win the 2010 award by adding a test to assess roof strength in a rollover crash.

Vehicles rated good for rollover protection have roofs more than twice as strong as the current federal standard requires. The Institute estimates that such roofs reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent compared with roofs meeting the minimum requirement. A new federal standard for roof strength will phase in beginning with 2013 models.

Roofs on the 2009 Honda CR-V and 2010 Pilot scored marginal ratings in prior Institute tests, while earlier models of the Accord, CR-Z, Fit, and Insight rated acceptable. Now all of these 2012 models earn good ratings and the top pick.

"Honda/Acura deserves credit for most-improved status," Lund says. "The automaker buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection. Now, the automaker has winners in the minicar, small car, midsize car, small SUV, midsize SUV, minivan, and large pickup categories."

Another midsize sedan, the Toyota Camry, earns its first-ever top safety pick. Last year, the Camry missed the mark because of a marginal rating for seat/head restraints. The Toyota Yaris also earns its first award. Toyota upgraded the roof and seat/head restraints of the 4-door hatchback model to win. Good ratings secure the Yaris a spot alongside 3 other minicars, the Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, and Honda Fit, as 2012 winners.

"It's great to see the Accord and Camry, 2 of the top-selling midsize cars in the U.S. market, join the top safety pick ranks this year," Lund says. "The Accord previously won the 2009 award but has been missing from the list since then."

Greener

With fuel efficiency and reduced emissions on many buyers' wish lists, the winners' circle includes more green choices. Toyota's all-new Prius v is among them. Roomier than the original, the v hybrid brings to 15 the number of winners available as hybrids. The plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, winners in 2011, also earn this year's award.

For drivers who need to haul loads, the Ford F-150, Honda Ridgeline, and Toyota Tundra are good choices in the large pickup category. Small pickups continue to be shut out. None the Institute has evaluated qualify for the award.

"When we launched top safety pick in 2005, consumers had 11 models to pick from. Six years later, finding a winner that fits most budgets and lifestyles is easy," Lund says. "It's a testament to the commitment automakers have made to going above and beyond minimum safety standards."

Complete list

Minicars
Fiat 500 built after July 2011
Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback
Honda Fit
Toyota Yaris 4-door hatchback

Small cars
Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet Sonic
Chevrolet Volt
Ford Focus
Honda Civic 4-door
Honda CR-Z
Honda Insight
Hyundai Elantra
Kia Forte sedan
Kia Soul
Lexus CT 200h
Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback
Mini Cooper Countryman
Mitsubishi Lancer except Ralliart and Evolution
Nissan Cube
Nissan Juke
Nissan Leaf
Scion tC
Scion xB
Scion xD
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Prius
Volkswagen Golf 4-door
Volkswagen GTI 4-door

Midsize moderately priced cars
Audi A3
Buick Verano
Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler 200 4-door
Dodge Avenger
Ford Fusion
Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Toyota Camry
Toyota Prius v
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Volkswagen Passat
Volvo C30

Midsize luxury/near luxury cars
Acura TL built after September 2011
Acura TSX sedan and hatchback
Audi A4
Lincoln MKZ
Mercedes C-Class
Volkswagen CC except 4-wheel drive
Volvo S60

Large family cars
Buick LaCrosse
Buick Regal
Chrysler 300
Dodge Charger
Ford Taurus
Toyota Avalon

Large luxury cars
Audi A6
BMW 5 series except 4-wheel drive and V8
Cadillac CTS sedan
Hyundai Equus
Hyundai Genesis
Infiniti M37/M56 except M56x 4-wheel drive
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes E-Class sedan
Mercedes E-Class coupe
Saab 9-5
Volvo S80

Small SUVs 
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
Kia Sportage
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

Midsize SUVs
Chevrolet Equinox
Dodge Durango
Dodge Journey
Ford Edge
Ford Explorer
Ford Flex
GMC Terrain
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Venza

Midsize luxury SUVs
Acura MDX
Audi Q5
BMW X3
Cadillac SRX
Infiniti EX35
Lexus RX
Lincoln MKT
Lincoln MKX
Mercedes GLK
Mercedes M-Class
Saab 9-4X
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Large SUVs
Buick Enclave
Chevrolet Traverse
GMC Acadia
Volkswagen Touareg

Minivans
Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan
Honda Odyssey
Toyota Sienna
Volkswagen Routan

Large pickups
Ford F-150 crew cab models
Honda Ridgeline
Toyota Tundra crew cab models

Cars keep getting safer but Subaru is the only manufacturer this year to win the distinction of having every one of its models chosen as a Top Safety Pick ...

