Crash course: Where to find the safest 2018 vehicles and older


They are the safest.

The 15 new vehicles that have been named Top Safety Pick+ selections based on rigorous crash testing – how well a vehicle protects its occupants – by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

That doesn’t necessarily mean cars are a lot less safe than last year, when IIHS named 38 TSP+ winners.

What it takes to be selected as an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

The testing became tougher, as the IIHS strengthened headlight and passenger-side protection standards to accompany existing measures of front, driver-side, roof-strength and head-restraint tests.

Another 47 vehicles earned Top Safety Pick recognition, compared to 44 last year.

“The Institute is raising the bar,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “The awards recognize those vehicles that offer truly state-of-the-art safety.”

“Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are,” said Lund about strengthening of passenger-side protection standards. “Manufacturers have been taking this issue seriously since we first shed light on it.”

And “headlights have long been treated as design elements instead of the critical safety equipment that they are,” Lund said. “We’re please to see this changing.”

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Most of the TSP+ winners were either Hyundai Motor Co. brands – comprising Hyundai, Kia and Genesis – or Subaru, which drove off with six and four awards, respectively. Other brands recognized with TSP+ awards were Mercedes-Benz (two) and Toyota, BMW and Ford (one each).

Toyota had the most vehicles on the Top Safety Pick list with 10, followed by Hyundai with nine, and Subaru with six.

These selections go along with hundreds of models identified since 2006 that now qualify as used cars.

Of the latest TSP+ selections, 12 were cars and three were SUVs.

Following are selections by category:

Small cars – Kia Forte, Kia Soul, Subaru Impreza and Subaru WRX.

Midsize cars – Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback and Toyota Camry.

Large luxury cars – BMW 5 Series, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Lincoln Continental and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Midsize SUVs – Hyundai Santa Fe and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.

Midsize luxury SUV – Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Overall, the IIHS named Top Safety Picks in nine categories, small cars (nine), midsize cars (five), midsize luxury cars (eight), large cars (two), small SUVs (nine), midsize SUVs (four), midsize luxury SUVs (seven), minivans (two) and pickup (one).

The organization provides links on its website to detailed test results for all 62 vehicles.

For example, the 2018 Kia Forte, a small-car TSP+ selection, was rated “Good” on small overlap front driver-side collisions, moderate overlap front collisions, the side-collision test, roof strength, head restraints and seats, and headlights (depending on trim/options); “Acceptable” for small overlap front passenger-side collision test and ease of use for child seat anchors; and “Superior” for front-crash avoidance and mitigation (with optional equipment), according to IIHS.

Shoppers looking for pre-owned vehicles also can find value in IIHS testing for 2006-2017 model years. Of course, that could depend on how well those vehicles were maintained.

Top Safety Pick selections have been named since 2006, while TSP+ selections are available from 2013.

“Vehicle safety has improved dramatically over the past decades,” said Lund. “All automakers now recognize the important role that safety plays in consumer choices. And they’re increasingly receptive … to understanding the next steps to keep people from harm in motor-vehicle crashes.”