By on December 22, 2010

Today, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will issue its list of what it thinks are the safest vehicles in America. 66 vehicles will be on the list. 40 cars, 25 SUVs, and a minivan. Any guesses who will lead the list?

“Hyundai/Kia and Volkswagen/Audi each have 9 winners for 2011. Next in line with 8 awards apiece are General Motors, Ford/Lincoln, and Toyota/Lexus/Scion. Subaru is the only manufacturer with a winner in all the vehicle classes in which it competes. Subaru earns 5 awards for 2011.“

The IIHS Top Safety Pick Award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on good ratings in institute tests. Winners also must have available electronic stability control, a crash avoidance feature that significantly reduces crash risk.

And what about the epitomes of safety, SUVs and trucks? Says the IIHS:

“The redesigned Volkswagen Touareg is the only large SUV to earn Top Safety Pick for 2011. The Institute doesn’t normally evaluate SUVs this large, but Volkswagen requested crash tests to demonstrate the Touareg’s crash-worthiness. None of the small pickups the Institute has evaluated qualified for this year’s award, and large pickups haven’t yet been tested.”

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51 Comments on “America’s Safest Cars Aren’t American...”

  • avatar

    Volkswagen/Audi perform particularly well in their structural/safety cage ratings, much better than most others that I’ve looked at.
    Toyota has not been doing well at all under the new NHTSA ratings, with the Camry and Rav4 each receiving just three stars under the new system. The Nissan Versa also did poorly, with just a two star rating.
    I know many people seem to prefer the higher viewpoint of SUV’s and Trucks, but when it comes to utility vehicles I always feel better driving a well-grounded wagon or even a slightly raised crossover.

  • avatar

    Glad to see Subaru doing so well as usual. The great thing about owning a Subaru is that if you are in a wreck with one and the car is repairable, you won’t ever tell the difference because all the rattles that were there before the wreck will be there afterward.
    Rattles, it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.
    I love my rattles.

    • 0 avatar

      OH, I just got my (new to me) Outback and I was under the impression that the rattle in the back would be fixable. But now I know it just provides character.

    • 0 avatar

      @EChid. The least “rattly” Subaru that I’ve ever owned was my ’87 GL wagon. Seems like the newer and more complicated they get, the more rattly they are. That’s my general observation anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      Then, by that standard, our 2010 Forester is very charming.  But for my wife, I would exclude Subies from future consideration for that reason alone (that, and their seats are uncomfortable for long drives)

      Our other car – a VW Jetta – also made it on the list.  The VW is rattle free, has a heavier steering feel and the doors close with a thud, all of which give the impression that it is much safer than the Subie.  Glad to find out at least that impression is wrong.

  • avatar

    Out of context as usual, every category has U.S. domestic models. Read below:

    Note Large Cars, Small Cars and Mini Cars

    ALL 66 WINNERS (red indicates newly-announced winners for 2011)
    Large cars
    Buick LaCrosse
    Buick Regal
    BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8)
    Cadillac CTS sedan
    Ford Taurus
    Hyundai Genesis
    Infinite M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel drive)
    Lincoln MKS
    Mercedes E class coupe
    Mercedes E class sedan
    Toyota Avalon
    Volvo S80
    Midsize cars
    Audi A3
    Audi A4 sedan
    Chevrolet Malibu
    Chrysler 200 4-door
    Dodge Avenger
    Ford Fusion
    Hyundai Sonata
    Kia Optima
    Lincoln MKZ
    Mercedes C class
    Subaru Legacy
    Subaru Outback
    Volkswagen Jetta sedan
    Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
    Volvo C30

    Small cars
    Chevrolet Cruze
    Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
    Kia Forte sedan
    Kia Soul
    Mitsubishi Lancer sedan (except 4-wheel drive)
    Nissan Cube
    Scion tC
    Scion xB
    Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback (except WRX)
    Volkswagen Golf 4-door
    Volkswagen GTI 4-door
    Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback built after July 2010
    Toyota Sienna
    Large SUV
    Volkswagen Touareg
    Midsize SUVs
    Audi Q5
    Cadillac SRX
    Chevrolet Equinox
    Dodge Journey
    Ford Explorer
    Ford Flex
    GMC Terrain
    Hyundai Santa Fe
    Jeep Grand Cherokee
    Kia Sorento built after March 2010
    Lexus RX
    Lincoln MKT
    Mercedes GLK
    Subaru Tribeca
    Toyota Highlander
    Toyota Venza
    Volvo XC60
    Volvo XC90
    Small SUVs
    Honda Element
    Hyundai Tucson
    Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
    Kia Sportage
    Subaru Forester
    Volkswagen Tiguan

    • 0 avatar

      I count 21 of 66, or about a third, as American or at least with an American nameplate. Hmm… the gloves seem to be coming off here in TTAC land. Not sure why.

