ALL 66 WINNERS
BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8)
Cadillac CTS sedan
Infiniti M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel drive)
Mercedes E class coupe
Mercedes E class sedan
Toyota Avalon Volvo S80
Audi A4 sedan
Chrysler 200 4-door
Mercedes C class
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic
Kia Forte sedan
Mitsubishi Lancer sedan (except 4-wheel drive)
Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback (except WRX)
Volkswagen Golf 4-door
4-door Minicar Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback built after July
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento built after March
2010 Lexus RX
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
66 Vehicles Win 2011 Top Safety Pick Award. Hyundai/Kia, Volkswagen/Audi lead the pack with 9 winners each....