The U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which awards Top Safety Picks based on crash test performance, has established a new designation called Top Safety Pick+ to recognize 2013 models with superior crash protection.
To achieve the Top Safety Pick+ rating, a vehicle must earn good or acceptable ratings in the IIHS's new small overlap test as well as top marks in other IIHS evaluations.
Thirteen 2013 vehicles have earned the Top Safety Pick+ designation. They include:
- Acura TL
- Chrysler 200 4-door
- Dodge Avenger 4-door
- Ford Fusion
- Honda Accord 2-door and 4-door
- Kia Optima
- Nissan Altima 4-door
- Subaru Legacy
- Subaru Outback
- Suzuki Kizashi
- Volkswagen Passat
- Volvo S60
"Of the 29 models evaluated so far in our small overlap frontal crash test, these 13 cars offer the highest level of all-around crash protection," says Adrian Lund, IIHS president.
IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in a combination of crash tests that include a moderate overlap frontal crash, small overlap frontal crash, side impact and rollover, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.
Top Safety Pick+ winners must earn good ratings for occupant protection in at least 4 of 5 evaluations, with no less than acceptable in the fifth test.
For 2013, 117 additional vehicles earn Top Safety Pick ratings, which require that they have good ratings for occupant protection in the moderate overlap frontal test, side impact, rollover and rear tests, regardless of their small overlap rating.
"Models that earn Top Safety Pick also offer outstanding protection in many crashes," Lund says. "These vehicles are much safer choices than most vehicles on the market just five years ago."
Small Overlap Frontal Crash Test
IIHS introduced the small overlap test in 2012 to further improve occupant protection in frontal crashes. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.
Most automakers design their vehicles for good performance in the IIHS moderate overlap frontal test and the federal government's full-width frontal test, but many haven't addressed the problem of small overlap crashes.
In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants.
In the small overlap test, 25% of a car's front end on the driver side strikes a 1.5-metre-tall rigid barrier at 64 km/h. A Hybrid III dummy, representing a 50th percentile male, is belted in the driver seat.
Luxury/near luxury midsize cars were the first group of vehicles evaluated in this test, followed by midsize moderately priced cars.
IIHS will announce additional Top Safety Pick+winners as it continues to test models. Results for small SUVs are expected in the spring.
"We've seen automakers make structural and restraint changes in response to our small overlap test," Lund says. "Five manufacturers redesigned their midsize cars to enhance small overlap crash protection."
Honda engineered both versions of the Accord to do well in the test. Ford and Nissan made running structural changes to 2013 models already in production. Subaru and Volkswagen changed airbag control modules on the production line so side curtain airbags would deploy for improved head protection.
IIHS first gave the Top Safety Pick award to 2006 models and has tightened criteria twice since then. Good rear test results and availability of electronic stability control became a requirement starting with 2007 models, and a good roof strength rating became a deciding factor for the 2010 model year.
Stability control is no longer a distinguishing criterion since the feature is standard under federal rules for 2012 and later models.