    • 0 avatar
      Ian Anderson

      The American cars seem safe to me looking at this list. The IIHS site isn’t loading for me at the moment, but good to know the Cruze at least does better than it’s disaster predecessors.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      If we were talking about jobs, a bunch of those foreign cars would suddenly be classified as American here, as well. These slopes, they’re so slippery!

  • avatar

    How often is this report updated? I question it as CAFE presses on car makers are lightening up vehicles and curious if the bigger crush zones will follow.

    • 0 avatar

      Its now high strength alloy steel where needed, not just more metal or space. Look at the Fiesta, smallest mass-market car currently sold in the US market. (Smart and Mini are boutique products.)

  • avatar

    TTAC is almost as bad as the MSM.

    The conclusion from the IIHS scores is NOT Hyundai/Kia/Audi/Volkswagen make the safest cars and everyone else sucks.

    The real conclusion is that when the ‘bar is raised’, newly redesigned vehicles are generally safer than older designs.

    Hyundai Sonata vs. Toyota Camry/Honda Accord
    Chevrolet Cruze vs. Toyota Corolla
    Etc., Etc.

  • avatar

    “the gloves seem to be coming off here in TTAC land. Not sure why.”
    I have been visiting this site since Mr. Farrago started it and I can tell you the gloves have always been off in TTAC land. The article title may be a bit on the sensationalist side but the truth of the title remains and that is, America’s safest cars are not American. They happen to be Korean or German in this case. If you approach TTAC with an unbiased view of cars, you will see that they go out of their way to be fair and balanced. If you are pro-domestic or anti-domestic, well then perhaps Autoblog or Autoextremist would be better for you.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Ever consider that your opinion of what is fair and balanced might just happen to align with the TTAC guys?

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, but the title is wrong.  It would imply that no American cars are safer than imports.  According to the data present, there are several American cars that are IIHS top safety picks for 2011.  This means that from at least a categorical ranking, they are just as safe.  If you approach from an unbiased view, you would see that TTAC is clearly wrong in this title.

    • 0 avatar

      @oboylepr….Well lets see…I’m pro- domestic, and you would be anti- domestic, and we both have been here since day one.

      Hey…..I just proved your point….Have a great xmas.

    • 0 avatar

      The facade of “fair and balanced” has been crumbling for a while and has been completely shattered in the last weeks. There has been nothing “unbiased” as of late.

  • avatar

    I always end up wondering about results like these… Jeep Patriot makes the list, yet both its sister vehicles didn’t.

  • avatar

    Volkswagens are the safest cars in the world because they are always in the shop and never get hit! Ba-ZING!
    But seriously folks, credit where it’s due to Hyundai and Kia. Just 10 years ago they were not safe cars, like at all. Building a more reliable and safer appliance than Toyota is how you beat them.

  • avatar

    Non sequitur, isn’t it time that manufacturers began making premium airbags? Who wants a face full of nylon? Ouch. Where are the pillowy silk airbags?

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Ooo! I want the Brazilian Cafe Mocha scented explosive residue followed by a French Vanilla Refreshing Full-Body Flame-Suppressing Foam-Wash™.

    • 0 avatar

      “Ooo! I want the Brazilian Cafe Mocha scented explosive residue followed by a French Vanilla Refreshing Full-Body Flame-Suppressing Foam-Wash™.”

      I would prefer Jiffy-Pop airbags that are filled with popcorn you can eat while waiting for the ambulance.


  • avatar

    How is the A3 a midsized car by the Golf/GTI a small car? Last time I checked they are the same size.

  • avatar

    Another poor title from TTAC.  When you look at the list, there are several cars that are American cars on the list.
    Also, if you look at the data, which is something TTAC should be doing, large SUVs weren’t tested, except for 1.  A VW.  It would be interesting to see how other large SUVs would do on in these tests.  Also, since large trucks weren’t tested, it would be interesting to see how they would do.  Many large SUVs were IIHS top safety picks for previous years.
    Shame on TTAC for another bad title.  Credibility is fading.  Showing more anti American bias every day.

  • avatar

    While my ’00 VW Passat is falling apart I must admit its double firewall design is about the safest thing I’ve seen in car.
    Why is the Volvo C30 in the “mid size” category? Is about the same size as a 2 door GTI.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    It’s pretty striking that only one Honda or Acura shows up anywhere on the list. I’ve noticed that the company seems to have lost its way of late, but this is still pretty surprising. Also absent is the much lauded BMW 3 series.  (This can’t sit well with the VW/Audi bashers, can it?)

  • avatar

    The title of this article should read: If you want safety in an imported car, you’d better bet wealthy.

