The IIHS recognized 90 cars with its “Top Safety Pick” awards in one fell swoop.
Safety is a huge marketing angle for new cars. Every automaker touts its crashworthiness and the ability for their driver assistance systems to protect you in an accident — or ensure one doesn’t happen at all. For years, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)’ Top Safety Pick (TSP) has been a go-to metric in quickly disseminating a car’s safety. The tests have gotten tougher over the years, but ultimately that leads to improvements for the cars we all buy and drive every day. Even with new tests rolling out every few years on average, more new cars today are grabbing Top Safety Pick+ awards than in 2020.
On Wednesday, the IIHS recognized 49 different models with its “Top Safety Pick+” distinction. Another 41 earned a Top Safety Pick award.
What does Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ mean?
Before getting into the winners, here are the criteria for each category. For either TSP or Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle has to score “Good” in all IIHS crashworthiness tests. The firm breaks out those results in to four ranks: Poor, Marginal, Acceptable and Good. For TSP, a vehicle also has to have “Good” or “Acceptable” headlights as available equipment. On front crash prevention technology, vehicles have to have either an “Advanced” or a “Superior” rating (with Superior being the best) in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian tests.
The major change with Top Safety Pick+ has to do with headlights. To get the Top Safety Pick+, Good or Acceptable headlights have to be standard equipment. So, if a model lacks good headlights on any trim or they lack the frontal crash prevention technology (or the systems can’t pass muster in actual testing), it cannot get the top rating.
Top Safety Pick+ Awards
|Acura RDX||Hyundai Nexo||Subaru Ascent|
|Acura TLX||Kia K5||Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid|
|Audi A6||Lexus IS 350||Subaru Forester|
|Audi A6 Allroad||Lexus ES||Subaru Legacy|
|Audi A7||Lexus NX||Subaru Outback|
|Audi e-tron||Mazda CX-3||Tesla Model 3|
|Audi e-tron Sportback||Mazda CX-30 (built after September 2020)||Toyota Camry|
|Cadillac XT6||Mazda CX-5||Toyota Highlander|
|Ford Explorer||Mazda CX-9||Toyota Sienna|
|Genesis G70||Mazda 3 sedan||Volvo S60 & S60 Recharge|
|Genesis G90||Mazda 3 hatchback||Volvo V60 & V60 Recharge|
|Honda Accord||Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (with opt. front crash prevention)||Volvo XC40|
|Honda Insight||Nissan Altima (built after November 2020)||Volvo XC60 & XC60 Recharge|
|Honda Odyssey||Nissan Maxima||Volvo XC90 & XC90 Recharge|
|Hyundai Palisade||Nissan Rogue|
Volvo, unsurprisingly, nabbed the most Top Safety Pick+ awards with nine. Honda, Mazda, Subaru and Toyota also fared well, all landing at least three cars in the Top Safety Pick+ category.
Top Safety Pick Awards
|Audi A4||Hyundai Venue||Nissan Sentra|
|Audi A5 Sportback||Kia Forte||Ram 1500 crew cab* (with opt. front crash prevention)|
|Audi Q8||Kia Seltos (built after Aug 2020, with opt. |
front crash prevention)
|Subaru Ascent (with opt. front crash prevention)|
|BMW 3 Series||Kia Soul||Subaru Crosstrek (with opt. front crash prevention)|
|Chevrolet Equinox||Kia Sorento||Subaru Impreza sedan (with opt. front crash prevention)|
|Ford Edge||Kia Sportage||Subaru Impreza wagon (with opt. front crash prevention)|
|Ford Escape||Kia Stinger||Subaru WRX (with opt. front crash prevention)|
|Honda Civic Sedan||Kia Telluride||Toyota Corolla hatchback|
|Honda Civic hatchback (excluding Type R)||Lexus RX||Toyota Corolla sedan|
|Honda CR-V||Lexus UX||Toyota C-HR|
|Hyundai Kona (with opt. front crash prevention)||Lincoln Aviator||Toyota RAV4 (and Prime)|
|Hyundai Sonata||Lincoln Corsair||Toyota Venza|
|Hyundai Tucson (with opt. front crash prevention)||Mercedes-Benz C-Class (with opt. front crash prevention)||Volkswagen Tiguan|
|Hyundai Veloster (with opt. front crash prevention)||Mercedes-Benz GLC (with opt. front crash prevention)|
Many more models make TSP, while some whole brands miss the mark entirely
If you didn’t see a car you’re shopping for in the Top Safety Pick+ list, there’s a good shot you’ll see it here. Virtually every Kia model managed TSP (without the plus), for example, as did Subaru’s lineup (with EyeSight equipped, that is). Several Toyotas that didn’t hit the top spot due to headlights make an appearance here, while the 2021 Ram 1500 is the only truck to manage a Top Safety Pick rating so far.
What’s notable as well as what vehicles don’t make this list. General Motors grabbed only one Top Safety Pick+ (the Cadillac XT6) and one TSP (the Chevrolet Equinox). It’s a similar story for Ford, who managed a Top Safety Pick+ with the Explorer and a TSP with the Escape and the Edge. Two of the three crossovers’ Lincoln counterparts (the Corsair and the Aviator) also managed Top Safety Pick.
Mitsubishi, as it stands, hasn’t won a single IIHS award yet. The firm’s testing also gave a better overall impression of Nissan Rogue than did government’s testing by way of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While the vehicle earned an overall four-star rating using the NHTSA’s methodology, it received just two stars in the passenger-side crash test. Meanwhile, the vehicle earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating in IIHS testing, with a “Good” rating for the passenger-side small overlap test. To be clear, the NHTSA’s ratings refer to Japanese-built examples of the Rogue made prior to January 28, 2021. The Rogue you can actually buy here in the U.S. is built at the company’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant, which could explain the difference between the two ratings.
At any rate, rigorous safety testing through the years have made U.S.-market cars safer than ever before, and seeing 90 cars earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick awards in their first major announcement this year should be a relieving sign the next time you’re in the market for a brand new car.