The 57 Models That Received IIHS Safety Awards for 2019 (Spoiler: There Aren't Many Americans)

the 57 models that received iihs safety awards for 2019 spoiler there arent many

Despite perpetually raising the bar on what constitutes automotive safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just gilded nearly five dozen models with Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus awards. The metrics, which now hinge largely on a vehicle possessing crash avoidance systems and superior headlamps, require the highest rating available in passenger-side protection during its small overlap front crash to get the coveted Plus decoration — which 30 vehicles qualified for in the initial 2019 model year evaluation.

Hyundai, which managed to walk away with the most awards, swiftly issued a press release to humblebrag that it bested the competition two years running. Considering how well the Koreans performed, it was likely warranted. Automakers absolutely love this kind of stuff, so you can expect to see future references made to the awards in the next batch of car commercials.

“To repeat with the most number of awards in the industry is a great accomplishment,” said Andy Freels, president of the Hyundai America Technical Center. “Our blend of advanced safety features and structural engineering truly offer something that our owners and new car shoppers can really appreciate.”

Kia followed Hyundai’s ten awards with eight of its own, tying with Subaru for second place. These brands were pursued by Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Genesis, BMW, Mazda, Nissan, Audi, Lexus, Acura, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler — in that order.

However, taking stock of which brands made the list is less interesting than keeping track of those that did not. The IIHS failed to award a single model from General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Volvo (which hasn’t been thoroughly tested yet), Jeep, Ram, Dodge, or Tesla. But for those actively seeking a new vehicle and not interested exclusively in brand bashing/praising, the most important thing is which models made the cut. Here are the 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus honorees for each segment:

Small Cars

Honda Insight

Hyundai Elantra (assembled after September 2018)

Kia Forte

Kia Niro Hybrid

Kia Niro PHEV

Midsize Cars

Hyundai Sonata

Kia Optima

Subaru Legacy

Subaru Outback

Toyota Camry

Genesis G70

Lexus ES

Large Cars

Toyota Avalon (assembled after September 2018)

BMW 5 series

Genesis G80

Genesis G90

Mercedes-Benz E-Class (4-door sedan)

Small SUVs

Hyundai Kona

Mazda CX-5

Midsize SUVs

Hyundai Santa Fe

Kia Sorento

Subaru Ascent

Acura RDX


Mercedes-Benz GLC

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

You’ll notice it wasn’t a bad year for Hyundai Motor Group and and Subaru. Unlike most American brands, they’ll both crop up again in the slightly less auspicious list of Top Safety Pick awardees:


Hyundai Accent

Kia Rio (4-door sedan)

Small Cars

Hyundai Elantra GT

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Hyundai Ioniq PHEV (assembled after July 2018)

Kia Soul

Nissan Kicks

Toyota Corolla (4-door hatchback)

Midsize Cars

Honda Accord

Nissan Altima

Audi A3

Audi A4

Mercedes-Benz C-Class (4-door sedan)

Large Cars

Kia Cadenza

Small SUVs


Honda CR-V

Hyundai Tucson

Mazda CX-3

Mitsubishi Outlander

Subaru Forester

Midsize SUVs

Honda Pilot

Hyundai Santa Fe XL

Mazda CX-9

Nissan Pathfinder (assembled after August 2018)

Toyota Highlander


Chrysler Pacifica

Honda Odyssey

While the Big Three clearly need to step up their game if they want to get into the institute’s good graces, keep in mind that the organization’s testing involves hurling these vehicles at a stationary object to use their own mass against them and is heavily weighted by headlight performance. The Kia Rio might have won the trophy, but we’d still rather be in a Chevrolet Suburban in a head-to-head confrontation between the two. Still, if you’re cross-shopping models in a similar segment and safety is your primary concern, you might want to see what made the above list.

“We challenged manufacturers to provide the best possible protection in a range of crash scenarios and equip vehicles with an automatic emergency braking system to avoid crashes, as well as offer headlights that give drivers confidence when traveling at night,” said IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey.

He attributed the American brands’ lackluster performance to subpar headlamp performance and fleets populated with too many older models that hadn’t been updated to ace its small overlap frontal crash test. If you want a more comprehensive breakdown as to why certain models didn’t pass muster, head over to to the IIHS’ website for a deeper dive.

[Image: Hyundai]

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2 of 19 comments
  • Threeer Threeer on Dec 20, 2018

    Timely and good to know as my sister looks to replace her 2011 Explorer with either a Subaru Ascent or Toyota Highlander. One more data point for her to consider.

  • Newsie23 Newsie23 on Dec 23, 2018

    How many of these are built in North American plants? Obviously, none from the closing GM plants. How long would it take GM to have an upgraded vehicle, available for assembly in any of these plants? Could they 'wait' closing? They shouldn't expect to make 'non-desired sales. (Nor should the workers).

  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.