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IIHS Adds 18 New Models to Top Safety Pick List

Top-selling Toyota Camry, Honda Accord make the cut.

By Joshua Condon Dec 15, 2011 8:58AM
The 2012 Toyota Camry. (Photo by Toyota.)The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has added 18 new models to its list of Top Safety Pick winners, bringing the total number of models given the institute's top safety award to 115.

Improved roof strength across Honda's lineup drove the bulk of the new-model selections; 10 of the new 18 models wear a Honda or Acura badge. This includes the perennially best-selling Honda Accord -- missing from the list since 2009 -- Civic, CR-V, Fit, Insight, Pilot and Ridgeline, as well as the Acura TL, TSX and MDX.

The top-selling Toyota Camry also made the list for the first time ever, thanks to an improved rating for seat and head restraints.

Subaru is the only automaker to earn a Top Safety Pick for every model it produces, including one for the redesigned Impreza small car. Toyota/Lexus/Scion has the most total awards, with 15. General Motors came in second at 14, Volkswagen/Audi followed with 13 and Ford/Lincoln and Honda/Acura both earned 12 awards.

Other IIHS Top Safety Picks new to the list this year are the BMW X3, Buick Verano, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Scion xD, Toyota Yaris and Prius V.

Every automaker earned a Top Safety Pick designation for at least one model.

You can read the IIHS press release after the jump.

115 winners of 2012 Top Safety Pick
Stronger roofs lead to another record year for award

ARLINGTON, VA — The list of winners of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick award is longer than ever this year, with vehicles in nearly every size category the Institute evaluates earning accolades. From minicars to sedans to pickups, consumers have a record number of choices among 2012 models.

In all, 69 cars, 38 SUVs, 5 minivans, and 3 pickups earn Top Safety Pick. The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute evaluations. The ratings, which cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes, help shoppers pick vehicles that offer the highest levels of crash protection. Because the federal government now requires all 2012 and later passenger vehicles to have electronic stability control to help drivers avoid loss-of-control crashes, ESC no longer is a requirement to win as it was in prior years.

The winners' circle includes 18 new recipients for 2012, while 97 models that previously qualified for the 2011 award carry over to 2012.

"For the second year running a record number of models qualify," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "It's tough to win, and we commend auto manufacturers for making safety a top priority."

That commitment to protecting people in crashes is evident in the fast pace of design improvements automakers have made during the past year. Initially 66 vehicles qualified for last year's award as less-than-perfect rollover ratings held back many contenders. Later the number climbed to 100 as manufacturers redesigned roofs to make them stronger or introduced new models to win. The Institute's rolling test schedule allows for recognition of additional winners throughout the year, so many 2012 models qualified for a 2011 Top Safety Pick.

Again this year every major automaker has at least one winner. Subaru remains the only manufacturer with the distinction of earning awards for every model it builds. Subaru picks up 5 awards, including one for the redesigned Impreza, a small car.

Toyota/Lexus/Scion has 15 winners for 2012, more than any other auto manufacturer. General Motors is next in line with 14, followed by Volkswagen/Audi with 13, and Ford/Lincoln and Honda/Acura with 12 awards apiece.

Honda improves: Ten of the 18 new additions are Honda/Acura models, including the midsize Accord sedan, which hasn't earned Top Safety Pick since the Institute toughened criteria to win the 2010 award by adding a test to assess roof strength in a rollover crash.

Vehicles rated good for rollover 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. A new federal standard for roof strength will phase in beginning with 2013 models.

Roofs on the 2009 Honda CR-V and 2010 Pilot scored marginal ratings in prior Institute tests, while earlier models of the Accord, CR-Z, Fit, and Insight rated acceptable. Now all of these 2012 models earn good ratings and Top Safety Pick.

"Honda/Acura deserves credit for most-improved status," Lund says. "The automaker buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection. Now, the automaker has winners in the minicar, small car, midsize car, small SUV, midsize SUV, minivan, and large pickup categories."

