New vehicle safety technology is introduced every year, so how do you determine which are the safest cars?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) removes the guesswork by testing vehicles and releasing an annual list of safety picks for that year’s models. Results are based on each vehicle’s:

  • Crashworthiness, or how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash
  • Crash prevention, or how well the vehicle warns the driver or takes action automatically, like braking on its own to avoid a collision.

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The IIHS adds to and strengthens the requirements as new safety technology becomes available. So a car that earned a 2010 model Top Safety Pick award could not receive the award today because it lacks the newest safety features. New criteria the IIHS added for 2019 include a higher rating than previous years for headlight quality requirements and passenger-side protection in small overlap front crashes, such as when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.

The IIHS releases car ratings as it evaluates new models throughout the year, so although the initial list released in December 2018 includes 30 Top Safety Pick+ and 27 Top Safety Pick award winners, the list is certain to grow throughout the year.

Below are a few of the 2019 models honored by the IIHS in several vehicle categories. You can also see the full list of this year’s winning vehicles—plus lists for each year dating back to 2006.

Top Safety Pick+ (superior level of safety)

  • Small car – Honda Insight
  • Midsize car – Kia Optima
  • Midsize luxury car – Lexus ES 350
  • Large car – Toyota Avalon
  • Large luxury car – Genesis G90
  • Small SUV – Mazda CX-5
  • Midsize SUV – Subaru Ascent
  • Midsize luxury SUV – Mercedes-Benz GLC

Top Safety Pick (high level of safety)

  • Minicar – Hyundai Accent
  • Small car – Kia Soul
  • Midsize car – Honda Accord
  • Midsize luxury car – Audi A3
  • Large car – Kia Cadenza
  • Small SUV – Subaru Forester
  • Minivan – Chrysler Pacifica

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