Video: Insurance Institute For Highway Safety Selects Top Safety Picks For 2011

U.S. made cars show improvements

A select club is growing larger. Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announces its Top Safety Picks and most years, the list grows longer. What's sometimes overlooked is that the list grows throughout the year, as manufacturers resubmit models after making safety modifications.

This year, 68 models made the initial cut, up from 58 last year and the number has grown since then. Recent additions include the Mazda3, Honda Odyssey, three large GM SUVs, the MINI Cooper Countryman, Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300. (Complete list below)

Volkswagen was the big winner this year, with six winners. Ford, Kia, Subaru and Toyota had five each and Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai each had four. Subaru had a winner in every class in which it competes.

In just a year, automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet the criteria for Top Safety Pick,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “Automakers deserve credit for quickly rising to meet the more challenging criteria for Top Safety Pick.”

Mark Huffman describes the selection process in this report:

Here is the complete list of winners:

LARGE CARS

Buick LaCrosse

Buick Regal

BMW 5 series
(except 4-wheel drive and V8)

Cadillac CTS sedan

Chrysler 300

Dodge Charger

Ford Taurus

Hyundai Genesis

Infiniti M37/M56
(except M56x 4-wheel drive)

Lincoln MKS

Mercedes E class coupe

Mercedes E class sedan

Toyota Avalon

Volvo S80

SMALL CARS

Chevrolet Cruze

Honda Civic
4-door models (except Si)
with optional ESC

Kia Forte sedan

Kia Soul

Mazda 3
built after December 2010:
sedan | hatchback

Mini Cooper Countryman

Mitsubishi Lancer sedan
(except 4-wheel drive)

Nissan Cube

Scion tC

Scion xB

Subaru Impreza
(except WRX):
sedan | wagon

Toyota Corolla

Volkswagen Golf
4-door models

Volkswagen GTI
4-door models

MINICARS

Ford Fiesta
built after July 2010:
sedan | hatchback

MIDSIZE CARS

Audi A3

Audi A4 sedan

Chevrolet Malibu

Chrysler 200
4-door models

Dodge Avenger

Ford Fusion

Hyundai Sonata

Kia Optima

Lincoln MKZ

Mercedes C class

Subaru Legacy

Subaru Outback

Volkswagen Jetta sedan

Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

Volvo C30

MINIVANS

Honda Odyssey

Toyota Sienna

LARGE SUVs

Buick Enclave
built after January 2011

Chevrolet Traverse
built after January 2011

GMC Acadia
built after January 2011

Volkswagen Touareg

MIDSIZE SUVs

Audi Q5

Cadillac SRX

Chevrolet Equinox

Dodge Journey

Ford Explorer

Ford Flex

GMC Terrain

Hyundai Santa Fe

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Kia Sorento
built after March 2010

Lexus RX

Lincoln MKT

Mercedes GLK

Subaru Tribeca

Toyota Highlander

Toyota Venza

Volvo XC60

Volvo XC90

SMALL SUVs

Honda Element

Hyundai Tucson

Jeep Patriot
with optional side torso airbags

Kia Sportage

Subaru Forester

Volkswagen Tiguan

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has selected 74 model vehicles for its 2011 Top Safety Pick....

66 Vehicles Win 2011 Top Safety Pick Award

Hyundai/Kia, Volkswagen/Audi lead the pack with 9 winners each

ALL 66 WINNERS

Large cars
Buick LaCrosse
Buick Regal
BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8)
Cadillac CTS sedan
Ford Taurus
Hyundai Genesis
Infiniti M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel drive)
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes E class coupe
Mercedes E class sedan
Toyota Avalon Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Audi A3
Audi A4 sedan
Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler 200 4-door
Dodge Avenger
Ford Fusion
Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Lincoln MKZ
Mercedes C class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Volvo C30

Small cars
Chevrolet Cruze
Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
Kia Forte sedan
Kia Soul
Mitsubishi Lancer sedan (except 4-wheel drive)
Nissan Cube
Scion tC
Scion xB
Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback (except WRX)
Toyota Corolla
Volkswagen Golf 4-door
Volkswagen GTI
4-door Minicar Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback built after July 2010
Minivan
Toyota Sienna

Large SUV
Volkswagen Touareg

Midsize SUVs
Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Chevrolet Equinox
Dodge Journey
Ford Explorer
Ford Flex
GMC Terrain
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento built after March
2010 Lexus RX
Lincoln MKT
Mercedes GLK
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Venza
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Honda Element
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
Kia Sportage
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

Sixty-six vehicles earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick award for 2011, including 40 cars, 25 SUVs, and a minivan, with Hyundai/Kia and Volkswagen/Audi leading the pack with nine winners each.