Another midsize sedan, the Toyota Camry, earns its first-ever Top Safety Pick. Last year, the Camry missed the mark because of a marginal rating for seat/head restraints. The Toyota Yaris also earns its first Top Safety Pick award. Toyota upgraded the roof and seat/head restraints of the 4-door hatchback model to win. Good ratings secure the Yaris a spot alongside 3 other minicars, the Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, and Honda Fit, as 2012 winners.

"It's great to see the Accord and Camry, 2 of the top-selling midsize cars in the U.S. market, join the Top Safety Pick ranks this year," Lund says. "The Accord previously won the 2009 award but has been missing from the list since then."

With fuel efficiency and reduced emissions on many buyers' wish lists, the winners' circle includes more green choices. Toyota's all-new Prius v is among them. Roomier than the original, the v hybrid brings to 15 the number of winners available as hybrids. The plug-in electric Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, winners in 2011, also earn this year's award.

For drivers who need to haul loads, the Ford F-150, Honda Ridgeline, and Toyota Tundra are good choices in the large pickup category. Small pickups continue to be shut out. None the Institute has evaluated qualify for the award.

"When we launched Top Safety Pick in 2005, consumers had 11 models to pick from. Six years later, finding a winner that fits most budgets and lifestyles is easy," Lund says. "It's a testament to the commitment automakers have made to going above and beyond minimum safety standards."

About the award: 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 ESC as either standard or optional equipment. In 2010, the Institute toughened criteria 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 Institute groups 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 2-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 man.

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 many people.


ALL 115 WINNERS (red indicates newly-announced winners for 2012)

Fiat 500 built after July 2011
Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback
Honda Fit
Toyota Yaris 4-door hatchback

Small cars
Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet Sonic
Chevrolet Volt
Ford Focus
Honda Civic 4-door
Honda CR-Z
Honda Insight
Hyundai Elantra
Kia Forte sedan
Kia Soul
Lexus CT 200h
Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback
Mini Cooper Countryman
Mitsubishi Lancer except Ralliart and Evolution
Nissan Cube
Nissan Juke
Nissan Leaf
Scion tC
Scion xB
Scion xD
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Prius
Volkswagen Golf 4-door
Volkswagen GTI 4-door

Midsize moderately priced cars
Audi A3
Buick Verano
Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler 200 4-door
Dodge Avenger
Ford Fusion
Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Toyota Camry
Toyota Prius v
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Volkswagen Passat
Volvo C30

Midsize luxury/near luxury cars
Acura TL built after September 2011
Acura TSX sedan and hatchback
Audi A4
Lincoln MKZ
Mercedes C-Class
Volkswagen CC except 4-wheel drive
Volvo S60

Large family cars
Buick LaCrosse
Buick Regal
Chrysler 300
Dodge Charger
Ford Taurus
Toyota Avalon

Large luxury cars
Audi A6
BMW 5 series except 4-wheel drive and V8
Cadillac CTS sedan
Hyundai Equus
Hyundai Genesis
Infiniti M37/M56 except M56x 4-wheel drive
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes E-Class sedan
Mercedes E-Class coupe
Saab 9-5
Volvo S80

Small SUVs
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
Kia Sportage
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

Midsize SUVs
Chevrolet Equinox
Dodge Durango
Dodge Journey
Ford Edge
Ford Explorer
Ford Flex
GMC Terrain
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Venza

Midsize luxury SUVs
Acura MDX
Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Infiniti EX35
Lexus RX
Lincoln MKT
Lincoln MKX
Mercedes GLK
Mercedes M-Class
Saab 9-4X
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Large SUVs
Buick Enclave
Chevrolet Traverse
GMC Acadia
Volkswagen Touareg

Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan
Honda Odyssey
Toyota Sienna
Volkswagen Routan

Large pickups
Ford F-150 crew cab models
Honda Ridgeline
Toyota Tundra crew cab models

[Source: IIHS.]

Dec 25, 2011 4:33AM

To Buck0421....How about employing the most effective safety "option" there is:  pay attention to what you're doing while driving!  Stop texting, reading, talking on your cell phone, etc; don't tailgate, don't weave in and out of traffic; actually stop at a stop sign or light before truning right on to another street; look in your rear view mirror before backing up and looki in your side mirror before changing lanes.

