IIHS rates the safest cars of 2012

CBS MoneyWatch

Along with style, power and high gas mileage, you want a new car that will protect you in a crash. A good place to start is with vehicles awarded the top safety pick rating for 2012 by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which released its list Thursday of 115 winners.

To get that top rating, a car, van or SUV must stand up to crash tests simulating front, side, rear and rollover accidents. The rollover standard has proved especially difficult for many models in the past. IIHS President Adrian Lund noted that the original 2005 ratings contained only 11 models as top picks. The 115 that qualified this year are "a testament to the commitment auto makers have made to go above and beyond minimum safety standards," Lund said.

Companies with the strongest showing included Subaru, which got top ratings for all five models it sells in the U.S. Toyota Motor North America got the most top picks, with 15 of its Toyota, Lexus and Scion models. That includes a top pick rating for the first time for the redesigned 2012 Camry.

The Camry also got a 5-star rating in tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- more difficult now that those tests have been toughened for 2012 models.

Strong improvement from Honda

IIHS also cited Honda of America for the most improvement. Of the 18 vehicles new to top safety pick status this year, 10 of them were Honda or Acura models. "Honda buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection," Lund said.

If you are shopping, you can find a top pick model in almost every category. Among high-mileage green cars, the Toyota Prius V -- the bigger version of the original Prius -- qualifies. So do the plug-in Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. IIHS is keeping its top rating for the Volt despite an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into battery fires after Volt crash tests. The Institute says it found no special battery problems during or after its crash tests.

Safe bigger vehicles

Among bigger vehicles, three pickups got top rating: The Ford F-150 crew cab models, the Honda Ridgeline and the Toyota Tundra crew cab. Minivans offer an even bigger choice: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Volkswagen Routan all got the top rating.

Here is a full list of vehicles that got the top safety pick designation:

Minicars

Fiat 500 built after July 2011               
Ford Fiesta sedan & hatchback               

Honda Fit
Toyota Yaris 4-dr hatchback

Small cars

Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic, Volt

Ford Focus

Honda Civic sedan

Honda CR-Z, Insight

Hyundai Elantra

Kia Forte sedan

Kia Soul
Lexus CT 200h
Mazda 3 sedan & hatchback
Mini Cooper Countryman
Mitsubishi Lancer (except Ralliart & Evolution)
Nissan Cube, Juke, Leaf
Scion tC, xB, xD
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Toyota Corolla, Prius
Volkswagen Golf 4-dr
Volkswagen GTI 4-dr

Midsize moderately priced cars

Audi A3

Buick Verano

Chevrolet Malibu

Chrysler 200 4-dr

Dodge Avenger

Ford Fusion

Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Subaru Legacy, Outback
Toyota Camry,   Prius v
Volkswagen Jetta   sedan
Volkswagen Jetta  SportWagen


Midsize luxury/near luxury cars

Acura TL built after Sept. 2011

Acura TSX sedan & wagon

Audi A4

Lincoln MKZ

Mercedes C-Class

Volkswagen CC except 4wd

Volvo S60


Large family cars

Buick LaCrosse, Regal     

Chrysler 300                     

Dodge Charger                

Ford Taurus

Toyota Avalon


Large luxury cars

Audi A6

BMW 5 series except 4wd & V8

Cadillac CTS sedan

Hyundai Equus

Infiniti M except M56x 4wd

Lincoln MKS

Mercedes E-Class sedan
Mercedes E-Class coupe
Saab 9-5
Volvo S80


Small SUVs

Honda CR-V     

Hyundai Tucson   

Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags

Kia Sportage

Subaru Forester

Volkswagen Tiguan

Midsize SUVs

Chevrolet Equinox

Dodge Durango, Journey

Ford Edge, Explorer, Flex

GMC Terrain

Honda Pilot

Hyundai Santa Fe

Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander, Venza


Midsize luxury SUVs

Acura MDX

Audi Q5

BMW X3

Cadillac SRX

Infiniti EX35

Lexus RX

Lincoln MKT, MKX
Mercedes GLK, M-Class
Saab 9-4X
Volvo XC60, XC90


Large SUVs

Buick Enclave                

Chevrolet Traverse                   

GMC Acadia

Volkswagen Touareg

Minivans

Chrysler Town & Country

Dodge Grand Caravan

Honda Odyssey

Toyota Sienna

Volkswagen Routan


Large pickups

Ford F-150 crew cab

Honda RidgelineToyota Tundra crew cab

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