IIHS Announces 2021 Top Safety Picks

Written By: CarPro | Mar 3, 2021 1:00:00 AM

Test Dummy with Awards
Credit: Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

Good news when it comes to vehicle safety -- judging from the IIHS�s 2021 list of Top Safety Picks. The list of vehicles earning the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety�s top two awards is longer this year -- up from 64 models in 2020 to 90 vehicles this year.

Forty-nine 2021 models are being recognized with a TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, the highest ranking - more than double the number last year. An additional 41 vehicles earn the second highest award - TOP SAFETY PICK. The difference between the two awards is headlights. �Plus� winners must have good or acceptable headlights across all trims. Those without the plus insignia must be available with those headlights.

�With these awards, we want to make it easy for consumers to find vehicles that provide good protection in crashes, sufficient lighting and effective front crash protection,� IIHS President David Harkey says. �Manufacturers have stepped up to meet the challenge, and the list of great options has grown to an impressive size this year.�

Vehicles in both award categories must receive good ratings in all six IIHS crashworthiness tests: driver- and passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. They also have to be available with front crash prevention that earns a superior or advanced rating in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations.

Here are notable highlights from this year�s awards:

  • Hyundai Motor Group, including the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands, receives the most 2021 awards: 12 regular TOP SAFETY PICKs and five TOP SAFETY PICK+s.
  • Volvo has the most TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards with nine.
  • The Ram 1500 Crew Cab is the only truck to win an award.
  • Mitsubishi is the only automaker that has failed to earn a single award so far.

IIHS researchers also call GM�s low number of awards �striking for such a large manufacturer.� GM received one TOP SAFETY PICK and one TOP SAFETY PICK+.

Pickup and Minivans

IIHS tests show improvements in the pickup and minivan segment. Last year, none made the winner�s circle. This year, the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, both qualify for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

A pickup truck, the Ram 1500 crew cab, qualifies for TOP SAFETY PICK and is the only winner from Stellantis. It�s also the only pickup truck to win one of the top two awards.

Headlight improvements

IIHS says it started using a two-tier award system in 2013 as a way to phase in new requirements that may be tough for all manufacturers to meet immediately. Over the years, IIHS has used TOP SAFETY PICK+ to introduce new crash tests and crash avoidance criteria before making them part of the requirements for the regular TOP SAFETY PICK award.

Headlight ratings were first incorporated into TOP SAFETY PICK+ criteria for the 2017 award year. To qualify for the highest award, vehicles had to at least have good or acceptable headlights available as an option. The following year, that requirement became part of the base award.

As manufacturers showed they could produce headlights with better lighting and less glare, IIHS says it decided to encourage them to make this improved equipment standard. Starting in 2020, only vehicles with good or acceptable headlights across the board could earn TOP SAFETY PICK+.

The strategy seems to be working. A year ago, only 23 vehicles qualified for the higher-tier award. Today, the number has more than doubled, and the majority of awards handed out for 2021 models include the plus sign.

Front crash prevention

Vehicles don�t have to have front crash prevention as standard equipment to qualify for either award, but a voluntary manufacturer commitment is helping on that front. Twenty automakers have signed the pledge to equip at least 95 percent of vehicles they make with vehicle-to-vehicle automatic emergency braking beginning in the 2022-23 production year.

All 49 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners and 31 TOP SAFETY PICK winners have standard systems that meet the vehicle-to-vehicle requirement. Forty-eight of the TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners and 26 of the TOP SAFETY PICK winners also meet the pedestrian crash prevention criterion with their standard systems. The others qualify based on optional equipment.

Near misses

The extensive list of criteria for both awards means many vehicles check all boxes but one. Twelve vehicles are only lacking good or acceptable headlights, while seven don�t have pedestrian crash prevention that earns a superior or advanced rating. Only five fall short on crashworthiness. All five lack a good rating in the passenger-side small overlap front test.