Top Safety Pick recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on good ratings in Institute tests. Winners also must have available electronic stability control, a crash avoidance feature that significantly reduces crash risk. The ratings help consumers pick vehicles that offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require.

Last year the Institute toughened criteria for Top Safety Pick by adding a requirement that all qualifiers must earn a good rating for performance in a roof strength test to assess protection in a rollover crash. The move sharply narrowed the initial field of 2010 winners.

At the beginning of the 2010 model year, only 27 vehicles qualified for the award, but the number grew to 58 as auto manufacturers reworked existing designs and introduced new models. Now another 10 vehicles join the winners' list for 2011. Two discontinued models drop off.

"In just a year, automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet the criteria for Top Safety Pick," says Adrian Lund, the Institute's president. "That gives consumers shopping for a safer new car or SUV — from economy to luxury models — plenty of choices to consider in most dealer showrooms. In fact, every major automaker has at least one winning model this year."

Front-runners

Hyundai/Kia and Volkswagen/Audi each have 9 winners for 2011. Next in line with 8 awards apiece are General Motors, Ford/Lincoln, and Toyota/Lexus/Scion. Subaru is the only manufacturer with a winner in all the vehicle classes in which it competes. Subaru earns 5 awards for 2011.

"Safety is a priority among this crop of winners," Lund says. "From the start these manufacturers set out to design vehicles that would earn Top Safety Pick, even though we've made it harder to win."

One of them is Ford. For 2011, the automaker is rolling out a new design for its popular Explorer midsize SUV, which until now had never earned Top Safety Pick. Ford also upgraded the roofs of 2 other midsize SUVs, the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT, along with the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, 2 midsize cars that missed the initial round of 2010 winners because they lacked the required roof strength. The all-new Ford Fiesta rounds out Ford's winners and is the only minicar to earn Top Safety Pick this year.

General Motors' new Chevrolet Cruze broadens the number of award-winning options for consumers looking to buy a fuel-efficient small car. GM built the Cruze, which has 10 standard airbags, including ones for the knees, to outperform the government's minimum roof strength requirements and touts the achievement as a selling point.

The redesigned Volkswagen Touareg is the only large SUV to earn Top Safety Pick for 2011. The Institute doesn't normally evaluate SUVs this large, but Volkswagen requested crash tests to demonstrate the Touareg's crashworthiness.

None of the small pickups the Institute has evaluated qualified for this year's award, and large pickups haven't yet been tested.

The Institute awarded the first Top Safety Pick to 2006 models and then raised the bar the next year by requiring good rear test results and electronic stability control as either standard or optional equipment. With last year's addition of new criteria for roof crush the Institute's crash test ratings now cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes.

More than 12,000 people died in frontal crashes of passenger vehicles in 2009 in the United States, more than 6,000 died in side impacts, and more than 8,000 died in rollovers, many of which also involved a front or side impact. Rear-end crashes usually aren't fatal but result in a large proportion of injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most commonly reported injury in two-thirds of insurance claims for injuries in all kinds of crashes.

Vehicles rated good for rollover crash protection have roofs more than twice as strong as the current federal standard requires. The Institute estimates that such roofs reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent compared with roofs meeting the minimum requirement.

Quick strides in occupant protection

When the first roof crush results were released in March 2009, only a third of the SUVs tested had good roofs. Since then about 113 vehicles have been tested, and the majority are rated good for roof strength.

Hyundai is a case in point. The Tucson and the small SUV's twin, the Kia Sportage, earned a poor rating for roof strength in 2009, with the weakest roof among all of the small SUVs evaluated that year. A redesign helped the 2011 models secure a good rating and Top Safety Pick. Hyundai also improved the roof on another SUV, the midsize Santa Fe, and redesigned the Sonata, a midsize car that had earned a marginal roof rating the first time around.

The outlook for side-impact protection has brightened, too, Lund notes. Many cars failed the side test the Institute began conducting in 2003, but now most vehicles ace the test thanks to stronger side structures and standard side airbags that protect the head and torso. It's an important improvement because new Institute research shows that the risk of dying in a crash is sharply lower for people in vehicles that earn good ratings in the Institute's side test.

Chrysler added torso airbags to the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee to bolster side crash protection and earn a good side rating. The previous design relied on head curtain airbags to cushion occupants in side crashes and only rated marginal for side protection.

Safety equipment is increasingly standard. Ninety-two percent of 2011 model cars, 94 percent of SUVs, and 56 percent of pickups have standard head and torso side airbags. Electronic stability control is standard on 92 percent of cars, 100 percent of SUVs, and 72 percent of pickups.

