Small overlap crash protection, front crash prevention key to 2016 awards; 48 models earn Top Safety Pick+ award, 13 earn Top Safety Pick
“We asked auto manufacturers to do more this year to qualify for our safety awards, and they delivered,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “For the first time, a good rating in the challenging small overlap front crash test is a requirement to win, in addition to an available front crash prevention system. How that system rates determines whether a vehicle will earn Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick.”
The baseline requirements for both awards are good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a standard or optional front crash prevention system. The 48 winners of the “plus” award have a superior- or advanced-rated front crash prevention system with automatic braking capabilities. These vehicles must stop or slow down without driver intervention before hitting a target in tests at 12 mph, 25 mph or both. Models with a basic-rated front crash prevention system, which typically only issues a warning and doesn’t brake, qualify for Top Safety Pick.
IIHS inaugurated Top Safety Pick in the 2006 model year to help consumers home in on vehicles with the best safety performance. The Top Safety Pick+ accolade was introduced in 2012 to recognize vehicles that offer an advanced level of safety.
Last year when IIHS announced the initial winners of the 2015 awards, 33 models qualified for Top Safety Pick+ and 38 qualified for Top Safety Pick. The ranks then grew to 51 Top Safety Pick+ and 48 Top Safety Pick winners. IIHS releases ratings as it evaluates new models, adding to the ranks of winners throughout the year.
The 2016 winner’s circle includes some redesigned models with improved frontal crash protection and autobrake features, which help to prevent or mitigate certain frontal crashes.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima and Volkswagen Passat, for example, earn good ratings in the small overlap front test, while earlier models were rated acceptable. Nissan also improved occupant protection in rear crashes and rollovers, boosting the Maxima’s head restraints and seats rating from marginal to good and its roof strength rating from acceptable to good. The Maxima’s optional front crash prevention system is rated superior, and the Passat’s is rated advanced. Both midsize cars earn the plus award.
Toyota added autobrake to the Avalon, a large family car, and the RAV4, a small SUV, to qualify for Top Safety Pick+. Both are rated superior for front crash prevention.
In the award count, Toyota leads manufacturers with nine 2016 Top Safety Pick+ winners, including the popular Camry midsize car, while Honda picks up eight Top Safety Pick+ awards and one Top Safety Pick. Volkswagen/Audi has seven plus-award winners. Six Subaru models qualify for Top Safety Pick+.
The Chrysler 200 is the only domestic model to qualify for a 2016 Top Safety Pick+ award. One other vehicle from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Fiat 500X, earns the Institute’s highest award for 2016.
Ford has just one winning model this year, the F-150 SuperCrew, which earns Top Safety Pick. The large pickup is the only Ford with a good small overlap rating.
Tougher criteria thwart many vehicles
A number of previous winners are missing from the new lists, including many small and midsize cars. Last year, vehicles with an acceptable small overlap rating could qualify for either award if their other four crashworthiness ratings were good. An available front crash prevention system was required only for Top Safety Pick+ and not Top Safety Pick. More than 20 winners of the 2015 Top Safety Pick award and four plus-award winners don’t qualify under the 2016 criteria.
The Toyota Highlander and Sienna, for example, are available with an advanced-rated autobrake system, but less-than-good ratings in the small overlap front test put the midsize SUV and minivan out of contention for a 2016 accolade. The pair earned 2015 plus awards.
Lack of an available front crash prevention system is the issue with several vehicles with good small overlap ratings. The Audi Q3, for example, no longer qualifies for Top Safety Pick because it doesn’t have front crash prevention.
IIHS wasn’t able to test the autobrake systems on the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (formerly the M-Class), Nissan Rogue and Nissan Sentra in time for this initial release of winners. These Top Safety Picks may be upgraded to Top Safety Pick+ following IIHS tests. The M-Class earned a 2015 Top Safety Pick+ and is rated superior for front crash prevention. The Rogue and Sentra earned 2015 Top Safety Pick awards.
“Consumers who purchased a winning 2015 model that doesn’t qualify this year needn’t worry that their vehicles are now less safe,” Lund says. “As vehicles continue to improve, however, we think it’s important to recognize that progress and encourage further advances by making our ratings more stringent. This year’s winners are certainly safer than the vehicles that earned our first Top Safety Pick awards 10 years ago.”
Autobrake availability to increase
Among the Top Safety Pick+ winners, there are 31 models with an available superior-rated front crash prevention system and 17 models with an advanced rating.
The Scion iA, a Top Safety Pick+ winner, is the first low-priced car with a standard autobrake system. With a base price of about $16,000, the iA is rated advanced for front crash prevention and is the only minicar to earn a 2016 IIHS award. Besides the iA, autobrake is standard on just a few luxury vehicles. These include all Volvo models, some Mercedes-Benz models and the Acura RLX.
More automakers are expected to make autobrake standard equipment in the near future under a voluntary agreement being developed by automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and IIHS.
“Ask for autobrake and forward collision warning features when you’re out shopping for a new vehicle,” Lund says. “Look for good ratings in IIHS evaluations and at least 4 of 5 stars from NHTSA. And remember that larger, heavier vehicles offer the best protection in a crash.”