    Buick LaCrosse – $26,995
    Buick Regal – $26,245
    BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8) – $44,550
    Cadillac CTS sedan – $35,165
    Ford Taurus – $25,170
    Hyundai Genesis – $47,000
    Infinite M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel drive) – $46,500
    Lincoln MKS – $41,270
    Mercedes E class coupe – $48,850
    Mercedes E class sedan – $49,400
    Toyota Avalon – $32,446
    Volvo S80 – $36,950

    Audi A3 – $27,200
    Audi A4 sedan – $31,950
    Chevrolet Malibu – $21,900
    Chrysler 200 4-door – $19,245
    Dodge Avenger – $19,245
    Ford Fusion – $19,720
    Hyundai Sonata – $19,195
    Kia Optima – $18,995
    Lincoln MKZ – $34,330
    Mercedes C class – $34,500
    Subaru Legacy – $19,995
    Subaru Outback – $23,195
    Volkswagen Jetta sedan – $14.995
    Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen – $19,510
    Volvo C30 – $24,600


  • avatar

    It’d be interesting to see what the new 9-5 does – shame they didn’t bother testing it. Euro NCAP gives it a 94% among ‘executive cars’; the only one to best it is the 5-Series with 95%. Among ‘Large Family Cars’ the only one to match it is the Opel Insignia (?!).
    It’s kind of funny, actually – for the driver, the only difference between the 5-series and the Saab is that the 5-series guy has a green left-lower leg, whereas the Saab guy has a yellow left-lower leg!

  • avatar

    Bertel is drinking Sake again:

    Five Chrysler Group LLC vehicles—the new Dodge Avenger, Dodge Journey, Chrysler 200, Jeep® Grand Cherokee and Jeep Patriot—have been named top safety picks for 2011 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

  • avatar
    bill h.

    For those wondering about missing Obvious Candidates:  It’s my understanding that this is an interim list, in that they haven’t tested everything that’s out there.  So the list may grow as the year progresses.

  • avatar

    I looked at this article in a different way and wondered if the IIHS is letting it’s credibility be manipulated by makers stuffing the ballot box – so to speak.  VW got 9 b/c the asked and provided a Touareg to be tested that normally wouldn’t have??  They also provided the Golf 4 door and the GTI 4 door – esentially trim variations??  Of course the B&B would correctly point out that the 2 Jetta’s are different platforms and should count as an each but some of the totals by manufacture seem “optimistic”

  • avatar

    Am I the only driver who doesn’t make a vehicle purchase decision based on safety ratings or safety equipment?

    • 0 avatar

      You are so right….I’m sitting here on a cold December afternoon, thinking how much I want another convertible.

    • 0 avatar

      If you are young, male and unfortunate enough to live in a high insurance premium state, you may want to look at IIHS experience-based ratings. These are based on theft incidence, repair cost, likelihood of an accident, etc. The inscos care about one thing – retaining the maximum % of your premium payments, so these ratings are pretty informative. But it does lead to things like top ratings for ‘vettes and Porkers that are weekend driven by old guys like me. OTOH, the low ratings for pick’em ups driven like they were ‘vettes seem to be correct.

    • 0 avatar

      When I was single and 20, I almost ended up with a Lotus Elan. Then I looked at the frame and decided I didn’t want to die.
      Nonetheless, I was fine with driving a 1993 Escort (in retrospect, it was probably as bad as the Elan would have been) and almost-but-not-quite drove an ’85 Porsche 944, and then daily drove a 1995 Mercury Mystique for quite a while.

      When I had my son, though, my priority did become safety – not on ratings, per se, but on my own best judgment of safety for my kid (eg, rear side curtain airbags don’t matter too much when your kid’s in a center car seat).
      On a personal level, I decided that if I saved a few K, or got a slightly more fun car, at the known cost of safety, and something happened, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. However slight the chance of it making a difference, I just want to know that I couldn’t have done any better for the money and given other tradeoffs.
      As it happens, the car I ended up with is a Saab 9-5, which is comfortable as hell, under 7 seconds to 60, has far more luxo-stuff per price than anything else, is big enough to hold various child accouterments, and looks pretty good sitting on fat 17″ tires. It’s doubtful I could have gotten anything as nice for the price anyway, even without safety, so I’m pretty happy.

      (Oh, and because they’re driven by people like college deans, insurance is damn cheap. Comp, collision, and $100 deductible for 600-something a year… at least, for a 32 year old married guy with a son.)

    • 0 avatar

      I also looked at an Elan and was serious enough to have it checked by a specialist. He told me that of 16 “bobbins” holding the flimsy fiberglass body to the equally flimsy sheet metal backbone, only four were installed. The kicker was looking at the elastomeric donuts coupling the IRS halfshafts and spindles. Kinda like having a medieval mace spinning gaily a few inches behind your lower back. If the IIHS tested one of these, they would award multiple black holes, not stars.
      PS – is it true that you have to have at least one tweed sport coat with arm patches in order to qualify to buy a 9-5?

  • avatar

    The video is from an old Touareg. In fact, it’s from an old Touareg before the 07/08 facelift. Just sayin’.

  • avatar

    A Very Merry Christmas to you too Mikey!

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