2015 TSP+ awardsFor 2015, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given 33 cars its highest safety rating, Top Safety Pick + (TSP+), as Chris Woodyard writes for USA Today. The IIHS writes in a press release that 11 more vehicles earned a rating in the top “plus” category than did in 2014.

IIHS President Adrian Lund says this is the third year in a row that the Institute has made the test more difficult, and the challenge is encouraging carmakers to improve designs so that cars do well in the small overlap front crash test. The tougher tests have also helped to get more automakers to offer automatic braking technology on more vehicles, Lund said.

And although the TSP+ test has gotten more difficult, the criteria for Top Safety Pick (one level under the top PLUS category) have remained unchanged, IIHS writes. Those criteria include a good or acceptable rating in the small front overlap test and a good rating in the moderate overlap front side, roof strength, and head restraints, IIHS writes. By contrast, to earn a Top Safety Pick + rating, a car has to meet those criteria and also “have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating,” IIHS writes. The number of cars that have earned ratings in the top two levels, TSP+ and TSP, have jumped to 71 for 2015, up from 39 in 2014, Woodyard reports.

Most of the TSP+ winners earn the award only when equipped with optional front crash prevention systems, IIHS writes. Only three automakers offer front crash prevention systems as standard features, IIHS writes. Those include Volvo, which has City Safety, a low-speed auto brake system; Mercedes-Benz M-Class and CLA; and the Acura RLX. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and E-Class have warning and auto brake systems, “but the standard auto brake components haven’t been tested yet,” IIHS writes. Further, all of these models are available with optional systems that earn higher ratings than the standard ones.

Because of the changes IIHS made to its criteria for 2015, 15 cars that had qualified for 2014 TSP+ ratings are now rated only TSP, IIHS writes. The Institute explains:

‘Although forward collision warning on its own is a valuable feature, we decided to tighten our criteria to encourage manufacturers to offer autobrake. Systems that don’t require a driver response to avoid or mitigate a crash have the most potential for reducing crashes,’ Lund says. ‘Nevertheless, the models that are losing their plus signs are still great choices for safety, as are all the TOP SAFETY PICK winners.’

The IIHS singles out two vehicles in its press release as examples of ones that automakers modified for greater safety. Those are the Honda CR-V, and the Toyota Prius v, both of them TSP+ for 2015. Honda improved the CR-V’s front-end structure, occupant compartment, and restraint system for the 2015 model year, IIHS writes. And the Toyota Prius was improved even more; it had been one of the poorest performers in the 2012 small overlap test, but the 2015 model performs well all-around, IIHS writes, as the structure was improved and the side curtain airbag was lengthened.

USA Today gives this list of those 2015 cars that IIHS rates as TSP+:

  • Subaru Outback
  • Lexus CT 200h
  • Toyota Camry
  • Acura RLX
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Mazda3
  • Toyota Prius V
  • Hyundai Genesis
  • Subaru Impreza
  • Infiniti Q70
  • Subaru XV Crosstrek
  • Lexus RC
  • Acura MDX
  • Toyota Prius
  • Acura TLX
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • Lexus NX
  • Audi A3
  • Volvo S80
  • Mercedes-Benz M-Class
  • BMW 2 series
  • Volvo XC60
  • Chrysler 200
  • Infiniti Q50
  • Mazda6
  • Volvo S60
  • Honda CR-V
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Volvo V60
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Toyota Sienna
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Subaru Forester

Here is an IIHS video about the Top Safety Picks for 2015:

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