The winners of the Top Safety Pick awards are finally here! Though it might not be a huge surprise that the list keeps growing, it’s still good news that 90 cars received the award in 2021.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced the winners across two categories. The first is the Top Safety Pick and the second is the Top Safety Pick Plus. You can see the full list in the announcement that the IIHS issued.
I should note for those fans and followers of the IIHS who love trivia that the reason it’s the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is that insurance companies supply funding for the organization. We actually did an in-depth feature into how IIHS works that you can read here:
This year, IIHS gave Hyundai Motor Group the most awards across its Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands, but Volvo won the most of any single carmaker because of course it did. It’s Volvo.
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The three brands that make up Hyundai Motor Group received 12 Top Safety Picks and five Top Safety Pick Plus ratings. Volvo took nine of the highest awards, the Plus awards. Pluses? Oh, these awards have awkward names. Even so, that’s the rating you would want for your next car purchase.
I will note that there isn’t a huge margin separating the two awards, and the IIHS says the distinction comes down to headlights:
Both awards require good ratings in all six IIHS crashworthiness tests — driver- and passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. Award winners must be available with front crash prevention that earns a superior or advanced rating in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations. Last but not least, TOP SAFETY PICK winners must be available with good or acceptable headlights. The “plus” designation is given to models that have good or acceptable headlights across all trim levels and packages.
This might seem trivial, but car companies have been very weak on headlights for base model trims, if not all levels.
So, the difference comes down to what carmakers offer as standard features on their model lineups, but I would still want to know that my new car had the highest award — as opposed to my current hatch, which likely offers Nissan Tsuru levels of crash safety.
Of course, there were many more winners than just Hyundai and Volvo. This year there were minivans and one pickup on the winner’s list. Both the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna took the top awards. The Ram 1500 Crew Cab also took an award, minus the plus distinction and with one caveat: The Ram got the award when equipped “with optional front crash prevention.” Again, those model trims and options do matter, so don’t let dealers get away with making blanket statements about a model’s safety.
There were some disappointments. Mitsubishi did not receive any award this year, and GM took only two. GM is huge! That’s wild. The Mitsubishi news is disappointing; Mitsu has been noted for its lack of safety before. There was a good bit of news when the Outlander received the Top Safety Pick in 2018, but 2018 is a while ago now. Let’s hope Mitsu turns it around with its new Outlander.
Also, in case you were wondering, no, the GV80 Tiger Woods crashed in is not on this list of winners. That has more to do with the timing of its release, though, which was too recent to qualify for this batch of tests.