According to the organization, 97 models that received the accolade last year carry over with it in 2012, while there are 18 new Top Safety Pick recipients for 2012.
Since electronic stability control is now required by the federal government for all new vehicles, the IIHS has dropped the feature as one of the requirements for Top Safety Pick Status. Now, it simply looks for top ‘good’ scores in all four of its test categories: frontal offset, side impact, roof strength, and rear crash (seat-based).
One differentiator: roof strength
The most recently introduced test is the roof strength category, for which the IIHS pushes a metal plate against one side of the roof at a particular rate, to see how much weight can be applied before the roof reaches five inches of crush. To get a ‘good’ rating in the test, it should withstand four times the vehicle’s weight—which corresponds to a much better chance of survival in a rollover crash.
The 2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport. Image: American Honda Motor Co.Enlarge Photo
Plenty of safe and fuel-efficient picks
Those with high gas mileage (or plugging in) in mind have plenty of choices, though. The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, along with the new Toyota Prius V, all also get the top nod. So do several minicars: the Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, and Toyota Yaris. The Fiat 500 was recently given a federal (NHTSA) combined safety score of just three (out of five) stars, however.
2012 Chevrolet VoltEnlarge Photo
The all-new 2012 Toyota Camry also broke new ground; it earned the best-selling model’s first Top Safety Pick accolade ever, joining a long list of mid-size sedans—most of that market segment, really.
Click to the next page to see the new Top Safety Picks for 2012, listed by their individual IIHS vehicle categories. To see the full list of 2012 IIHS Top Safety Picks, see the vehicle safety ratings over at the Institute’s site. And to help you pick out the best of the best, we’d strongly recommend you also check out the federal crash-test results.