Just 15 vehicles qualify for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award from IIHS after the requirements were strengthened to include good-rated headlights and good or acceptable passenger-side protection in small overlap front crashes. Another 47 vehicles earn the TOP SAFETY PICK award, which now requires acceptable or good headlights. In contrast, headlights weren’t factored in for 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK, and an acceptable headlight rating was enough to bump a 2017 award winner into “plus” territory.
The inclusion of a passenger-side crash test is a first for any IIHS award. In 2012, IIHS began rating vehicles for protection in small overlap crashes, which involve just the front corner of the vehicle, bypassing the main structural components. It wasn’t surprising that automakers acted more quickly to improve protection on the driver side than on the passenger side, and improving driver-side protection was arguably more urgent, since every vehicle on the road has a driver, while not everyone has a passenger. The ultimate goal, however, was symmetric protection.
“Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are,” says IIHS President Adrian Lund. “Manufacturers have been taking this issue seriously since we first shed light on it, and we’re confident that good small overlap protection will become the norm on the passenger side, just as it has on the driver side.”
“Headlights have long been treated as design elements instead of the critical safety equipment that they are,” Lund says. “We’re pleased to see this changing. Every one of the 62 award winners for 2018 is available with headlights that are at least acceptable.”
The 15 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners include four small cars, three midsize cars, five large luxury cars, two midsize non-luxury SUVs and one midsize luxury SUV. Most of the TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards go to two manufacturers: Hyundai Motor Co. — which owns the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands — has six models earning the award, and Subaru has four. Mercedes-Benz has two, while Toyota, BMW, and Ford Motor Co. have one each.