Drivers of the Nissan 350Z and Titan pick-up, along with drivers of the Chevrolet Aveo mini and Cobalt, are more likely to die in auto accidents, according to research by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

The group didn't specifically say why it thought those models were more susceptible to fatal crashes, but did note that none of the 26 vehicles that rated lowest on the survivability scale had standard electronic stability control (ESC), while almost all of the top rated models did. The safety feature will be required on all new vehicles next year.

Big change

This year's report, based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is a sharp departure from previous years. In the past, sport utility vehicles were among the most deadly in a crash, because of their tendency to roll over.

This year, IIHS said SUVs are among the safest vehicles in a crash, precisely because the roll-over issue has been addressed.

Vehicles with the best record of survivability tend to be luxury models. The Audi A6 and Mercedes Benz E Class took top honors. Also making the list were the Toyota Sienna minivan, Ford Edge, Nissan Armada and two Land Rover SUV modes.

Toyota makes good showing

Despite last year's much publicized safety probe, Toyota placed three models on the list of 26 vehicles with the best survivability rating, including the Lexus GX 470.

ECS appears to be the biggest game changer in models analyzed in this year's IIHS report. ESC automatically applies brakes and reduces acceleration when the driver over or under-steers. Twenty-five of the 26 top rated vehicles had ESC.