"Automakers deserve credit for quickly rising to meet the more-challenging criteria for Top Safety Pick," Lund says. "Several already have requested tests for new models due to ship early next year, so we expect to add even more winners to the 2011 list."

The Institute groups Top Safety Pick winners according to vehicle type and size. Lund advises consumers to keep in mind that size and weight influence crashworthiness. Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford better occupant protection in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones. Even with a Top Safety Pick, a small car isn't as crashworthy as a bigger one.

How vehicles are evaluated

The Institute's frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Each vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on 2 instrumented SID-IIs dummies representing a 5th percentile woman, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact.

In the roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against 1 side of a roof at a displacement rate of 0.2 inch per second. To earn a good rating for rollover protection, the roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle's weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. This is called a strength-to-weight ratio.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry — the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man.

Seat/head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people.

66 Vehicles Win 2011 Top Safety Pick Award. Hyundai/Kia, Volkswagen/Audi lead the pack with 9 winners each....

Sixty-Six Win Insurance Institute's 2011 Top Safety Pick award

Automakers quickly improve roofs to boost rollover protection

Sixty-six vehicles have earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award for 2011, including 40 cars, 25 SUVs, and a minivan.

Top Safety Pick recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on good ratings in Institute tests. Winners also must have available electronic stability control, a crash avoidance feature that significantly reduces crash risk.

The ratings help consumers pick vehicles that offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require.

Higher standards

Last year the Institute toughened criteria for Top Safety Pick by adding a requirement that all qualifiers must earn a good rating for performance in a roof strength test to assess protection in a rollover crash. The move sharply narrowed the initial field of 2010 winners.

At the beginning of the 2010 model year, only 27 vehicles qualified for the award, but the number grew to 58 as auto manufacturers reworked existing designs and introduced new models. Now another 10 vehicles join the winners' list for 2011. Two discontinued models drop off.

"In just a year, automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet the criteria for Top Safety Pick," says Adrian Lund, the Institute's president. "That gives consumers shopping for a safer new car or SUV -- from economy to luxury models -- plenty of choices to consider in most dealer showrooms. In fact, every major automaker has at least one winning model this year."

Front-runners

Hyundai/Kia and Volkswagen/Audi each have nine winners for 2011. Next in line with eight awards apiece are General Motors, Ford/Lincoln, and Toyota/Lexus/Scion. Subaru is the only manufacturer with a winner in all the vehicle classes in which it competes. Subaru earned five awards for 2011.

"Safety is a priority among this crop of winners," Lund says. "From the start these manufacturers set out to design vehicles that would earn Top Safety Pick, even though we've made it harder to win."

One of them is Ford. For 2011, the automaker is rolling out a new design for its popular Explorer midsize SUV, which until now had never earned Top Safety Pick. Ford also upgraded the roofs of 2 other midsize SUVs, the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT, along with the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, 2 midsize cars that missed the initial round of 2010 winners because they lacked the required roof strength. The all-new Ford Fiesta rounds out Ford's winners and is the only minicar to earn Top Safety Pick this year.

General Motors' new Chevrolet Cruze broadens the number of award-winning options for consumers looking to buy a fuel-efficient small car. GM built the Cruze, which has 10 standard airbags, including ones for the knees, to outperform the government's minimum roof strength requirements and touts the achievement as a selling point.

The redesigned Volkswagen Touareg is the only large SUV to earn Top Safety Pick for 2011. The Institute doesn't normally evaluate SUVs this large, but Volkswagen requested crash tests to demonstrate the Touareg's crashworthiness.

None of the small pickups the Institute has evaluated qualified for this year's award, and large pickups haven't yet been tested.

Broader range

The Institute awarded the first Top Safety Pick to 2006 models and then raised the bar the next year by requiring good rear test results and electronic stability control as either standard or optional equipment. With last year's addition of new criteria for roof crush the Institute's crash test ratings now cover all four of most common kinds of crashes.

More than 12,000 people died in frontal crashes of passenger vehicles in 2009 in the United States, more than 6,000 died in side impacts and more than 8,000 died in rollovers -- many of which also involved a front or side impact. Rear-end crashes usually aren't fatal but result in a large proportion of injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most commonly reported injury in two-thirds of insurance claims for injuries in all kinds of crashes.

Vehicles rated good for rollover crash protection have roofs more than twice as strong as the current federal standard requires. The Institute estimates that such roofs reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent compared with roofs meeting the minimum requirement.

