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

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the 57 models that received iihs safety awards for 2019 spoiler there aren t 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]

Join the conversation
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).

  • Dusterdude @El scotto , I'm aware of the history, I have been in the "working world" for close to 40 years with many of them being in automotive. We have to look at situation in the "big picture". Did UAW make concessions in past ? - yes. Do they deserve an increase now ? -yes . Is their pay increase reasonable given their current compensation package ? Not at all ! By the way - are the automotive CEO's overpaid - definitely! (That is the case in many industries, and a separate topic). As the auto industry slowly but surely moves to EV's , the "big 3" will need to be producing top quality competitive vehicles or they will not survive.
  • Art_Vandelay “We skipped it because we didn’t think anyone would want to steal these things”-Hyundai
  • El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
  • El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.
  • El scotto Never mind that that F-1 is a bigger circus than EBFlex and Tassos shopping together for their new BDSM outfits and personal lubricants. Also, the F1 rumor mill churns more than EBFlex's mind choosing a new Sharpie to make his next "Free Candy" sign for his white Ram work van. GM will spend a year or two learning how things work in F1. By the third or fourth year GM will have a competitive "F-1 LS" engine. After they win a race or two Ferrari will protest to highest F-1 authorities. Something not mentioned: Will GM get tens of millions of dollars from F-1? Ferrari gets 30 million a year as a participation trophy.