Fifteen cars and SUVs have earned the highest honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety despite stiffened requirements for 2018.

After IIHS decided to require better headlights and a solid performance on a new crash test to receive the “Top Safety Pick Plus” designation, only 12 cars and three sport-utility vehicles received the award in the organization’s first round of ratings.

Another 47 vehicles earned “Top Safety Pick” honors. Both lists are likely to grow as more vehicles are evaluated.

IIHS said it has not yet reviewed all models and may not test every variation but will update the rankings throughout 2018.

“Automakers have really come to grips with the fact that safety is an important component of consumer choice, and they are working hard to meet the criteria,” outgoing IIHS president Adrian Lund said. “They want to be known as leaders of safety.”

Lund said new vehicles are safer than ever.

Still, even as automakers make significant safety improvements to new vehicles, more people are dying on American roads. Car crash deaths spiked in the U.S. for a second consecutive year in 2016, hitting a nine-year high of 37,461 people in 2016, up 5.6%, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Last SlideNext Slide

Lund said the improved economy, which has enabled more people to hit the road for jobs and leisure, is a key factor in the uptick. Distracted driving is also a likely factor to explain the increase.

One positive sign, Lund said, is that automakers are rapidly improving headlights amid growing awareness that vehicles aren’t sufficiently illuminating the roadway to keep drivers and pedestrians safe.

To reflect the need for better headlights overall, IIHS is now requiring automakers to earn a “good” rating when it comes to their beams to receive the Top Safety Pick Plus designation.

“We are seeing a big change” in headlights, Lund said. “In previous years, it really was the designers who were determining the positioning of headlights. Now, because we’re actually giving some objective ratings of how much light these headlamps put on the road, the engineers are getting more say.”

CLOSE

The future of automobile technology keeps getting brighter, but headlights remain dim.
USA TODAY

Overall, Toyota led the industry with 10 vehicles on the Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick lists. Much-smaller Hyundai was second with nine models.

Subaru, which is on a red-hot sales streak, got all but one of its seven vehicles on the lists.

There’s one key caveat: The “vast majority” of models only qualify for the list with optional equipment, IIHS said. Most basic models don’t come with the features IIHS requires to make the list, including automatic emergency braking.

As usual, IIHS re-evaluates vehicle safety throughout the year and sometimes makes adjustments to its rankings to reflect midyear improvements and new entries. Here’s the full list:

IIHS Top Safety Pick+

Small cars

  • Kia Forte (sedan only)
  • Kia Soul
  • Subaru Impreza
  • Subaru WRX

Midsize cars

  • Subaru Legacy
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota Camry

Large luxury cars

  • BMW 5 series
  • Genesis G80
  • Genesis G90
  • Lincoln Continental
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class (sedan only)

Midsize SUVs

  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Midsize Luxury SUVs

Top Safety Pick

Small cars

  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Hyundai Elantra GT
  • Mazda 3
  • Subaru Crosstrek
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Prius Prime

Midsize cars

  • Honda Accord
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Kia Optima
  • Nissan Altima
  • Nissan Maxima

Midsize luxury cars

  • Alfa Romeo Giulia
  • Audi A3
  • Audi A4
  • BMW 3 series (sedan only)
  • Lexus ES
  • Lexus IS
  • Volvo S60
  • Volvo V60

Large cars

Small SUVs

  • Honda CR-V
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Kia Sportage
  • Mazda CX-3
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Subaru Forester
  • Toyota RAV4

Midsize SUVs

  • Honda Pilot
  • Kia Sorento
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Toyota Highlander

Midsize luxury SUVs

  • Acura MDX
  • Acura RDX
  • Buick Envision
  • Lexus NX
  • Lexus RX
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
  • Volvo XC60

Minivans

  • Chrysler Pacifica
  • Honda Odyssey

Large pickup

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

 

Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2B9WY7m