The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released its annual list of the best-rated vehicles for safety, and like last year, they're again divided into two groups: Top Safety Picks and winners of the tougher Top Safety Pick+ award. This year, however, the IIHS has changed its minimum criteria for each award, making them both significantly tougher to earn than last year.

The IIHS uses five tests to judge vehicles: moderate overlap front and side crash tests, a roof strength test, head restraint test and the recently added small overlap front crash test. Last year, a basic TSP award could be earned by achieving a Good rating in the first four tests, regardless of the vehicle's score in the new small overlap front crash test. For 2014, however, the IIHS is making the small overlap front crash test score count, requiring a Good or Acceptable score, along with a Good rating in the other four tests, to earn the award.

With the small overlap front crash test now incorporated into the basic TSP award, IIHS is changing the TSP+ award to recognize automakers that offer an extra level of protection with crash prevention technology. This year, any vehicle satisfying the criteria for the basic TSP award that also offers a forward collision warning system or automatic braking system will earn the TSP+ award.

As for the list of winners, Honda stands out as having the most TSP+ awards, a total of six spread among itself and Acura, as well as two more basic TSP awards. The IIHS also found it exemplary that smaller manufacturers like Volvo, Subaru and Mazda were able to achieve three TSP+ awards each. In total, 22 vehicles earned TSP+ awards, an increase over last year's count of 13. What's more shocking is that while 117 vehicles earn basic TSP awards last year, only 17 were able to meet the more stringent requirements this year.

The full list of IIHS award winners can be found below, along with a video by the IIHS explaining their testing procedures and this year's new requirements.


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Thirty-nine vehicles meet tougher criteria to earn 2014 safety awards from IIHS

ARLINGTON, Va. - Twenty-two vehicles earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest safety award for 2014, Top Safety Pick+, thanks to a high level of protection in crashes and the availability of front crash prevention technology to avoid many collisions in the first place. An additional 17 earn Top Safety Pick by meeting the crashworthiness criteria alone.

IIHS is using new criteria for the awards this year. Top Safety Pick requires good performance in the Institute's 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."

IIHS has been awarding Top Safety Pick since the 2006 model year and has tightened criteria twice before this year. Top Safety Pick+ was introduced last year to reward automakers that achieved good or acceptable performance in the small overlap test, in which 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver's side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.

With the small overlap test now incorporated into the basic Top Safety Pick criteria, IIHS is using the Top Safety Pick+ designation to reward manufacturers that provide the next level of safety. This year, that means vehicles that not only protect their occupants in a crash but also have systems that can prevent or mitigate front-to-rear crashes. Front crash prevention, which includes both warning systems and automatic braking, is intended to help inattentive drivers avoid rear-ending a stopped or slower-moving vehicle in front of them.

IIHS began rating front crash prevention systems earlier this year after research by its affiliate, the Highway Loss Data Institute, showed that forward collision warning and automatic braking systems are reducing crashes. Vehicles can earn basic, advanced or superior ratings for systems offered as standard or optional equipment. A vehicle with a forward collision warning system that meets performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration automatically qualifies for a basic rating. Additional points are awarded for autobrake, based on performance in IIHS track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph.

Front crash prevention systems have been spreading quickly through the vehicle fleet. As a result, there are more 2014 Top Safety Pick+ winners than regular Top Safety Pick winners.

"Consumers who want both crash prevention technology and the latest in occupant protection have a fair number of vehicles to choose from," Lund says. "We hope manufacturers will continue to incorporate front crash prevention, developing more robust systems and adding them to more trim levels or, better yet, making them standard equipment."

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.

