Six small cars earn IIHS 'Top Safety Pick' status
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has good news for buyers who demand that can match outstanding fuel economy with exceptional safety. Its latest round of testing on small cars led the IIHS to award Top Safety Pick honors to six of the 13 cars it evaluated. Rolling off with the organization's top ranking were the 2012 Ford Focus and Honda Civic as well as the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, Lexus CT200h, Nissan Juke and Toyota Prius. Five of that group, the gasoline-powered Focus, Civic and Elantra and the gas/electric CT200h and Prius hybrids, have at least one variant that gets a 40 mpg or higher EPA highway rating, led by the Toyota Prius with its stellar 51-city/48-highway mpg marks.
To qualify as an IIHS Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn a "good" performance rating in the organization's battery of front, side, rollover, and rear-impact evaluations plus be fitted with an electronic stability control system. Although the seven other cars evaluated by the IIHS in this round of testing -- which included the Dodge Caliber, Honda CR-Z and Insight hybrids, Nissan Sentra and Versa, Scion xD, and Suzuki SX4 -- did not qualify for Top Safety Pick status, none received a "poor" rating in any of the tests.
As a group, small cars have made huge strides in their overall safety during the last five years. Back in 2006 when the IIHS first began awarding Top Safety Pick honors, only three vehicles, the Honda Civic, Saab 9-2x and Subaru Impreza, were singled out for that accolade. Today, 22 different vehicles have earned Top Safety Pick status. That achievement is even more impressive given that it also factors in new and more demanding IIHS test benchmarks for better passenger protection in the case of roof crush and rear impacts as well as a requirement for the availability of a stability control system.
"Each time we've introduced a new test, automakers have stepped up and improved designs," says David Zuby, the Institute's chief research officer. "The list of cars with the best fuel economy now includes those with the highest crash test ratings in their class, too. At a time of high gasoline prices, consumers have never had a bigger selection of small cars that earn Top Safety Pick."