By on December 8, 2017

IIHS crash test, Image: IIHS/YouTube

While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has steadily upgraded its standards over the last two years, the effort hasn’t been without casualties. In a new effort to improve headlight safety and impact protection, the organization has changed its testing criteria for 2018 to include both illumination and passenger-side frontal impacts.

Unfortunately, including these aspects in its final verdict of how safe a vehicle is has removed numerous models from consideration for 2018’s Top Safety Pick+ awards. Last year, 38 vehicles qualified for the safety plus appointment. This year, however, the grand total only came to 15 models — most wearing badges from Hyundai Motor Group and Subaru.

The IIHS makes no apologies for keeping so many cars from receiving top honors. Instead, it claims it was time to heap higher expectations on automakers for items like visibility and passenger safety.

“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.”

While the crash test is extremely straightforward, the headlight criteria is a little more complex. The IIHS’ initial testing showed most vehicles performing exceptionally poorly. In addition to measuring how well low beams can illuminate the road ahead, the tests take into account the amount of glare the beam creates for oncoming vehicles.

“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.”

However, an acceptable headlight ranking isn’t enough to get the Top Safety Pick+ award. For that, a vehicle must include at least one headlight option offering a good rating, good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, an overall rating of advanced or superior in for overall front crash prevention, and an acceptable rating for the passenger-side small overlap front test.

You probably want to know which vehicles won.

For small cars, winners included the Kia Forte sedan, Kia Soul, Subaru Impreza, and Subaru WRX. Victors in the midsize category were the Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, and Toyota Camry. Moving up to the larger cars showed the BMW 5 Series, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Lincoln Continental, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class as being worthy of Top Safety Pick+ awards.

Meanwhile, SUVs and trucks performed worse than you might have expected. Only the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport received top honors. The rest, even those with decent crash ratings, were handicapped by subpar headlight tests or missing safety technologies.

The good news is that cars are still safer than they’ve ever been, and another 47 vehicles did qualify for lesser safety awards. If you want to see the complete list, check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s website for more information.


[Image: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety]

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40 Comments on “The IIHS’ Updated Criteria Absolutely Devastated Its Top Safety Pick List...”

  • avatar

    Is the IIHS safe from Republican/Trump madness?

    • 0 avatar

      “(IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from motor vehicle crashes.”

      • 0 avatar

        Every crash results in property damage, even if it isn’t “real” property. The results are that each crash becomes less repairable as the car sacrifices itself to protect the occupants, meaning costs to replace the vehicle skyrockets with each new generation. This also means insurance rates skyrocket as they have to pay off whatever residual value or replacement value the vehicle had if it cannot be readily repaired.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, it is a privately-funded consortium, thank god.

      • 0 avatar

        Privately funded, yes, funded by the Insurance Industry, which is a double edged sword. If they had their way the 55 NMSL would never have been repealed. They support red light cams, and other automated law enforcement means. IIHS is out to guard the interests of the insurance industry. The fact that it dovetails with what looks like an altruistic, humanistic goal is at least coincidental.
        In a ideal world, codified law by an effective pluralistic government would be the better way to set standards.
        This IIHS organization is basically lawless, profit driven corporatocracy.
        Any one who bitches about our government needs to remember, in a democracy, people get the government they deserve.
        Corporations exist to make money, period. They do not have a Bill of Rights. We need an elected government of laws to counterbalance unethical, immoral, anarchic human nature.

        • 0 avatar

          “We need an elected government of laws to counterbalance unethical, immoral, anarchic human nature.”

          I agree wholeheartedly but that has yet to happen.

          • 0 avatar

            …“We need an elected government of laws to counterbalance unethical, immoral, anarchic human nature.”…

            Seems the present people in power have found an effective way around this.

    • 0 avatar

      “Is the IIHS safe from Republican/Trump madness?”. I have no doubt that you make the commensurate comments when you are referring to Democrat madness.

    • 0 avatar

      This seems to me to be as near perfect a non-governmental organization (NGO) as you could get for the objective.

      While you can disagree with their other objectives, like red light cameras, safer cars dovetails very nicely with an overall benefit to society.

      Now I do wonder about things like re-testing the 2014 (?) F-150 extended cab. When they pick just one vehicle to special test, that hits me as a kind of extortion. Especially since I don’t think the IIHS tests all new vehicles.

      In fact, I don’t think they test all of the best selling vehicles either. So I think there is a temptation to Grandstand.

      Nevertheless, they are filing a niche that government doesn’t seem to be filling with almost every car getting a 5star rating.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Interesting to note that although the Koreans were well represented that I could not find one BMW or VW product in either of the ‘Top Pick’ lists.

    What then of the vaunted German engineering? Or are the tests not truly representative?

    Also the Ridgeline was the only pick-up listed.

    • 0 avatar

      really? Because without even researching the results, it says right there in the article:

      “Moving up to the larger cars showed the BMW 5 Series, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Lincoln Continental, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class as being worthy of Top Safety Pick+ awards.”

