A few years ago, when the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety added a headlight requirement to get its Top Safety Pick Plus award, it knocked a ton of manufacturers out of the running. The fact is that most car headlights at that time were simply not good enough, but now carmakers are getting the hang of things, and more cars than ever are getting that coveted Plus award.
IIHS released its Top Safety Pick Plus winners on Thursday, Feb. 24, and 65 models made the cut in 10 categories. Many made it with no asterisks, but several models have added qualifiers. For example, the Genesis G70, Mitsubishi Outlander and Hyundai Santa Fe made the list but only for models built after a particular month. Others, like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and GLE-Class, make the cut only with optional front crash protection.
Despite that, having 65 models to choose from is a massive win for the American car-buying public because it means that it’s easier than ever to find a truly safe car at basically any price and in nearly any shape and size. If you want a small car, buy the new Honda Civic or Mazda3. Need a supersafe minivan? Get the Chrysler Pacifica or Toyota Sienna. The list goes on.
“Manufacturers deserve congratulations for the steady improvements they’ve made since we last updated our award requirements, but with US traffic fatalities expected to exceed 40,000 people in 2021, it’s no time for anybody to rest on their laurels,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. “A key reason vehicles have continued to get safer over the more than 25 years since the Institute began our ratings program is that we have never shied away from raising the bar. The high number of Top Safety Pick Plus winners shows that it’s time to push for additional changes.”
In case you need a refresher on what criteria a vehicle has to meet before getting a Top Safety Pick Plus award, they need to pass all six of the IIHS’ stringent crash tests: driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, original side, roof strength and head restraint tests. They also need frontal crash prevention systems rated as Advanced or Superior in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian tests. Lastly, they need to have at least one headlight system that ranks as Good or Acceptable.
Now, carmakers won’t be able to rest on their laurels for long. The IIHS is adding two tests to the 2023 Top Safety Pick Plus criteria: an updated side impact test that uses a heavier movable barrier conducted at a higher speed and a nighttime pedestrian crash prevention test. Neither will be necessary for the basic Top Safety Pick, but to get the Plus, vehicles have to score Good or Acceptable on the former and Advanced or Superior on the latter.