As we reported earlier, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is now out with its list of the safest vehicles for 2014 and the most notable finding is that the number of vehicles earning the agency’s coveted Top Safety Pick for 2014 plunged dramatically, from 130 vehicles last year to just 39 in 2014.
The reason is that IIHS is using criteria a lot tougher; to reflect real-world accident risks and is rewarding automakers for new technology that helps prevent crashes in the first place. Now, to earn the safety agency’s highest rating, Top Safety Pick-Plus, cars need to perform well in the usual battery of safety tests, but also must achieve a “good” or “acceptable” rating in front angle crashes and have technology that warns inattentive drivers of an impending crash, even automatically braking in some cases.
“We’ve made it more difficult for manufacturers this year,” says IIHS President Adrian Lund. “Following a gradual phase-in, the small overlap crash is now part of our basic battery of tests, and good or acceptable performance should be part of every vehicle’s safety credentials. We also felt it was time to offer extra recognition to manufacturers that are offering a proven crash avoidance technology.”
The small overlap crash test, in which 25 % of a vehicle’s front end on the driver’s side strikes a rigid barrier at 40 mph, is intended to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.
Accident avoidance technology varies widely, from basic warning systems like those offered on the Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and Honda’s four winners, to Subaru’s EyeSight warning and auto brake system. EyeSight avoids a collision in tests at both 12 mph and 25 mph and is available on the Forester, Legacy and Outback. Unfortunately, many of these crash prevention systems are optional, so winners only qualify for the Top Safety Pick-Plus rating when equipped with the system. A handful, including the Volvo S60, S80 and XC60 and the Honda Civic hybrid, earn the top award on the basis of standard equipment.
The big winner was Honda Motor (and its luxury brand, Acura), with two models earning Top Safety Pick and six models earning Top Safety Pick-Plus. That includes the recently redesigned Acura MDX and RLX, which were not on last year’s list.