Thursday, June 3, 2010

42 Safest Cars in America: IIHS

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a non-profit organization funded by a pool of insurance companies, has just updated its list of the safest cars in America. In 2010, in order to be on this list, a car needs to have electronic stability control, and receive GOOD (i.e. the best) ratings for frontal, side and rear collision, and for rollover, from IIHS tests.

The safest small cars rated by IIHS are:
  • Honda Civic 4 door models with electronic stability control, except the Si
  • Kia Forte built after October 2009
  • Kia Soul 
  • Nissan Cube
  • Scion xB
  • Subaru Impreza except for the WRX
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Volkswagen Golf
Kia does very well, being the only company to fit two models in the small car category.  It is disappointing to see no US cars in this list.

The safest midsize cars rated by IIHS are:
  • Audi A3
  • Chevrolet Malibu built after November 2009
  • Chrysler Sebring 4-door models with optional ESC
  • Dodge Avenger with electronic stability control
  • Hyundai Sonata 2011 models
  • Mercedes C class
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Subaru Outback
  • Volkswagen Jetta sedan
  • Volkswagen Passat sedan
  • Volvo C30 2010-11 models
It is good to see three American cars in the midsize category.

VW does very well, placing the Jetta, Passat, and Golf in the small and mid car categories. It did not have a single model in the CR list.

The safest large cars, as rated by the IIHS, are:
  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Ford Taurus
  • Hyundai Genesis built after January 2010
  • Lincoln MKS
  • Mercedes E class built after March 2010
  • Toyota Avalon 2011 models
  • Volvo S80
It is good to see three American cars again, although we were expecting them in this category. Hyundai placing the Genesis here shows good progress.

The safest small SUVs rated by the IIHS are:
  • Honda Element
  • Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
  • Subaru Forester
  • Volkswagen Tiguan
Good show for Jeep, after getting poor ratings for several other models. Volkswagen places again - nice job!

The safest midsize SUVs rated by the IIHS are:
  • Chevrolet Equinox built after March 2010
  • Dodge Journey  
  • GMC Terrain built after March 2010
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011 models
  • Kia Sorento 2011 models built after March 2010
  • Lexus RX
  • Subaru Tribeca
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Toyota Venza
  • Volvo XC60
  • Volvo XC90
Not so long ago, this category was totally dominated by American vehicles - it is a bit disappointing to find them now in a minority. Lexus places its only model in the list here: is this a letdown? 

The Safest minivan, as rated by IIHS, is:
  • Toyota Sienna
It is the first time that a minivan actually gets the seal of approval of the IIHS - congratulations to Toyota!

When we tabulate the results, we find two Hondas, 5 models from Audi/ VW, three Kias (excellent progress in the past few years), one Nissan,  7 models from Toyota/ Lexus/ Scion, 5 Subarus, 4 GM/Chevrolet  models, 5 Chrysler/ Dodge/ Jeep models, two Hyundais (another company with good progress), two Mercedes, 4 Volvos, and two Ford/ Lincoln models.

These are somewhat surprising results. Subaru does extraordinarily well, placing more than Ford and GM. Both Kia and Hyundai show strong progress. The Chrysler group does surprisingly well, as do the Audi/VW group and little Volvo, which reinforces its safe car reputation. The disappointment is for the GM group, with only 4 models, BMW with no models in the list, Honda with only 2 models, and mostly for Ford with two models across the list, beaten by its previous subsidiary Volvo just sold to Geely of China. This is worrisome for Ford, as it shows some lack in engineering: is Ford concentrating too much on financial performance?

Last March we discussed the 21 safest cars identified by Consumer Reports. We believe that CR's list is ultimately a better judgment of safety than the IIHS results, as CR takes into account the IIHS tests, the government collisions tests, and its own braking and emergency handling tests. We should soon see an updated list from CR, which we will certainly discuss here:-)

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