The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), better known as the folks who do most of the crash testing videos you see online, have announced their 2017 Top Safety Picks. Around 200 cars, trucks, and SUVs were evaluated, and there were 82 Top Safety Pick Winners. Of those, only 38 model year 2017 vehicles earned the recently revised and highly coveted Top Safety Pick+ award. That means that in addition to earning "good" ratings in crash tests, roof strength, and head restraint tests, and scoring "advanced" or "superior" in crash prevention system ratings, those 38 also had to score "acceptable" or better on the new for 2016 headlight tests.
Toyota took the most Top Pick+ awards, with five Toyota models and four Lexus models all hitting the mark. Honda and Acura were close behind with five between them. Only seven of the Top Pick+ winners scored "good" for headlight performance. That means that their lights both lit up the road well and don't blind other drivers. That group includes the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, Volvo XC60, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevrolet Volt, Hyundai Elantra sedan, Subaru Legacy, and Toyota Prius V.
As vehicles become safer, the IIHS felt that just passing their crash tests is no longer enough. Those tests are quite stringent and already include a frontal impact test with both small overlap (about 1/4 of the car hits the barrier), moderate overlap (1/2 the car), side impact test, roof crush test, and head restraint tests. Top Safety Pick winners now also need automatic braking as at least an option in order to be able to slow or stop themselves to help prevent a frontal impact. The new headlight test has only been around since earlier this year, but manufacturers are already jumping to respond to it. Subaru changed the Forester's headlights to earn an acceptable rating for 2017, and Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota Prius were also changed to help their ratings. This is the fourth time since 2013 that the Top Safety Pick+ criteria has been toughened. The headlight testing has been an issue for automakers, with very few cars, trucks, or SUVs meeting the IIHS standard.
IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Winners:
Hyundai Elantra sedan only; built after March 2016
Mazda 3 4-door sedan, 4-door hatchback
Toyota Prius built after August 2016
Honda Accord 4-door
Toyota Prius v
Midsize luxury cars
Lexus ES 350
Large luxury cars
Subaru Forester built after October 2016
Hyundai Santa Fe built after March 2016
Midsize luxury SUVs
Chrysler Pacifica built after August 2016