IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2014Because the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has made its testing criteria more stringent, only 22 2014 model cars have earned its top safety rating of Top Safety Pick Plus, writes Joann Muller for Forbes. Including 17 more cars that garnered the Top Safety Pick rating (without the “Plus”), that totals 39 vehicles named Top Safety Picks for 2014, as compared with 130 vehicles for last year’s (2013) models, Muller reports. (This blog wrote about the 2013 awards here and here.)

To earn the Top Safety Pick Plus rating, cars have to achieve a “good” or “acceptable” rating in small overlap crashes in addition to rating “good” on four other crash tests, Jerry Hirsch writes for the Los Angeles Times. (The other four tests include moderate overlap front, side, rollover and rear, IIHS says in a press release.) In the small overlap crash test, 25% of a vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph, IIHS writes. 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.

Top Safety Pick Plus vehicles must also have at least an optional forward collision warning feature alerting drivers of the possibility of running into another vehicle, Hirsch writes. Additional points are awarded to those vehicles with autobrake, based on performance in IIHS track tests at 12 and 25 mph, IIHS writes.

From IIHS:

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 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.

Hirsch notes that the new stiffer requirements for the Top Safety Pick Plus rating are likely to get tougher, as the Institute works to make the collision warning standard on all cars. The Institute is also considering adding to its criteria adaptive headlights, which turn with the steering wheel to better illuminate the road in front of the vehicle, Hirsch writes. He reports that forward collision warning is already reducing vehicle-to-vehicle crashes by =about 7%, according to insurance industry data. And when those figures include an automatic braking system, crashes are reduced by 15%, he reports.

Hirsch quotes IIHS’s senior vice president of communications:

‘We want to show consumers which high-tech features are worth the money and encourage manufacturers to make them more widely available,’ said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. ‘We intend to raise the bar higher.’

Including its Honda and Acura lines, Honda did well, with six vehicles named Top Safety Pick Plus, Hirsch writes, including its Civic hybrid, both the two-door and four-door Accord sedan, its Odyssey minivan and Acura’s RLX and MDX. Rader told Hirsch that Honda has become known for innovation, redesigning its cars to do better in crash tests and protect occupants.

The top safety rating also went to Subaru’s Legacy, Outback and Forester; Volvo’s S60, S80 and XC60; Mazda’s Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5; Ford’s Fusion and Lincoln MKZ; Toyota’s Prius (but only those built after November) and Highlander; plus the Infiniti Q50, Mitsubishi Outlander and Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Hirsch writes. Muller writes: “It’s worth noting that some vehicles that didn’t make the list haven’t yet been tested by IIHS.”

“We’ve made it more difficult for manufacturers this year,” says IIHS President Adrian Lund in the press release. He goes on to say:

‘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.’

By the way, Russ Rader tells this blog that Adrian Lund drives an Audi A6, although Rader does not know what model year it is.

You can see a video about IIHS’s Top Safety Picks here:

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