2022 Volkswagen Golf R, GTI earn highest safety ratings

June 15, 2022

The redesigned 2022 Volkswagen Golf earns the highest safety awards bestowed by the IIHS, the insurance-industry funded non-profit announced Wednesday. 

The two sporty iterations of the Golf sold in the U.S., the GTI and Golf R, aced all six of the crash tests conducted by the IIHS. Both of the hatchbacks come well equipped with standard driver-assist features that minimize the likelihood and impact of a crash. Volkswagen equips the Golf with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors (front and rear). The IIHS rated the emergency braking system as "Superior" in avoiding crashes in 12 and 25 mph tests. 

But the different standard headlights between the two vehicles resulted in a different safety recognition. 

The 2022 Golf R earned a Top Safety Pick+ designation for its LED projector headlights with automatic high beams. The Golf GTI meanwhile earned a Top Safety Pick designation when equipped with those same headlights on the top Autobahn trim. The standard headlights warranted a "Poor" rating, which kept it from bumping up to the TSP+ nod. 

Since the majority of fatal crashes happen at night, the insurance company-backed IIHS emphasize headlight efficacy in their testing, which is considered to be more rigorous than that of the government-run NHTSA. The IIHS continually improves on its safety criteria as more automakers fall into compliance and make cars safer, which is denoted by a TSP recognition.

Next year, any headlight tested has to earn at least an "Acceptable" rating to qualify for a TSP. So the Golf GTI would not have earned the designation if it were 2023. Another example of the IIHS raising the safety bar comes in response to spiking pedestrian fatalities. The IIHS will add a nighttime pedestrian crash prevention component to the AEB rating, and "Advanced" or "Superior" ratings will be required for a TSP+ designation.

At least 71 models tested for 2022 earned a TSP+ designation, compared to 49 models last year. 

Despite the improving safety standards in new cars, traffic fatalities in 2021 increased at the highest rate in the history of crash fatality data keeping. Nearly 43,000 people died in car crashes in 2021, the most since 2005. 

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