January 2nd, 2013 by Steve Cypher

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has posted its list of the safest cars for 2013 that includes a new über category

Helping drivers be careful out there

Earlier today the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its latest list of the safest cars (so far) in 2013.

At the very top of the list is a new super safe category the Institute is awarding that it has dubbed “Top Safety Pick+” – roughly the automotive safety equivalent of double secret probation, if we get their drift.

This newest “accolade” which has been bestowed on 13 cars, requires top marks in all previously-required IIHS evaluations as well as a “good” or “acceptable” rating in the new IIHS “small overlap test.”

Small overlap test

For those of you unfamiliar with this newest frontal overlap test, we’ll let the IIHS explain what it is:

Most automakers design their vehicles for good performance in the IIHS moderate overlap frontal test and the federal government’s full-width frontal test, but many haven’t addressed the problem of small overlap crashes. In a 2009 IIHS study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants. The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25 percent of a car’s front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph.

In the previous moderate overlap frontal test, roughly 40 percent of a vehicle’s front end on the driver side struck a barrier just over 2 feet tall constructed with a deformable face made of aluminum honeycomb.

Both tests are more stringent than that of the NHTSA which is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a “full frontal” test.

Top Safety Pick+

For 2013, the Top Safety Pick+ winners are, in alphabetical order, the Acura TL, Dodge Avenger, Chrysler 200 4-door, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord 2-door, Honda Accord 4-door, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima 4-door, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Suzuki Kizashi, Volkswagen Passat and Volvo S60.

“Of the 29 models evaluated so far in our small overlap frontal crash test, these 13 cars offer the highest level of all-around crash protection,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “We’re pleased to recognize them with our new Top Safety Pick+ award for 2013.”

Hail and farewell

For those of you out who enjoy irony, there is more than a bit of it going on here as the Kizashi, from the automotive division of American Suzuki Motor Corporation that recently declared bankruptcy, is, according to the IIHS, “the only midsize moderately priced car with a good rating for structure.”

Running changes help some winners

It should be noted that Honda engineered both the Accord Coupe and sedan based on the new testing procedures, while Ford and Nissan made running structural changes to the Fusion and Altima that were already in production.

Subaru and Volkswagen, for their part, changed the airbag control modules on their models that were also in production so the side curtain airbags would deploy in a way that resulted in improved occupant head protection.

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