Quick strides in occupant protection

When the first roof crush results were released in March 2009, only a third of the SUVs tested had good roofs. Since then about 113 vehicles have been tested, and the majority are rated good for roof strength.

Hyundai is a case in point. The Tucson and the small SUV's twin, the Kia Sportage, earned a poor rating for roof strength in 2009, with the weakest roof among all of the small SUVs evaluated that year. A redesign helped the 2011 models secure a good rating and Top Safety Pick. Hyundai also improved the roof on another SUV, the midsize Santa Fe, and redesigned the Sonata, a midsize car that had earned a marginal roof rating the first time around.

Side impact

The outlook for side-impact protection has brightened, too, Lund notes. Many cars failed the side test the Institute began conducting in 2003, but now most vehicles ace the test thanks to stronger side structures and standard side airbags that protect the head and torso.

It's an important improvement because new Institute research shows that the risk of dying in a crash is sharply lower for people in vehicles that earn good ratings in the Institute's side test.

Chrysler added torso airbags to the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee to improve side crash protection and earn a good side rating. The previous design relied on head curtain airbags to cushion occupants in side crashes and only rated marginal for side protection.

Not optional

Safety equipment is increasingly standard. Ninety-two percent of 2011 model cars, 94 percent of SUVs, and 56 percent of pickups have standard head and torso side airbags. Electronic stability control is standard on 92 percent of cars, 100 percent of SUVs, and 72 percent of pickups.

"Automakers deserve credit for quickly rising to meet the more-challenging criteria for Top Safety Pick," Lund says. "Several already have requested tests for new models due to ship early next year, so we expect to add even more winners to the 2011 list."

The Institute groups Top Safety Pick winners according to vehicle type and size. Lund advises consumers to keep in mind that size and weight influence crashworthiness.

Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford better occupant protection in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones. Even with a Top Safety Pick, a small car isn't as crashworthy as a bigger one.

Evaluation process

The Institute's frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Each vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented SID-IIs dummies representing a fifth percentile woman, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact.

In the roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against one side of a roof at a displacement rate of 0.2 inch per second. To earn a good rating for rollover protection, the roof must withstand a force of four-times the vehicle's weight before reaching five inches of crush. This is called a strength-to-weight ratio.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry -- the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man.

Seat/head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people.

All 66 winners

Large cars

  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Buick Regal
  • BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8)
  • Cadillac CTS sedan
  • Ford Taurus
  • Hyundai Genesis
  • Infinite M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel drive)
  • Lincoln MKS
  • Mercedes E class coupe
  • Mercedes E class sedan
  • Toyota Avalon
  • Volvo S80

Midsize cars

  • Audi A3
  • Audi A4 sedan
  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Chrysler 200 4-door
  • Dodge Avenger
  • Ford Fusion
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Kia Optima
  • Lincoln MKZ
  • Mercedes C class
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Subaru Outback
  • Volkswagen Jetta sedan
  • Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
  • Volvo C30

Small cars

  • Chevrolet Cruze
  • Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
  • Kia Forte sedan
  • Kia Soul
  • Mitsubishi Lancer (except 4-wheel drive)
  • Nissan Cube
  • Scion tC
  • Scion xB
  • Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback (except WRX)
  • Volkswagen Golf 4-door
  • Volkswagen GTI 4-door

Minicar

  • Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback built after July 2010

Minivan

  • Toyota Sienna

Large SUV

  • Volkswagen Touareg

Midsize SUVs

  • Audi Q5
  • Cadillac SRX
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Dodge Journey
  • Ford Explorer
  • Ford Flex
  • GMC Terrain
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Kia Sorento built after March 2010
  • Lexus RX
  • Lincoln MKT
  • Mercedes GLK
  • Subaru Tribeca
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Toyota Venza
  • Volvo XC60
  • Volvo XC90

Small SUVs

  • Honda Element
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
  • Kia Sportage
  • Subaru Forester
  • Volkswagen Tiguan
Sixty-Six Win Insurance Institute's 2011 Top Safety Pick award Automakers quickly improve roofs to boost rollover protection ...

IIHS Picks 2010's Safest Cars

Ford, Audi, Hyundai, Volkswagon score highest on roof strength

By Mark Huffman
ConsumerAffairs.com

June 10, 2010
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)is out with its new ratings for the 2010 models. Based on new rollover test results the 2010 Audi A4 and Q5, Ford Flex and Fusion (twins Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ), Hyundai Tucson, Lincoln MKT, and Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen earn the Institute's Top Safety Pick award.

Each vehicle earns the highest rating of good for roof strength in rollover crashes. To measure roof strength, a metal plate is pushed against one corner of a vehicle's roof at a constant speed.