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.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 39 Comments
      Joe Liebig
      • 1 Year Ago
      As Milton Friedman said, quoting some ancient Romans, "Who watches the watchmen?" It's time for head-to-head of the crash safety institutes. Is IIHS or NCAP the tougher test? How to do it: Take some world cars, e.g. Ford Focus, GM derivatives. Get the IIHS and NCAP scores. For each market (EU,US) rank cars by casualties/accident, casualties/units sold, casualties/(units sold *avg. miles driven). Then see if the IIHS or NCAP score correlates higher.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        gnvlscdt23f
        • 1 Year Ago
        What do you consider the Optima and the Elantra? At least some of both are made in SK.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @gnvlscdt23f
          [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          @gnvlscdt23f
          [blocked]
        TruthHertz
        • 1 Year Ago
        I would hope not even on South Korean made the list. Could you imagine a person getting hit by that side impact sled? There are a couple Korean CARS on the list though.
      normc32
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think CR should stop raising the chop sticks so high?
      Chris Hickey
      • 1 Year Ago
      So the only car with a + rating from the bog 3 is a Ford, Score for Ford on that one, and it's the car I currently drive!
      b.rn
      • 1 Year Ago
      It's interesting that they didn't bother to test their own "Large Family Car" category for the "top safety pick" publication. In the tests they bothered to run, many of these vehicles did every bit as well as some of their top picks.
        john96xlt
        • 1 Year Ago
        @b.rn
        No kidding, I was expecting to see both the Taurus and Impala, they generally do very well in crash tests.
          john96xlt
          • 1 Year Ago
          @john96xlt
          According to their website, the current Taurus scored "Good" (highest rating) in all categories. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/ford/taurus So far, they've only tested Side Impact and Small Overlap on the new Impala, but in both tests, it scored "Good" as well.
        john96xlt
        • 1 Year Ago
        @b.rn
        Also, something else is missing: Pickup trucks. If none qualified, then it should say "none".
      GOSCH
      • 1 Year Ago
      Only 1 Chevrolet? Spark??
      SloopJohnB
      • 1 Year Ago
      The real question is how safe is safe enough? I want style, performance, economy, safety, inexpensive, etc., but there are certainly tradeoffs. The newest Mercedes S-Klass is certainly safe, but the rest? Not so much.
        normc32
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SloopJohnB
        Or change the structure of the car everytime the wind blows? If the added metal will keep the Japanese car from flapping it's body parts that are rusting off, more power to them. In the end there is only so much CR and others can do to cover up Toyota/Honda recalls swapping the lead with each other.
          normc32
          • 1 Year Ago
          @normc32
          Recalls, recalls, recalls...Toyota, Honda....
          hokkaido76
          • 1 Year Ago
          @normc32
          Yeah, you can stop trolling now.......
      Jasonn
      • 1 Year Ago
      So now the Top Safety Pick+ is reserved only for vehicles with the forward camera technology?
        Seal Rchin
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jasonn
        Which is a positive thing, if you can prevent even 1 slow speed crash you can save that $500 or whatever deductible you are paying.
          Mike
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          If people want to buy more safety stuff let them buy it.
          jebibudala
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          I have a better idea. Why don't people pay attention instead of texting or checking FB.
          SloopJohnB
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          It's not a positive thing if everyone has to pay for eliminating that one slow speed crash. There is a cost to everything, even that slow speed crash. It's pure BS that the value of one life is incalculableā€¦if that were so then there could logically be no cars allowed, period, because the infinite cost of any life lost due to a car crash or accident would swamp the value of the motorized public. Same with gunsā€¦.lives are valuable, but so are guns.
        Doug Utz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jasonn
        It appears that's their new criteria, correct. There are some vehicles which were + picks a year ago, but don't yet offer a forward collision warning system or automatic braking system, and they've lost that + rating.
      mikeybyte1
      • 1 Year Ago
      I know I am in the minority, but how safe is safe enough? Cars keep getting heavier and more expensive with all of the safety standards. Curious to know if there are any studies out there that outline the cost/weight hit that has been added to cars over the years in the name of safety. Same with fuel economy. I could Google it. But it's more interesting to let commentors here tell me.
        Cayman
        • 1 Year Ago
        @mikeybyte1
        I've never made a purchase decision based on safett
      bK
      • 1 Year Ago
      Interesting to see how many Japanese cars are on both of the list. I would of expected volvo or benz to dominate.
        Famsert
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bK
        Yeah, sure, if you bought into that "German engineering" BS.
      JD
      • 1 Year Ago
      I believe we need one set of safety standards not a second, different testing criteria by the insurance institute, there is no need to confuse the purchasing market. It would be a great advantage to have a set of worldwide standards but that is higly unlikely to happen. I completely agree with "how safe is safe enough", there are great number of folks that will NOT use seat belts, that is their decision but we should not all be financially penalized in order to save their butt !!
        mary.keana
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JD
        If you like cars that are unsafe, then by all means feel free to drive something from Detroit or Toyota.
        Jamie Elmhirst
        • 1 Year Ago
        @JD
        No true. Mazda cut weight in their current generation vehicles through the extensive use of high tensile strength steel, made them more fun to drive and improved crash safety results.
      Kuro Houou
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wonder why the Mazda 3 says built after October 2013, the new model came out in September.
        TruthHertz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Kuro Houou
        Apparently something was altered in October that allowed it to be "certified" by them. It wouldn't be put there for no reason.
        gnvlscdt23f
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Kuro Houou
        Models built prior to that got just a Marginal in the small overlap test. Mazda changed the airbag programming and structure to get the score up.
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