Cars have gotten a lot safer in recent years, and that trend seems to have accelerated just in the past year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released its annual list of Top Safety Picks. The big news is that 72 vehicles earned the Institute’s highest ranking this year, more than double the number of 2008 models and more than three times the number of 2007 winners.
To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a car has to receive the Institute’s highest rating of Good in front, side, and rear crash protection, including a Good rating in an assessment of head-restraint safety; and it must offer electronic stability control.
For the first time, there is at least one vehicle in every segment Consumer Reports tests that earns a Top Safety Pick award, giving consumers the ability to find a safe car, no matter their budget or transportation needs. All Acura and Subaru models earn Top Safety Pick awards. The IIHS doesn’t test two-seat roadsters, but three four-passenger convertibles made the grade: the Saab 9-3, Volkswagen Eos, and Volvo C70.
In addition to the 72 Top Safety Picks, another 26 models earn Good front- and side-crash-test scores and offer electronic stability control, but don’t have good head-restraint designs. While rear impacts are rarely fatal, they produce a high percentage of injuries in auto accidents.
Virtually all cars now earn Good front crash scores, but not all have Good side-crash scores and rear-impact scores.
It is important when choosing a new car to also consider its dynamic performance relative to safety. Consumer Reports Safety Ratings factor insurance industry and government crash tests, when available, as well as our own dry braking, wet braking, and accident avoidance test findings. On the model overview pages at ConsumerReports.org, we provide a complete breakdown of how each tested model fares in the full range of safety evaluations.
Below are the lists of 2009 Top Safety Picks, as well as those "Also-Ran" models that lack only good seat/head restraint designs.
Acura TL, TSX
Audi A3, A4
BMW 3 Series sedan
Ford Fusion with optional ESC
Honda Accord sedan
Mercedes C Class
Mercury Milan with optional ESC
Volkswagen Jetta, Passat
Honda Civic sedan with optional ESC (except Si)
Mitsubishi Lancer with optional ESC
Subaru Impreza with optional ESC
Toyota Corolla with optional ESC
Volkswagen Rabbit 4-door
Honda Fit with optional ESC
Acura MDX, RDX
BMW X3, X5
Ford Edge, Flex, Taurus X
Hyundai Santa Fe, Veracruz
Mercedes M Class
Toyota FJ Cruiser, Highlander
Honda CR-V, Element
These 26 vehicles earn good ratings in front- and side-crash tests. They have ESC, standard or optional. They would be 2009 Top Safety Pick winners if their seat/head restraints also earn good ratings:
Chrysler Sebring, Sebring convertible, Town & Country
Dodge Avenger, Grand Caravan
Infiniti G35, M35
Lexus ES, GS, IS
Mazda CX-7, CX-9
Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Endeavor
Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, Quest, Xterra
Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Prius, Sienna