The maximum force sustained by the roof before five inches of crush is compared with the vehicle's weight to find the strength-to-weight ratio. This is a good assessment of vehicle structural protection in rollover crashes. Good rated vehicles have roofs that can withstand a force equal to at least four times the vehicle's weight. For comparison, the current federal standard is 1.5 times weight.

The Top Safety Pick recognizes the vehicles that earn the highest rating for front, side, rollover, and rear crash protection, and that have electronic stability control, which is standard on all of these models.

Ford leads the pack

Earlier this year Ford made changes to the roof structures of the Flex, Fusion, and MKT. The award applies to Flex models built after January 2010, Fusions built after April 2010, MKTs built after March 2010.

Ford now has 11 Top Safety Pick ratings for 2010 model vehicles -- more than any other automaker. Flex, Fusion, MKZ, MKT and Milan previously earned top possible scores for occupant protection in IIHS's front, side and rear tests, but had to pass IIHS's new roof strength test to maintain the rating.

Vehicles also must offer electronic stability control to be eligible for a Top Safety Pick.

"Leading the industry in both Top Safety Pick ratings and government five-star crash test ratings is very significant because customers increasingly consider IIHS and NHTSA ratings when choosing a new vehicle," said Sue Cischke, Ford's group vice president of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. "These latest test results further demonstrate Ford's commitment to continuous improvement on the safety front."

IIHS Picks 2010's Safest Cars...

Rollover Tests of Midsize SUVs Produce Mixed Results

IIHS says stronger roofs mean saved lives, fewer injuries

June 3, 2010

New test results show that some automakers are doing a good job of designing vehicle roofs that perform much better than current federal rollover standards require. The roofs on other vehicles, however, need improvement.

In the first Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) roof strength tests of midsize SUVs, six earn the top rating of "good" for rollover protection, one is "acceptable," and five others earn the second lowest rating of "marginal."

Midsize SUVs earning "good" ratings are the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox (twin GMC Terrain) built after March 2010, Jeep Liberty (twin Dodge Nitro), Toyota Highlander and Venza, plus the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Kia Sorento, both 2011 models.

The 2010 Ford Edge is rated "acceptable." The worst performers, which earn "marginal" ratings, are the Honda Accord Crosstour, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-7, Mitsubishi Endeavor, and Nissan Murano, all 2010 models.

In addition to earning "good" ratings for rollover protection, the Equinox, Grand Cherokee, Highlander, Sorento, and Venza also earn the Institute's Top Safety Pick award. To achieve this, a vehicle has to earn good ratings for occupant protection in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes. It also has to have electronic stability control.

How they are rated

The rollover rating system is based on Institute research showing that occupants in vehicles that roll benefit from stronger roofs. Vehicles rated "good" must have roofs that are more than twice as strong as the minimum required under the current federal safety standard. The ratings, products of the Institute's roof strength testing program, add to consumer information tests that rate vehicles' front, side, and rear crashworthiness. The rollover test is designed to help consumers pick vehicles that will protect them the best in one of the most serious kinds of crashes.

"Midsize SUVs are a big group so we're testing them in stages," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "First results show that automakers are making progress in rollover protection, but it's disappointing that a new design like the Crosstour didn't perform better."

Lives at stake

Top performance in the roof test is important because nearly 10,000 people a year are killed in rollover crashes. When vehicles roll, their roofs hit the ground, deform, and crush. Stronger roofs crush less, reducing injury risk from contact with the roof itself. Stronger roofs also can prevent people, especially those who aren't using safety belts, from being ejected through windows, windshields, or doors that have broken or opened because the roof deformed. Roofs that don't collapse help keep people inside vehicles when they roll.

The best occupant protection is to keep vehicles from rolling in the first place. Electronic stability control is significantly reducing rollovers, especially fatal single-vehicle ones. When vehicles roll, side curtain airbags help protect people. Safety belt use is essential.

Conducting the tests

In the Institute's roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against one corner of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a "good" rating, a roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle's weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. For an "acceptable" rating, the minimum strength-to-weight ratio that's required is 3.25. A "marginal" rating value is 2.5, and anything lower than that is "poor."

The Grand Cherokee, Highlander, Liberty, and Venza, for example, withstood forces of nearly 5 times their weights. This compares with 2.8 times weight for the Crosstour and about 3 times weight for the Endeavor and Pilot. A strength-to-weight ratio of 4 reflects an estimated 50 percent reduction in serious or fatal injury risk in single-vehicle rollover crashes, compared with the current federal standard of 1.5.

Rollover Tests of Midsize SUVs Produce Mixed Results...