      There could be others, but again I did zero research, I just actually read the article I am commenting on.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Perhaps you should also click on the link, like I did and read the actual IIHS report. Nothing from VW. I missed the 5 Series. But that is it from BMW.

        So I accept your apology.

        • 0 avatar

          Perhaps you can leave the terse attitude on the sidelines and accept that you were, in fact, incorrect in your suggestion that no BMW or VW made the list. JRob had a valid response, no need to be a dick about it.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Hey, I missed the 5 Series in the listing. And acknowledge it.
            And no VW made the list. And only one BMW from their extensive product line. So the point that I originally made was and is valid. That the vaunted German engineering appears to be under represented.

            However his comment was snide, rude and uncalled for and he DID NOT read the IIHS article, which I did.

            As for your comment, I call you on it and suggest that it is childish, churlish, trollish and demonstrates a deficit in your vocabulary.

          • 0 avatar

            Thank you, EChid.
            Authur Daily, “childish, churlish, trollish” describes “So I accept your apology”.
            And no, your point was never and is still not valid.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Engineering quality in autos is supposed to relate to rigidity, quality, reliability as well as performance.

            Yet more models from Kia and Hyundai are on the list than from BMW. And there are none wearing the VW badge.

            Therefore a stunning indictment of these German company’s claims regarding their engineering prowess.

            Proof enough of my point.

            And also proof that the person posting the comment did not take the time or effort to read the IIHS link. Proof, I missed another model listed and none of you noticed that error.

            As for ‘Echid’ having to resort to 4 letter name calling demonstrates a lack of respect and intelligence.

            Kia Forte sedan
            Kia Soul
            Subaru Impreza
            Subaru WRX
            Subaru Legacy
            Subaru Outback
            Toyota Camry
            BMW 5 series
            Genesis G80
            Genesis G90
            Lincoln Continental
            Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan
            Midsize SUVs
            Hyundai Santa Fe
            Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
            Midsize luxury SUV
            Mercedes-Benz GLC
            Chevrolet Volt
            Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
            Hyundai Elantra
            Hyundai Elantra GT
            Mazda 3
            Subaru Crosstrek
            Toyota Corolla
            Toyota Prius
            Toyota Prius Prime
            Honda Accord
            Hyundai Sonata
            Kia Optima
            Nissan Altima
            Nissan Maxima
            Alfa Romeo Giulia
            Audi A3
            Audi A4
            BMW 3 series sedan
            Lexus ES
            Lexus IS
            Volvo S60
            Volvo V60
            Kia Cadenza
            Toyota Avalon
            Honda CR-V
            Hyundai Tucson
            Kia Sportage
            Mazda CX-3
            Mazda CX-5
            Mitsubishi Outlander
            Nissan Rogue
            Subaru Forester
            Toyota RAV4
            Midsize SUVs
            Honda Pilot
            Kia Sorento
            Mazda CX-9
            Toyota Highlander
            Midsize luxury SUVs
            Acura MDX
            Acura RDX
            Buick Envision
            Lexus NX
            Lexus RX
            Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
            Volvo XC60
            Chrysler Pacifica
            Honda Odyssey
            Honda Ridgeline

          • 0 avatar
            Chris FOM

            Didn’t know Audi isn’t a VW product; they have two on the list (the A3 and A4, both Top Safety Picks). In addition BMW actually has two also, the new 5 series is a TSP+ while the 3-series is a TSP. Finally, if you’re discussing “vaunted German engineering” don’t forget Mercedes-Benz; they had one TSP+ and two TSPs.

            In addition the difference between a TSP and TSP is small, a TSP+ allows only Good headlights while TSP can have Acceptable plus the TSP+ has to score either Good or Acceptable on the passenger small overlap test. However if you look through the list almost none of the TSPs actually flunked the passenger test; they simply weren’t tested at all. Granted many of them had only Acceptable headlights and so were ineligible for TSP+ anyway even if they aced the passenger test, but not all, and that they weren’t retested does give some perspective on the limitations of these awards.

  • avatar

    Subaru today is pretty much what Volvo used to be. Good safety, similar customer profile.

    • 0 avatar

      Very true…and Volvos used to be a lot more affordable, which is ironic given that many of them are made in China.

    • 0 avatar

      This is another comment that comes from lack of understanding. Volvo used to be strong because in Sweden they required to use double of metal thickness. A Japanese car in Sweden would rust in no time. Volvo would go for 20 years. This made them safer. But when airbags appeared in all sorts of cars, Volvo lost its superior safety qualities. With safety technology available to all manufacturers, Volvos went to become “electronic safety” company. But any MB and BMW would have frame safer than Volvo. And if Subaru passed the test, it doesn’t mean it is safer. It is better on the test. But, you know, in real world, the bigger probably means safer. look here

  • avatar

    I am glad they included headlights as part of the safety rating, especially the oncoming glare issue. These huge high sitting SUV’s are blinding when coming head on and aggravating when they are behind you lighting up the whole interior of my poor little Mustang.

