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Toyota tops in auto safety test, while U.S. makers lag

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has picked 48 vehicles that meet its criteria as top of the line for safety, but only two are by U.S. automakers.

To earn top safety ranking, vehicles must have automated braking and front crash protection

The Scion iA won a top safety ranking from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the U.S. after passing the small overlap front crash test, which mimics a vehicle colliding with another vehicle or a lamp pole. (IIHS)

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has picked 48 vehicles that meet its criteria as top of the line for safety, but only two are by U.S. automakers.

The U.S. insurance group gives its Top Safety Pick+ award to vehicles that have a good rating in five crash-worthiness tests and a high rating for front crash protection.

The only domestic sedan to meet the criteria is the Chrysler 200, a mid-sized, moderately priced car that has forward collision warning and will brake automatically if the driver does not respond to an alert.

The IIHS has toughened its criteria to get a Top Pick rating, adding automatic braking and enhanced front crash protection, which are becoming increasingly common on new model cars.

RAV4 is among the safest

Toyota has nine models that win the top award. Among the top Toyota vehicles are the RAV4, which is being made in Cambridge, Ont., and the Avalon, a large family car, which both had automatic braking added this year.

Other automakers to have several models win the top award are Honda with eight Top Safety Pick+ awards and Subaru with six.

Volkswagen/Audi had seven winners, including the Golf, Jetta and Passat, which are now falling under suspicion by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because of diesel engines that don't pass emissions tests.

For the first time a low-priced mini-car has also won the top award. The Scion iA has been rated advanced for front crash prevention.

This year, the IIHS demands that winning vehicles pass the small overlap front crash test, a challenging test that mimics the front corner of a vehicle colliding with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.

Ford has just one winning model this year, the F-150, its redesigned aluminum-body pickup, which passes the small overlap front crash test, unlike its other pickups.

Among the other vehicles that got the top award:

  • Small cars: Acura ILX, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza.
  • Mid-sized cars: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius.
  • Large luxury cars: Audi A6, Volvo S80.
  • Small SUV: Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander.
  • Large SUV: Acura RDX, Lexus NX.

IIHS president Adrian Lund said vehicles are much safer now than when the IIHS first started giving a safety ranking in 2006.

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