2010 Chrysler Sebring sedanEnlarge Photo
2010 Dodge AvengerEnlarge Photo
2009 Dodge Journey crossoverEnlarge Photo
2009 Jeep Patriot LimitedEnlarge Photo
2010 Volvo XC60Enlarge Photo
R-Design Volvo XC90 rolls inEnlarge Photo
2010 Subaru LegacyEnlarge Photo
The coveted Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) used to be quite exclusive—and a way for safety-conscious shoppers to narrow down their possibilities to a few top-rated vehicles in a segment. But since 2007, the number of Top Safety Picks has roughly doubled each year, going from just 23 vehicles then to 94 models—a huge portion of the new-car market—for 2009.
That’s slated to change beginning with 2010, as the IIHS requires that vehicles be rated ‘good’ in its new roof strength test in order to be named a Top Safety Pick.
The result—at least so far for 2010—is that the Institute’s 94 Top Safety Picks for 2009 has been winnowed down to just 27.
Yesterday we reported on how beginning with the 2011 model year the federal NCAP crash-test rating system will be reconfigured so that it will again be more difficult to attain five-star ratings. With more ratings variance from the feds and more exclusivity to the top IIHS award, it should be a lot easier to separate out the safest vehicles and understand why.
The roof strength test is designed to measure protection in the event of a rollover; in order to earn a ‘good’ score, a roof must withstand a force of four times the vehicles weight before a metal contact plate intrudes five inches.
“Cars and SUVs that win Top Safety Pick are designs that go far beyond minimum federal safety standards,” says Institute president Adrian Lund.
As before, Top Safety Picks will also represent top ‘good’ ratings in frontal offset, side, and seat-based rear tests. And with the new roof test, rollovers are now represented. More than 9,000 occupants are killed in passenger vehicles each year as the result of rollovers. According to IIHS estimates, the risk of serious or fatal injury is about 50 percent for vehicles with a ‘good’ roof crush rating versus for those meeting the minimum roof requirements.
Electronic stability control, which has been proven to reduce fatalities, also remains a requirement to be an IIHS pick. The IIHS says that for 2010, electronic stability control is standard in 100 percent of SUVs, 85 percent of cars, and 62 percent of pickups. Meanwhile side airbags with head protection are standard on 99 percent of cars and SUVs and 66 percent of pickups.
The IIHS points out that Toyota and Lexus didn’t have a single vehicle in the new listings, while the Honda Accord and Ford Fusion didn’t make the list with an ‘acceptable’ rating for roof strength. “Honda and Ford would have to make only minor changes to achieve good ratings for roof strength, as the Accord and Fusion just missed the mark,” explains Lund.
Likewise, the also hot-selling Toyota Camry was disqualified due to its ‘marginal’ rear test score—indicating seats that don’t protect as well against whiplash injuries.
On the other hand, better head restraints allowed the 2010 Chevrolet Malibu to obtain the Institute’s highest designation. And as we’ve previously reported, improved head restraints also allowed the 2010 Chrysler Sebring, 2010 Dodge Avenger and Journey, and 2010 Jeep Patriot to earn the Top Safety Pick designation for the first time.
Ford had a total of six Top Safety Picks, if you include subsidiary Volvo. And according to the IIHS, Subaru is the only automaker to have a Top Safety Pick in all four of the vehicle classes in which it competes—for a total of five 2010 awards.
Follow through to the next page to see the list of Top Safety Picks for 2010.