The 2023 Kia Telluride, a midsize SUV, recently captured a Top Safety Pick+ award. It was in good company with 29 other SUVs that garnered either a Top Safety Pick or a Top Safety Pick+ award. -...

The 2023 Kia Telluride, a midsize SUV, recently captured a Top Safety Pick+ award. It was in good company with 29 other SUVs that garnered either a Top Safety Pick or a Top Safety Pick+ award.

Photos: IIHS/Canva

Some 30 SUVs recently rolled away with 2023 Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards — the most of any other vehicle category. Moreover, the SUVs captured the coveted awards after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) upped the criteria standards.

The winning SUVs run the gamut from small to midsize to midsize luxury. By class, midsize luxury SUVs earned the most Top Safety Pick+ awards, with nine, and small SUVs earned the most awards in total, with four Top Safety Pick+ and eight Top Safety Pick awards.

To garner either award, the SUVs were put through the paces, earning good scores in three crashworthiness evaluations — the driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, and original moderate overlap front tests.

But this year, vehicles had to pass muster in two new evaluations. IIHS researchers discovered that fatalities were still common in side crashes that occurred at higher speeds than the original evaluation, prompting them to design an updated side crash test. In addition to a higher speed, the updated test uses a new striking barrier that is closer to the weight of today’s SUVs than the old barrier and more closely mimics the damage they create.

The updated test involves 82% more energy than the original test. Vehicles must earn an acceptable or good rating to qualify for Top Safety Pick, while a good rating is required for “plus” status.

There are also now stricter requirements for headlights and pedestrian front crash prevention systems. Almost half of all fatal U.S. crashes happen in the dark, and three-quarters of fatal pedestrian crashes occur at night — when many crash avoidance systems perform poorly.

To address that continuing problem, IIHS added the nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluation to the award requirements and made it impossible for a vehicle to win either award if it could be purchased while equipped with inferior headlights.

The following is a brief overview of some SUVs that are popular fleet vehicles and that earned safety accolades from the IIHS.

Top Safety Pick+ Winners

In the small SUV category Honda excelled, with both the Honda CR-V and the Honda HR-V capturing “plus” status. The electric Subaru Solterra scored top honors, too, on models built after 2022.

Not to be outdone, six midsize SUVs took home Top Safety Pick+ awards. The winners were born of various automakers, but all share an affinity for safety. These include the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, and the electric Volkswagen ID 4.

Finally, in the midsize luxury SUV category a total of ten vehicles took home highest honors. Those that fleets utilize most often include the Volvo XC90, the electric Tesla Model Y, and plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 Recharge.

Top Safety Pick Winners

Eight small SUVs — all fleet favorites — are now proud recipients of 2023 Top Safety Pick awards. Mazda and Toyota were standouts, capturing three awards each in this category. These included the Mazda CX-30, Mazda CX-5, and Mazda CX-50 and the Toyota RAV4, Toyota Venza, and Toyota RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid.

Two midsize SUVs — the Ford Explorer and the Mazda CX-9 — and one midsize luxury SUV, the Lincoln Nautilus, also garnered Top Safety Pick recognition. All in all, 2023 SUVs so far have made a great showing when it comes to safety.

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