2014 Top Safety Pick award recognizes the safest new cars

Under tough new criteria, 22 vehicles earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ award for high-level protection in crashes and the availability of front crash prevention technology. Seventeen models earn the less-stringent Top Safety Pick Award.

IIHS recently changed its criteria for its awards to up the ante on vehicle safety, and it is clear from how automakers are making improvements that this effort is bringing improved crash protection to consumers.

In 2013, 130 vehicles took home either award, but for 2014, just 39 earn one of the awards. Now, vehicles need to earn a score of Good in four of five IIHS crash tests and Good or Acceptable in the fifth test to qualify for the Top Safety Pick. The tests include moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover, and rear crash tests. For the Top Safety Pick+ award, vehicles only with a Basic, Advanced, or Superior rating in front crash prevention are eligible. Vehicles that have fallen off the list have less than Acceptable ratings for small overlap protection or they haven’t been tested yet.

Consumer Reports factors results from all IIHS crash tests into our ratings. Our longstanding criteria for recommending vehicles stipulates that a model score well in our testing, have average or better reliability, and perform adequately if included in crash tests performed by the government and/or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The models that earn the Top Safety Pick+ award have optional systems that can prevent or mitigate front-to-rear crashes through a warning and can autonomously brake if a driver doesn’t slow or stop in time to avoid a rear-end crash.

The Pick+ models

Small cars: Honda Civic Hybrid, Mazda3 (built after October 2013), and Toyota Prius (built after November 2013)

Midsized cars: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord (2- and 4-door), Mazda6, Subaru Legacy, and Subaru Outback

Midsized luxury cars: Infiniti Q50, Lincoln MKZ, and Volvo S60

Large luxury cars: Acura RLX and Volvo S80

Small SUVs: Mazda CX-5 (built after October 2013), Mitsubishi Outlander, and Subaru Forester

Midsized SUV: Toyota Highlander

Luxury SUVs: Acura MDX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class (built after August 2013), and Volvo XC60

Minivan: Honda Odyssey

Models that earn the Top Safety Pick include the Acura TL, Chevrolet Spark, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic coupe, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Optima, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Altima, Scion tC, Subaru Impreza, Subaru XV Crosstrek, Toyota Camry (built after November 2013), Volkswagen Passat, and Volvo XC90.

Honda/Acura has the most winners of any automaker, with six models earning the Top Safety Pick+ award and two named Top Safety Picks.

Underscoring the need for increased occupant protection, 33,561 people died in vehicle fatalities in 2012, representing a 3 percent increase from the year before. Front, side, and rollover crashes make up a large part of the deaths. While rear-end crashes typically aren’t fatal, they result in a large portion of injuries and insurance claims.

The Insurance Institute’s crash test evaluations are an important tool to help consumers choose a safe vehicle that can help reduce the risk of death from vehicle crashes. For a full list of the 2014 winners and to see a list of past winners dating back to 2006, the first year of the Top Safety Pick Awards, see the IIHS website.

To find out more on how the IIHS and the government conduct crash tests, see Crash test 101. Also check out our guide to vehicle safety.

Liza Barth

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Guide to the best small SUVs

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