Sometimes, the best way to tell if a vehicle is safe is to crash it.
Not you, of course, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is where to find the safest new and used vehicles based on annual crash testing conducted since 2006.
That’s 13 years’ worth of the safest vehicles that now may be available used, along with 57 new models.
New vehicles are rated Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick in 10 segments from small cars to SUVs and minivans, although the criteria have changed a bit since tests first were conducted with 2006 models.
What it takes to be selected as an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Those changes have made it more challenging for automakers to keep up with the latest in safety features and systems to achieve the IIHS highest rating, which currently comprise nine safety tests in the categories of crashworthiness, crash avoidance and mitigation, and child seating capability.
“This marks the sixth time IIHS has raised the bar to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award since introducing it in the 2013 model year to recognize vehicles that offer a superior level of safety,” said the IIHS in a press release announcing 2019 results. “Over the years, IIHS has added to and strengthened criteria [on both TSP+ and TSP awards] … to encourage manufacturers to speed up safety advances.”
Top safety picks, plus
This year’s TSP+ winners by category are:
Small cars – Honda Insight, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Kia Niro hybrid and plug in hybrid, Subaru Crosstrek, Subaru Impreza 4-door sedan and wagon, and Subaru WRX
Midsize cars – Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback and Toyota Camry
Midsize luxury cars – Genesis G70 and Lexus ES 350
Large cars – Toyota Avalon
Large luxury cars – BMW 5 Series, Genesis G80, Genesis G90 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Small SUVs – Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-5
Midsize SUVs – Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Subaru Ascent
Midsize luxury SUV – Acura RDX, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
IIHS expects to add more vehicles to the list as testing continues in coming months.
Vehicle safety improving
Almost 700 vehicles have earned TSP+ or TSP recognition since the former rating was introduced, including this year’s award winners, while another 500 vehicles from minicars to large pickups received recognition previously from the IIHS for model years 2006-2012.
Of course, older model vehicles are much less likely to hold up to current safety-testing standards, and may be affected by how well they were maintained since their model year.
“Vehicle safety has improved dramatically over the past decades,” said an IIHS official. “All automakers now recognize the important role safety plays in consumer choices. And they’re increasingly receptive … to understanding the next steps to keep people from harm in motor-vehicle crashes.”
Vehicles that make the grade
In addition to listing Top Safety Picks by year, the IIHS also provides detailed grades on most 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. The Forte kept its TSP+ rating for 2019, while improving on the small overlap front passenger-side collision test.
But it probably would be best to let the IIHS take care of the vehicle crashing to help you make a better choice of new or used car, truck or SUV.
They’re better equipped to handle it.