Strong crash-test performance, collision avoidance systems and high-quality headlights enabled 30 vehicles to qualify for the top honors in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's initial 2019 model-year rankings.
Those vehicles received IIHS Top Safety Pick+ honors, which reflect the best of the best. Last year, only 12 vehicles initially qualified for the top category.
Another 27 vehicles qualified as IIHS Top Safety Pick winners, which reflect the best of the rest. (See the full lists below.)
"We continue to be encouraged that automakers are making changes and addressing the criteria to improve the safety of their vehicles," said David Harkey, president of IIHS.
The organization tightened the qualifications for 2019, increasing the crash-test standards from a year earlier.
Several major brands had impressive performances. Nearly all of Japanese brand Subaru's models landed on one of the top two lists. And Korean auto brands Kia and Hyundai, which are part of the same company, scored five and four wins, respectively.
Nearly as notable as the vehicles that made it is the list of vehicles that didn't.
Among them: none from General Motors, Tesla, Ford Motor, Volvo or Fiat Chrysler's Jeep, Ram and Dodge.
To be sure, brands can qualify for the IIHS honors as the year progresses if they offer proof of upgrades or additional safety tests.
And some automakers didn't nominate their vehicles and thus couldn't qualify. Tesla, for example, didn't put up its three vehicles for consideration.
The stricter standards for 2019's Top Safety Pick+ honors require automakers to get a "good" rating in a passenger-side crash test designed to assess the vehicle's performance when the front-right corner smashes into something. It previously had to be only "acceptable."
In addition, the stricter standards for the Top Safety Pick honors require at least an acceptable performance in that test.
To get onto the Top Safety Pick+ list, vehicles must have "good" headlights. To get onto the Top Safety Pick list, they must have "acceptable" headlights. To be sure, most of the vehicles on the list only qualify with optional upgrade packages that have better-functioning headlights.
IIHS tests have shown that many vehicles throughout the industry fail to provide sufficient nighttime illumination due to poor manufacturing, inadequate design or outdated regulations.
"That’s probably been the one area where we still see a lot more room for improvement," Harkey said.
Insufficient headlights are one key reason why no pickups and many popular SUVs failed to make the list. Since they sit higher than passenger cars, they often don't project their lighting adequately and can create too much glare, Harkey said.
The next phase for IIHS: Integrating measures to assess each vehicle's performance on pedestrian safety.
Amid heightened awareness of America's pedestrian safety crisis, Harkey said IIHS "will be rolling out a new rating and it will likely make it into the Top Safety Pick criteria for next year's models." He said the system would likely reflect whether vehicles incorporate automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
Here's the initial list of 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ honorees:
- Honda Insight
- Hyundai Elantra (built after September 2018)
- Kia Forte
- Kia Niro hybrid
- Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid
- Subaru Crosstrek
- Subaru Impreza 4-door sedan
- Subaru Impreza wagon
- Subaru WRX
- Hyundai Sonata
- Kia Optima
- Subaru Legacy
- Subaru Outback
- Toyota Camry
- Genesis G70
- Lexus ES
- Toyota Avalon (built after September 2018)
- BMW 5 series
- Genesis G80
- Genesis G90
- Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4-door sedan
- Hyundai Kona
- Mazda CX-5
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Kia Sorento
- Subaru Ascent
- Acura RDX
- BMW X3
- Mercedes-Benz GLC
- Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
Here's the initial list of 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick honorees
- Hyundai Accent
- Kia Rio 4-door sedan
- Hyundai Elantra GT
- Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
- Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid (built after July 2018)
- Kia Soul
- Nissan Kicks
- Toyota Corolla 4-door hatchback
- Honda Accord
- Nissan Altima
- Audi A3
- Audi A4
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4-door sedan
- Kia Cadenza
- BMW X2
- Honda CR-V
- Hyundai Tucson
- Mazda CX-3
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Subaru Forester
- Honda Pilot
- Hyundai Santa Fe XL
- Mazda CX-9
- Nissan Pathfinder (built after August 2018)
- Toyota Highlander
- Chrysler Pacifica
- Honda Odyssey