Subaru Wins IIHS 2010 Safety Competition

Winners now required to provide good protection in rollovers

Nineteen cars and eight SUVs have earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award for 2010. And -- for the first time -- good performance in a roof strength test to measure protection in a rollover is required to win.

The IIHS Top Safety Pick recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rear, and now rollover crashes based on good ratings in institute tests. Winners also must have electronic stability control, which research shows significantly reduces crash risk. This is the second time the Institute has tightened criteria since announcing the first recipients in 2005.

Subaru is the only manufacturer with a winner in all four vehicle classes in which it competes. The automaker earned five awards for 2010. Ford and subsidiary Volvo have six winners, and Volkswagen/Audi had five.

Chrysler earned four awards, continuing a recent trend of improving the crashworthiness of its vehicles. Two new small cars, the Nissan Cube and Kia Soul, join the Top Safety Pick list for 2010.

"With the addition of our new roof strength evaluation, our crash test results now cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes," said Institute president Adrian Lund. "Consumers can use this list to zero in on the vehicles that are on the top rung for safety."

Good rollover ratings

A new requirement for strong roofs winnows the list of Top Safety Pick winners from a record 94 in 2009. The addition of this criterion recognizes manufacturers with vehicles that provide good protection in rollovers, which kill more than 9,000 people in passenger vehicles each year. The first rollover ratings were released in March.

Vehicles rated good have roofs more than twice as strong as the current federal standard requires. The Institute estimates that such roofs reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent compared with roofs meeting the minimum requirement.

"Cars and SUVs that win Top Safety Pick are designs that go far beyond minimum federal safety standards," Lund pointed out.

Missing the mark

Not a single model from the world's biggest automaker by sales is represented among this year's winners. Toyota and its Lexus and Scion subsidiaries had a strong showing in 2009 with 11 winners but were shut out for 2010. Four other manufacturers whose vehicles have earned Top Safety Pick in the past didn't have a qualifying vehicle for 2010: BMW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Saab. The Honda Accord picked up the award the past 2 years, but the 2010 didn't earn the required good roof strength rating to qualify (the roof is rated acceptable). The Ford Fusion is another midsize car that dropped off the list for the same reason.

"Honda and Ford would have to make only minor changes to achieve good ratings for roof strength, as the Accord and Fusion just missed the mark," Lund explained.

The midsize Toyota Camry would have qualified with good ratings, except for its rear crash evaluation. This car's seats and head restraints are rated marginal for protection against whiplash injury. A change to good would have earned the Camry a Top Safety Pick for 2010.

Other automakers have improved head restraints to win. For example, inadequate head restraints kept earlier Chrysler models from earning awards, but in 2010 the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger and Journey, and Jeep Patriot all earned good ratings and Top Safety Pick. Likewise, General Motors upgraded the seats and head restraints in the Chevrolet Malibu to win.

Volvo glitch

The Institute identified a problem with the Volvo XC60 in the side test. A piece of plastic trim on the driver seat pushed against a service release button for the safety belt, which then detached from its anchor during the test.

"This would be a serious issue if it happened in a real crash, but it's not likely to happen and it's fixable," Lund explains. "Still, belts shouldn't come loose in a crash test. Volvo is fixing the problem so it won't be an issue with XC60 models produced after November 2009. Top Safety Pick applies only to these modified XC60s." Consumers who own 2010 XC60s already on the road should see their Volvo dealer for repairs, Lund advised.

Improved protection

Front and side impacts and rollovers killed 24,056 passenger vehicle occupants in 2008. Rear-end crashes usually aren't fatal but result in a large proportion of crash injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most commonly reported injury in two-thirds of insurance claims for injuries in all kinds of crashes.

"In safety terms, we've come very far, very fast in just the past decade," Lund said. When the Institute began conducting frontal tests for consumer information in 1995, few vehicles earned top ratings. Now almost all do. Most cars failed the side tests we added in 2003. Test results in that initial round were so bad we nearly broke our budget for repairing the crash test dummy, but now most vehicles ace the side test thanks to side airbags and stronger side structures. Factor in improved head restraints to protect against whiplash and electronic stability control to prevent crashes, and consumers are the clear winners."

Safety equipment is increasingly standard. Ninety-two percent of 2010 model cars, 99 percent of SUVs, and 66 percent of pickup trucks have standard side airbags with head protection. Electronic stability control is standard on 85 percent of cars, 100 percent of SUVs, and 62 percent of pickups.

