Volvo, Subaru, Mazda, and Hyundai/Kia/Genesis led all other automakers in earning Top Safety Pick awards bestowed by the IIHS, the non-profit safety group announced Wednesday. On average, safety ratings improved and the number of Top Safety Pick+ winners more than doubled from 2020.
“With these awards, we want to make it easy for consumers to find vehicles that provide good protection in crashes, sufficient lighting and effective front crash protection,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement.
For 2021, 76 models earned a TSP+ award, and 50 earned a TSP, bringing the total number of award winners to 120. Last year, there were 64.
The Hyundai Motor Group, which includes Kia and Genesis, earned 12 TSP and five TSP+ awards, led by its small crossovers, three-row SUVs, and mid-size sedans such as the 2021 Kia K5 and 2021 Hyundai Sonata. All five Genesis models earned a TSP+ award.
Volvo fared even better, with all 14 models it makes earning a TSP+ honor. Mazda had similar success, with all six of its models that were tested earning a TSP+, except for the MX-5 Miata.
Subaru almost had a complete sweep, as well, with every model except the BRZ sports coupe earning either a TSP or TSP+ designation, though in many cases it applies to vehicles with a continuously variable automatic transmission, not a manual.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mitsubishi only won one award for its small lineup of four vehicles, and General Motors won only two awards, despite encompassing four major brands making dozens of models. The 2021 Ram 1500 was the only pickup truck to win a TSP.
The insurance-industry funded IIHS evaluates cars based on six crash tests as well as testing the efficacy of headlights and driver-assistance systems, which exceeds the outdated crash testing conducted by the NHTSA. The crash-test ratings usually align, but the 2021 Nissan Rogue earned a TSP+ with "Good" results on crash tests, yet it only had a four-star safety rating from the NHTSA. The disparity shows the value of tracking testing from both agencies.
For a car to meet the TSP criteria coveted by automotive marketers and appreciated by shoppers, the model must earn "Good" ratings on all six crash tests and come available with automatic emergency braking that earns at least an "Advanced" rating in avoiding or nearly avoiding a crash with vehicles and pedestrians at speeds of 12 mph and 25 mph. It needs to earn the same rating in tests that show a speed reduction at 37 mph to avoid or mitigate striking a pedestrian walking beside the road.
Additionally, and most problematically since the IIHS toughened the criteria last year, TSP winners must be offered with headlights that rate at "Good" or "Acceptable," while TSP+ honorees must make those headlights standard.
"As manufacturers showed they could produce headlights with better lighting and less glare, IIHS decided to encourage them to make this improved equipment standard," the IIHS said in a statement. "The strategy seems to be working. A year ago, only 23 vehicles qualified for the higher-tier award. Today, the number has more than doubled, and the majority of awards handed out for 2021 models include the plus sign."
For more on the awards, visit the IIHS.
2021 Top Safety Pick+ by segment:
Mazda 3 hatchback
Mazda 3 sedan
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
Kia K5 built (after November 2020)
Nissan Maxima (built after November 2020)
Lexus ES 350
Tesla Model 3
Volvo S60 Recharge
Volvo V60 Cross Country
Volvo V60 Recharge
Audi A6 Allroad
Volvo S90 Recharge
Volvo V90 Cross Country
Ford Bronco Sport
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Mazda CX-30 (built after September 2020)
Volvo XC40 Recharge
Audi Q5 and Q5 Sportback
Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (with optional front crash prevention)
Volvo XC60 Recharge
Volvo XC90 Recharge
Audi E-Tron Sportback
2021 Top Safety Pick by segment:
Honda Civic hatchback (excluding Type R performance variant)
Honda Civic sedan
Hyundai Veloster (with optional front crash prevention)
Kia Forte (with optional front crash prevention)
Kia Soul (with optional front crash prevention)
Subaru Crosstrek (with optional front crash prevention)
Subaru Impreza wagon and sedan (with optional front crash prevention)
Subaru WRX (with optional front crash prevention)
Toyota Corolla hatchback
Toyota Corolla sedan
Audi A5 Sportback
BMW 3 series
Mercedes-Benz C-Class (with optional front crash prevention)
Kia Stinger (with optional front crash prevention)
Hyundai Kona (with optional front crash prevention)
Hyundai Tucson (with optional front crash prevention)
Kia Seltos (built after August 2020; with optional front crash prevention)
Kia Sportage (with optional front crash prevention)
Toyota RAV4 Prime
Mercedes-Benz GLC (with optional front crash prevention)
Ram 1500 crew cab (with optional front crash prevention)