Only 28 cars qualified for a Top Safety Pick + award.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently published an updated list of vehicles that received Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick + awards. This caused quite a stir in the motoring industry, as several cars lost their coveted ratings after the IIHS implemented stricter crash test criteria.
Following the introduction of a more severe side impact test, night-time advanced driver assistance testing, and stricter headlight rules, the list of Top Safety Pick + (TSP+) winners dropped from 65 in 2022 to just 28 in 2023. Perhaps the most shocking fact is that only two American manufacturers made it onto the list: Rivian and Tesla. What's going on, legacy manufacturers?
The IIHS's criteria will be even stricter in 2024, but it's all for safety. Any reasonable person will check safety levels before buying a car, which means an IIHS TSP+ or the lesser Top Safety Pick (TSP) awards are extremely important. Manufacturers are effectively forced to up their standards, and the consumer wins.
CarBuzz compared the 2022 recipients of the TSP+ awards with the 2023 results to see who lost out, and the results were quite surprising. Here are the biggest losers, organized by category.
The Acura Integra was the only small car to receive a TSP+ award for 2023. Last year, 13 vehicles received the top-tier award.
Honda had three models lose out on the top award, including the Civic Sedan, Civic Hatch, and Insight. The Mazda 3 sedan and hatch lost out, while Subaru's BRZ, Crosstrek Hybrid, and WRX were downgraded.
Toyota's Corolla hatch and sedan no longer have a top rating, and like its corporate cousin, the GR86 also lost out.
Finally, the Volkswagen Golf R was dumped from the TSP+ list.
This is a popular segment, so safety matters. Of all the compact SUVs available, only Honda's CR-V and HR-V, Lexus UX, and the Subaru Solterra received TSP+ ratings. For the Subaru, only models made after October 2022 count, and it most likely has to do with that awkward wheel coming off situation.
Several high-profile cars lost out in this segment. Still, we'll start with the less popular models, which include the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Genesis GV60, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota Corolla Cross.
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the Kia EV6 lost out. Top sellers that lost bragging rights include Mazda (CX-30, CX-50, CX-5), the Hyundai Tucson, Subaru's Forester, and Toyota's RAV4 and RAV4 Prime. Ford's popular Bronco Sport is also off the list.
Volvo missing out surprised us. The C40 Recharge, XC40, and XC 40 Recharge no longer qualify.
In the midsize car segment, only two remain. The Subaru Outback and Toyota Camry (only those built after January 2023) held onto their titles.
The 2022 Accord lost its title, but the brand-new model does not have a rating yet. Kia's K5 is off the list, as are the Nissan Altima and Nissan Maxima.
Subaru was the biggest loser in this segment. Subaru is usually synonymous with safety, but the Legacy and Outback had to relinquish their titles.
Cars that qualify for an TSP+ award under the new criteria include the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, and the Volkswagen ID.4.
Downgraded models include the Ford Explorer, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Murano, and the Volkswagen Tiguan.
Larger models tend to be safer because the new crash regulations factor in cars of this size doing the crashing, and it's usually smaller cars that come off second best.
In this popular segment, we can see how dominant Japanese manufacturers were. Acura (MDX and RDX), Lexus (NX, NX PHEV, and RX), and the Infiniti QX60 scored top marks. Other winners include the Tesla Model Y and Volvo's XC90 and XC90 Recharge.
SUVs thrown out of the exclusive club include Audi (Q4 e-tron, Q4 e-tron Sportback, Q5, Q5 Sportback), the BMW X3, Cadillac XT6, Genesis GV70 and GV80, Hyundai Nexo, Lexus NX and NX PHEV, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Volvo XC60, and the XC60 Recharge.
It's good news for families, as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna both remain as good as it gets in terms of safety.
The Chrysler Pacifica had a Top Safety Pick + in 2022, but under the new criteria, it no longer qualifies. This makes things a bit odd for Chrysler because the Pacifica is the only car it has left with any proverbial gas in the tank. The 300 is on its last legs, and the final 6.4 Hemi V8 edition is already sold out.
In this segment, safety should be considered above all else. The Pacifica is arguably the best car on this list, but a consumer might be more inclined to go in that direction as both its rivals now have a better safety rating.
Considering how large this segment is, only two trucks and three configurations thereof qualify, which is highly disappointing. The Rivian R1T, Toyota Tundra crew cab, and Tundra extended cab qualify.
In 2022, the trucks mentioned above were also the only two that qualified.
This might be the most disappointing segment because these are all expensive cars, so it's reasonable to expect every possible safety gadget. Only the Genesis G90 qualified under the stricter criteria, once again proving why it might be a better car than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
In short, South Korea gave the Germans a good kicking, even though its G80 Electrified, G80, and G70 were also downgraded.
Other losers include Audi (A6 Sedan, A6 allroad, A7), the BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Surprisingly, Volvo also lost out, with the S90 sedan, S90 Recharge, and V90 Cross Country all losing out on the top-tier award.
Many of the cars mentioned above were downgraded to the lesser Top Safety Pick category, which is still impressive. You can read the complete list on the IIHS website.
It's worth remembering that manufacturers don't have to give the IIHS cars to test. Only the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to demand a vehicle for testing.
This is a wake-up call for several manufacturers, especially Volvo, whose whole reputation is built on safety. The next step would be to study the 2023 and 2024 criteria, make the necessary upgrades, and get back on this respected list.
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