After revising its criteria to include survivability in rollover crashes, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named 19 passenger cars and eight sport utility vehicles to its elite "Top Safety Picks" list for 2010. The inclusion of its new roof-strength requirement to the existing front, rear and side-impact assessments helped trim the list from 94 winners among the 2009 model-year field, although additional vehicles may be evaluated later on and could be added to the ultimate list.
The biggest single winner on an individual marque basis was Subaru, which rolled off with five top choices: the Impreza, Legacy, Outback, Forester and Tribeca. Overall, top picks among the large cars tested were the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS and Volvo S80. Mid-size honorees include the Audi A3, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler Sebring four-door and Dodge Avenger (both when equipped with optional electronic stability control) Mercedes C-Class, Subaru Legacy and Outback, Volkswagen Jetta and Passat sedans and the Volvo C30. Among small cars, the Honda Civic sedan (excluding the Si and equipped with optional stability control), Kia soul, Nissan Cube, Subaru Impreza (except WRX) and Volkswagen Golf four-door earned 2010 IIHS laurels. On the SUV side of the ledger, the Dodge Journey, Subaru Tribeca, Volvo XC60 and XC90 qualified for Top Safety Pick honors in the mid-size arena while the Honda Element, Jeep Patriot (with optional side airbags), Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan rolled off with Top Safety Pick gold among the smaller sport utes evaluated.
IIHS president Adrian Lund noted that several 2009 winners, including the Honda Accord and Ford Fusion, would require only minor changes to comply with its new rollover criteria that exceed what's required by current federal safety standards. Other manufacturers notably absent from the 2010 list include BMW, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Saab, Scion and Toyota. Lund anticipates manufacturers will move quickly to make necessary roof reinforcements that will bring them up to IIHS spec and lead to considerably more vehicles earning Top Safety Pick status for 2011. However, Irv Miller, Toyota's group vice president, Environmental and Public Affairs, did raise a valid point regarding the scope of the IIHS testing. He noted that in 2009 Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) won more Top Safety Pick awards than any other manufacturer but that only three vehicles from its entire 2010 lineup -- the Camry, RAV4 and Yaris -- had even been subjected to the new IIHS test regimen. Interestingly enough, the IIHS admits that the Camry also would have made the 2010 Top Safety Pick list save for seats and head restraints that earned only "marginal" rather than the requisite "good" rating with respect to their whiplash prevention capabilities. Improvements in that critical area proved pivotal in elevating the 2010 Chevy Malibu, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger and Journey, and Jeep Patriot onto the IIHS's latest Top Safety Pick list.