Americans Shut Out of 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Circle – Japanese and Korean Brands Dominate [Video]

Subaru is leading the charge, as is Hyundai and Kia

Only one American model made the Top Safety Pick rankings.

This year was a massive year for safety improvements. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s latest round of test results, 57 models earned either a “Top Safety Pick” or “Top Safety Pick+”. Fifty-seven. Of those, 30 scored the highest ranked Top Safety Pick+, while the other 27 made the second-tier awards. What’s remarkable, however, are the cars that didn’t make the grade: American cars.

In publishing its results, the IIHS scores cars on a wide range of crashworthiness tests, crash prevention measures and even the effectiveness of their headlights. The new headlight tests tripped up several manufacturers in 2018. Models that typically passed the Top Safety Pick+ tests with flying colors were downgraded because, in short, their headlights sucked.

Rankings explained

But how does the IIHS define how well a car performs in each category? It isn’t just a pass/fail system. Instead, the IIHS grades categories on a four-tier scale: Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor. To achieve Top Safety Pick+, a car has to score a Good in all its crash tests, as well as Good or Acceptable on its headlight rating. To get Top Safety Pick+, a car has to score Good on headlights – no less will do. The independent testing agency also scores crash prevention tech on a model with Basic, Advanced and Superior ratings. As with crash tests, vehicles have to score top marks to get these awards.

Vehicles the IIHS tests are also separated into several size categories. Minicars covers the subcompacts like the Hyundai Accent, then there are small cars, small SUVs, midsize cars, midsize luxury cars, midsize SUVs, midsize luxury SUVs, large SUVs, convertibles and minivans. No convertibles made the list, nor did any trucks. Ram, for instance, fell short on the headlight test with the 2019 Ram 1500 (it scored Good everywhere else). 

So which cars earned the coveted Top Safety Pick slots? It’s worth noting that not all 2019 models have results yet, so this list will continue to expand in the coming months. Even so, 57 cars getting top already doubles what we saw last year. 

2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick+
Subaru fared extremely well in this year’s round of crash tests, with all of its models earning a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Top Safety Pick+ Awards:

Small cars:

  • Honda Insight
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Kia Forte
  • Kia Niro Hybrid
  • Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid
  • Subaru Crosstrek
  • Subaru Impreza sedan
  • Subaru Impreza wagon
  • Subaru WRX

Midsize cars:

  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Kia Optima
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota Camry

Midsize luxury cars:

  • Genesis G70
  • Lexus ES

Large cars:

  • Toyota Avalon (built after September 2018)

Large luxury cars:

  • BMW 5 Series
  • Genesis G80
  • Genesis G90
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Small SUVs:

  • Hyundai Kona
  • Mazda CX-5

Midsize SUVs:

  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Kia Sorento
  • Subaru Ascent

Midsize luxury SUVs:

  • Acura RDX
  • BMW X3
  • Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Only one model has made the 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick list so far: the Chrysler Pacifica. [Photo: Chrysler]

Top Safety Picks:


  • Hyundai Accent
  • Kia Rio sedan

Small cars:

  • Hyundai Elantra GT
  • Hyundai Ioniq
  • Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in (built after July 2018)
  • Kia Soul
  • Nissan Kicks
  • Toyota Corolla hatchback

Midsize cars:

  • Honda Accord
  • Nissan Altima

Midsize luxury cars:

  • Audi A3
  • Audi A4
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class


  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Honda Odyssey

Small SUVs:

  • BMW X2
  • Honda CR-V
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Mazda CX-3
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Subaru Forester

Midsize SUVs:

  • Honda Pilot
  • Hyundai Santa Fe XL
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Nissan Pathfinder (built after August 2018)
  • Toyota Highlander

Americans are all but missing

Amazingly, only one American manufacturer managed to make the list: Fiat Chrysler. And even then, it was only with the Chrysler Pacifica. All other American cars either missed the list entirely or have not been tested yet. Some, like the Ford Fusion, scored well everywhere except the headlight test. Others like the Chevrolet Malibu scored less than ideally in small overlap crash test ratings.

Now, the list will continue to grow over time. So it’s not to say that other American cars won’t necessarily make the list. However, considering how many import brands did make the list, particularly across their entire lineups, the Big Three automakers have a hill to climb.

Stay tuned to for more updates!