None of these things cost anything, they work all the time and they don't distract from your driving.  All those gagets you listed are fine but a lot of the time they cause people to lose track of the fact that they still need to be responsible for what they are doing behind the wheel; they don't make up for poor driving habits.  

Dec 25, 2011 3:54AM
I see you guys are still engaged in "Name Calling" A good car is a good car,regardless of where it was made. If you sell a good product, people will continue to buy it. That fact was true, is true and will always be true.
Dec 25, 2011 1:43AM

FORD!!!  They have made such great strides in what they are putting out right now.  The only two vehicles not on the top safety list are the Escape and Expedition.  They are both due for a redesign and should hit the list when they do. 


Car and Driver placed the Focus and the Mustang on the 10 best cars in the world list too.  This should tell you that FORD is the king in Detroit.  Anyone buying a car should look at Ford with great seriousness before buying foreign cars.

Dec 25, 2011 4:34AM
Yes all auto makers build cars here but what should be considered is where the profits go.Most of the best selling auto's the profits go to Japan,Korea,China.Also how much the workers are paid. workers whom only make 12 to 16 dollars an hour don't buy things like homes and big ticket items for that home.So if you buy asian and want to sell your home visit one of thier factories and see if one of the workers there will buy it.  
Dec 24, 2011 11:33PM

" For Detroit to win us back, they have to beat the imports in all of the big dollar categories, like resale, reliability and cost of ownership. Ford seems to be the only one paying attention to that right now. JD Powers still ranks US made autos as having the most complaints from THEIR OWNERS of poor quality, world wide."


Japanese and Europeans care more about what they make and sell to the world because to them it is a matter of national pride. The US used to make good cars, but look at the Auto workers in car factories in the recent decades, look at the personalities running the US car companies, they focus on their promotions and guard their current posts until they move higher and that is all they care about. So if the focus does not start from the top and tricles down to the bottom, they will always end up losing focus on quality and make bad cars.  

Dec 25, 2011 3:00PM
Looks like just about every car nameplate won something....that's ridiculous!  It would be nice to see a list of the top 10 only.
Dec 25, 2011 4:56AM

As mentioned by one of the other posters, the biggest single safety factor is the driver.  I do not want a car with the cruise control feature, or automatic head lights or wipers.  The mirror blinkers, i could handle.  I would like my next car to have the air bag seat belts though.  The problem i have with the automatic head lights is the tail lights are still dark.  Also no matter where the final assembly point is all cars have components coming from overseas. 

I really do like my Fusion though, and will purchase another one once they do a full update.


Dec 25, 2011 11:03AM
Dec 25, 2011 4:07PM
I completely agree with Rusty Frame.  I know a guy at work who bought  a Dodge Charger and had it not quite a month and a half before he rolled it over on a interstate clover-leaf.  Perhaps the salesman over-sold anti-lock brakes and stability control, he said (and told the police who attended the "accident") he thought the car could never go out of control because of those systems.  What a freakin' numb-skull.  Its not a great idea to ignore the laws of physics and blindly think electronic systems (no matter how sophisticated) will keep you on the road like the unseen hand of God or something.  It really scares the hell out of me to know there are licensed drivers on the road who actually think that way.  We are doomed people, doomed I tell you. Drunks are bad enough without complete fools joining them behind the wheel.  My only regret is that stupidity isn't painful.
Dec 15, 2011 2:51PM
Maybe it's because the imports dominate nine out of the twelve categories above? Every American (including myself) would like to see domestic autos doing better on all of the charts for safety, reliability and quality but it's not up to us, it's up to the big shots in Detroit to make the changes needed to do that. They mostly seem concerned with sales figures, profits and who is putting the most new technology into their vehicles.
  There are probably close to as many import owners as there are domestic car owners in the US and guess what? The vast majority of us used to drive domestics until we figured out that the imports are built better.
  For Detroit to win us back, they have to beat the imports in all of the big dollar categories, like resale, reliability and cost of ownership. Ford seems to be the only one paying attention to that right now. JD Powers still ranks US made autos as having the most complaints from THEIR OWNERS of poor quality, world wide.

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