IIHS Releases 2018 Top Vehicle Safety Picks

2018 Subaru Outback Crash Test IIHS

M - For model-year 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety strengthened its Top Safety Pick Plus award requirements - and just 15 vehicles qualified for the award during the agency's most recent round of testing.

This year the criteria proved a bit more hard to meet.

The new passenger-side small overlap test marks the first time IIHS has focused a crash test on the front passenger's safety.

Overall, Hyundai posted six vehicles and Subaru four in the "Top Pick Plus" category.

Every Subaru model except the BRZ coupe earned the rating. Mercedes-Benz has two while Toyota, BMW, and Ford have one each.

To qualify for the rating, vehicles needed to earn a headlight rating of "good", and a "good" or "acceptable" rating for the passenger-side small overlap front test.

An additional 47 vehicles earned the Top Safety Pick rating.

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Fifteen vehicles earned the group's highest award of Top Safety Pick+, which is lower than past year.

"What you are seeing with those two companies is they are responding very quickly when they learn new ways to modify their vehicles to protect their customers", Lund said.

He says the passenger side crash test was developed "after it became clear that some manufacturers weren't paying enough attention to passenger side protection".

The first official passenger-side ratings were released in October, following research tests past year. Fifteen of those earning its highest award despite tougher criteria requiring better headlights and enhanced passenger side protection.

"Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are", IIHS President Adrian Lund said in a statement.

IIHS is placing more emphasis on the impact of headlights on the safety rating of new vehicles.

The vast majority of award winners only qualify when optionally equipped with front crash prevention and acceptable or good headlights aren't part of their base trims, the institute said.