2015 IIHS Safety Ratings: The Biggest Winners And Losers

December 27, 2014
This past week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released its annual list of its best picks for shoppers who want to make safety a priority—in the form of two Top Safety Pick lists including 33 models. And as the IIHS again rejiggered its rules regarding what it takes to be rated at the top, there were definitely some winners and losers among this year’s crop of new 2015-model-year vehicles.

Since 2013, when the IIHS created a new top-tier list, called Top Safety Pick Plus (TSP+), it’s been rapidly ratcheting up what it takes to be named one of the safest vehicles on the market. The group first used it to separate out vehicles that did exceptionally well in its tougher new small overlap frontal impact test; then last year it started evaluating (and factoring in) frontal crash prevention systems.

ALSO SEE: 2015 Dodge Challenger Tested By Feds, Earns Lower Rating Than Before

At that time, vehicles with systems that met what it termed a ‘basic’ front crash prevention rating could still be named to the TSP+ list—if they met all the other criteria, with top ‘good’ ratings in all the traditional frontal, side, and seat (rear) crash tests, as well as roof strength, as well as ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’ ratings in the small overlap frontal test. The ‘basic’ prevention rating essentially meant that the system would effectively warn the driver of an imminent collision.

Active-safety systems have been advancing rapidly, so it makes sense that the IIHS has also been moving its own requirements up to follow suit—and continue to push automakers to do better. That’s why it now, for 2015, requires those frontal active-safety systems to meet ‘superior’ or ‘advanced’ ratings for crash prevention; such vehicles can demonstrate that they can at least slow a vehicle down by 5 mph or more, from test speeds of either 12 mph or 25 mph (or both).

2015 Honda CR-V

2015 Honda CR-V

The Winners: Some hard-fought with new metal, some with new tech options

As we covered in a roundup of the new ratings, major winners on this year’s TSP+ list include the 2015 Toyota Prius V and 2015 Honda CR-V. Both are models with some serious blemishes in their ratings through this past year; but with partially reengineered crash structures and improved active-safety systems on offer, they were able to improve their ratings to Top Safety Pick+.

Other winners include several models that were new or fully redesigned for 2015, including the Lexus RC, Lexus NX, Acura TLX, Audi A3, and BMW 2-Series.

2015 Subaru Impreza

2015 Subaru Impreza

We'd also call the Chrysler 200, Subaru Impreza, and Lexus CT200h big winners. They're all models that achieved their TSP+ status this year thanks to the availability of a new (for that particular model) or improved active-safety system.

For instance, Subaru expanded availability of its widely acclaimed EyeSight accident-avoidance system into the 2015 Impreza lineup, where it’s an option.

The Losers: Still Top Safety Picks, but merely treading water

The losers in these revised ratings are, as we see it, not the models that earned the poorest ratings overall, but rather the models that already earned the IIHS ‘basic’ rating for frontal crash prevention, but didn't go the extra mile to carry over their TSP+ status and upgrade their safety set.

This is the long list of models that all earned TSP+ last year but now only meet the TSP level for that reason:

  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Ford Fusion
  • GMC Terrain
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Lincoln MKZ
  • Nissan Rogue

2015 Kia Sedona

2015 Kia Sedona

And separately, here’s the list of all-new or redesigned models that perform in the upper echelon in all the crash tests but fail to qualify for the TSP+ list solely because of the lack of an advanced front crash prevention system:

  • Infiniti QX60
  • Kia Sedona
  • Volkswagen Golf (4-dr)
  • Volkswagen GTI (4-dr)

Be sure to head over to the IIHS site for the full lists of Top Safety Pick vehicles, and read our full reviews for safety sections that sum it all up, with details on other safety features as well as federal crash-test ratings.

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