"Now that roof strength is a priority, we think manufacturers will move quickly to bolster roofs to do well in our roof strength test. This means consumers likely will have more Top Safety Pick choices for 2011," Lund predicted.Keep in mind vehicle size and weight, he adds, because larger, heavier vehicles generally afford better protection in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones. Even with a Top Safety Pick, a small car isn't as crashworthy as a bigger one.

The Institute awarded the first Top Safety Pick winners to 2006 models and then raised the bar the next year by requiring good rear test results and electronic stability control as either standard or optional equipment. Early this year the Institute alerted auto manufacturers to the new criteria for roof crush and asked them to nominate candidates for testing.

How vehicles are evaluated

The Institute's frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40 mph frontal offset crash tests. Each vehicle's overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test

.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on 2 instrumented SID-IIs dummies representing a 5th percentile woman, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the impact.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry -- the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. Seat/head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people.

In the roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against one side of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a good rating for rollover protection, the roof must withstand a force of four times the vehicle's weight before reaching five inches of crush. This is called a strength-to-weight ratio. For an acceptable rating, the minimum required strength-to-weight ratio is 3.25. A marginal rating value is 2.5. Anything lower than that is rated poor.

Subaru Wins IIHS 2010 Safety Competition...

Top Safety Awards Go to 34 Cars, SUVs and a Pickup

Number of top awards more than doubles this year


Honda and Ford led list the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for safest vehicles in 2008.

The Toyota Tundra is the first full-size pickup truck to make the "Top Safety Picks" of the insurance institute.

In all, 34 vehicles earned the IIHS safety award for 2008. The group recognizes vehicles which it considers do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on crash.

Every vehicle on the list has electronic stability control (ESC), which IIHS research indicates can significantly reduce the risk of crashing.

The 34 vehicles from the 2008 model-year include eight from Ford Motor Co., the Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, Taurus and Taurus X, Mercury Sable, and the Volvo unit's S80, XC90 and C70.

Honda Motor Co. had seven vehicles on the list. They are the Odyssey, Element, Pilot, Accord, CR-V and the Acura MDX and RDX.

Hyundai, Subaru and Audi all had three vehicles on the IIHS list. Chrysler LLC had none.

General Motors Corp.'s new Saturn VUE, which will be built starting in December, is included because of an improved head restraint system.

Also on the list are GM's Saab 9-3 and 9-3 convertible.

11 NEW WINNERS FOR 2008

Midsize cars
Audi A3
Honda Accord

Small car
Subaru Impreza equipped with optional electronic stability control

Minivan
Honda Odyssey

Midsize SUVs
BMW X3
BMW X5
Hyundai Veracruz built after August 2007
Saturn VUE built after December 2007
Toyota Highlander

Small SUV
Honda Element

Large pickup
Toyota Tundra

ALL 34 WINNERS

Large cars
Audi A6
Ford Taurus with optional electronic stability control
Mercury Sable with optional electronic stability control
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Audi A3, A4
Honda Accord
Saab 9-3
Subaru Legacy with optional electronic stability control

Midsize convertibles
Saab 9-3
Volvo C70

Small car
Subaru Impreza with optional electronic stability control

Minivans
Honda Odyssey
Hyundai Entourage
Kia Sedona

Midsize SUVs
Acura MDX, RDX
BMW X3, X5
Ford Edge, Taurus X
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Veracruz built after August 2007
Lincoln MKX
Mercedes M class
Saturn VUE built after December 2007
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Honda CR-V, Element
Subaru Forester with optional electronic stability control

Large pickup
Toyota Tundra

A number of vehicles almost made the Best Pick list. Volkwsagen's Eos, Jetta, Passat and Rabbit, as well as Nissan's Pathfinder, Xterra, Quest and Infiniti M35/M45, would have made the list if they had better head restrains, according to says Institute President Adrian Lund.

Also close but not quite on the list are the Toyota Prius, Avalon, Camry, RAV4 and Sienna.

ALSO RANS
Twenty-three vehicles earn good ratings in front and side crash tests. They have ESC, standard or optional. They would be 2008 Top Safety Pick winners if their seat/head restraints also earned good ratings:

  • Acura RL, TL
  • BMW 3 series
  • Chrysler Sebring convertible
  • Infiniti M35/M45
  • Kia Amanti
  • Lexus IS 250/350, ES 350, GS 350/460
  • Nissan Pathfinder, Xterra both with optional side airbags
  • Nissan Quest
  • Toyota Avalon, Camry, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Prius, RAV4, and Sienna
  • Volkswagen Eos, Jetta, Passat, Rabbit

Lund said his organization would continue to toughen the "Top Safety Pick" program.

Top Safety Awards Go to 34 Cars, SUVs and a Pickup...