In order to win a Top Safety Pick award, a car has to earn good ratings on all of the agency’s crash tests (driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, and a good or acceptable rating in the passenger-side small overlap test), as outlined in a press release.
Additionally, it also needs to have good or acceptable headlights and a front-crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating.
But to earn the highest rating, the Top Safety Pick+ (plus!), a car must get good ratings for its headlights and passenger-side small overlap test.
The Model 3 earned good ratings through every single crash test. During the driver-side small overlap front test, the structure held up well. Only a moderate risk of injury to the driver’s lower leg because of an eight-inch intrusion at the lower door-hinge pillar was recorded. The dummy was otherwise not injured because the seat belt and the front and side airbags did their jobs and kept it in its seat.
In particular, the agency awarded the Model a superior rating for its standard front crash prevention system because it was able to avoid crashes when traveling at both 12 mph and 25 mph on the track tests. The only headlights the Model 3 offers also get a good rating, which is great because most other standard headlights suck.
IIHS’s rating follows a five-star rating (the highest available) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the Model 3. The Model 3's design keeps parts like the battery and motors close to the center of gravity, which minimizes “rotational kinetic energy.”
Also, Tesla told us its passenger compartment is “rigid” and has a “fortified” battery pack, which diverts crash forces away from the cabin. It’s fascinating stuff and David did a great job breaking it down. You should have a look.
Anyway, the Model 3 is the second EV to get a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, following the Audi E-Tron.
The crash test videos are below, if you’re interested.