Subaru and Toyota’s vehicles took home top honors this year. - Photos: IIHS/Canva

Subaru and Toyota’s vehicles took home top honors this year.

Photos: IIHS/Canva

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has recognized 10 fleet-favored cars, both small and midsize, for a commitment to safety.

Specifically, in the small car category, the Honda Civic hatchback, Honda Civic sedan, Mazda 3 hatchback, Mazda 3 sedan, Toyota Corolla hatchback, and Toyota Corolla sedan all received 2023 Top Safety Pick awards. They were not to be outdone by two midsize cars — Hyundai Sonata (those built after December 2022) and Subaru Legacy — that also rolled away with the same award.

Moreover, the highest honors — Top Safety Pick+ awards — went to two midsize cars, the Subaru Outback and Toyota Camry. In the case of the Camry, the award applies only to vehicles built after January 2023.

All 10 cars underwent rigorous testing. Each captured good scores in three key evaluations — the driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, and original moderate overlap front tests.

But for vehicles to receive either award, IIHS engineers demand much more. For example, the 10 cars were put through the paces of a brand-new side crash test.

In 2003, IIHS introduced the original side test and most of the vehicles tested earned a poor rating. But the tough test pushed automakers to improve safety standards. By 2021, when the IIHS launched the updated version that is now part of the award program, virtually every vehicle built for the U.S. market earned a good rating in the original test.

In the real world, a driver of a vehicle rated good in the original test is 70% less likely to die in a left-side crash, compared with a driver of a vehicle rated poor.

The latest side test came about when IIHS researchers discovered that fatalities were still common in side crashes that occurred at higher speeds than the original evaluation. In addition to a higher speed, the new 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. All 10 cars performed well and proved up to snuff in the new evaluation.

In addition, the Top Safety Pick+ criteria include another new evaluation, the nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention test. Advanced or superior performance is required in both the nighttime and daytime pedestrian tests for the higher award. To receive a Top Safety Pick, only a daytime rating of advanced or superior is required.

Finally, when it comes to headlights, requirements for the base award have gotten more stringent. Previously, a vehicle could qualify by offering at least one trim level with available acceptable or good headlights, while “plus” status meant the vehicle needed to have them standard across all trims. New for 2023, both awards require standard acceptable or good headlights.

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