    • 0 avatar

      The RAV4 is probably the worst of the current bunch. Just awful, and unfortunately it’s still very popular.

    • 0 avatar

      All for this. After experiencing night driving in Europe where they take blinding glare seriously, coming back home to the USA was dismaying. Here we have an unspoken arms war of who can show the most blinding light display day or night. Those intense 3rd party accessory LED bars on pickup need to be banned.

    • 0 avatar

      Completely agree. I know this may sound like a douche comment, but it took downgrading from xenons to halogens to really recognize just how important proper illumination is to safety.

  • avatar

    @ robbie IIHS is an industry group, so in theory safe from trump. But if they *iss on his lawn, all bets off!!
    @Arthur Dailey Would imagine the general lack of vaunted german engineering presence could be down to the mericans not allowing the european lighting options on our soil? Seems like they are way ahead of US with lighting safety, and of course the big 2.5 need every advantage they can buy from feds…So, no laser matrix “intelligent” lighting or even auto-leveling for 50-100K$ pickups that continue to blind the oncoming traffic in greater numbers…

  • avatar

    It’s decades past time they did something about headlights. My 2017 Honda Fit is pathetic. I spend a great deal of time on country roads at night. I can’t see a bloody thing – shoulders, center lines, hills, anything. I feel like doing a 60s thing and strapping some plate=sized rally lights on the front. At this rate I’m going to wind up in a ditch.

    • 0 avatar

      Do what most people in the country do, get a lightbar. Just don’t forget to turn it off when there is an oncoming car.

      • 0 avatar

        Turn it off in the presence of an oncoming car? Dream on . . .

      • 0 avatar

        Sure, I could do that. In fact, I’ve spoken to a rally shop. The point is, how the hell does Honda get away with selling me a $20K (CDN) car which is totally unsafe 12 hours per day?

      • 0 avatar

        Lightbar? More offensive lighting with poor color, no aiming, no control of direction, glare, etc…I for one wish there was a real federally mandated high standard for lighting. Wishful thinking in a political environment that considers the removal of posted baggage cost regulations when you buy your airline tickets as progress…

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I agree on the need for better headlight performance. Drove a 2013 Ford Escape in Arizona last November and I couldn’t safely drive the posted speed limit on I-17 between Sedona and Phoenix at night. Low beams provided insufficient illumination, especially on curves, and the traffic was too heavy to use high beams much. Needed brighter low beam headlights with a slightly wider beam pattern for curves. In contrast, the standard halogen headlights plus fog light on my 2014 Accord work reasonably well.

  • avatar

    The insurance companies are guaranteeing higher prices for cars and car insurance while minimizing their outlay for medical expenses. Good for them, but is it good for us? If we can’t afford them, the insurance companies can’t garner the income as people will be forced into older cars and ultimately into pubic transportation (rail isn’t nearly as bad as some believe, though some systems are in dire need of rennovation.)

  • avatar

    Last night, twice, within 10 miles, I couldn’t figure out what vehicle was behind me, but the lights were so dim I thought it was only DTRLs. Nope. Both were Buick Encores. They must have the worse lighting in the industry.

  • avatar

    Mark my words, IIHS will be the leading force in advocating banning human-driven cars on public roads the moment autonomous tech *seems* usable.

  • avatar

    My Cherokee Trailhawk that didn’t have the HID headlights was absolutely horrible at night. The Passat with LED lighting package was totally awesome. My daughters 2017 Corolla SE with LED’s is truly fascinating at night with its headlights. Even has auto high beams. Those work ok. Some streetlights or brighter floodlights in houses can cause the auto high beams to shut off.

  • avatar

    A coworker engineer and I had a discussion about lighting performance in passenger cars today. Based on our knowledge with previous high performance forward lighting projects we could only deduce that most headlights from the factory are very adequate. The problem lies in the fact that nearly every manufacturer does not properly aim the lights before they leave the QC dept. Headlights, like every other component have a tolerance range for when the lighting elements, whether it be, LED, halogen, or HID during installation into the bezel/rear housing. Once the lights are installed into the vehicle (again with its own manufacturing tolerances) they go on their merry way down the line and to the dealer.
    What I’m getting at is a car doesn’t leave the factory without being aligned (tolerance stack up plays a huge role here too), that would be very unsafe. Headlights should receive the same attention before leaving the factory. They are really a safety feature. If they were I’d wager more cars would perform better and ultimately be safer.

  • avatar

    Hmm…my 2017 Jetta SEL Premium (rare and special order by dealers) came with adaptive HID high and low beams plus cornering lamps, at under 25MPH. Lighting, adaptive cruise, and the Fender stereo were the reasons I searched for one over lesser trims. Last year it garnered a Top Safety Pick+. Optional lights are not tested for 2018. I wonder if they are discontinued. Too bad, because they are fantastic!

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