Cars have gotten a lot safer in recent years, and that trend seems to have accelerated just in the past year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released its annual list of Top Safety Picks. The big news is that 72 vehicles earned the Institute’s highest ranking this year, more than double the number of 2008 models and more than three times the number of 2007 winners.

To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a car has to  receive the Institute’s highest rating of Good in front, side, and rear crash protection, including a Good rating in an assessment of head-restraint safety; and it must offer electronic stability control.

For the first time, there is at least one vehicle in every segment Consumer Reports tests that earns a Top Safety Pick award, giving consumers the ability to find a safe car, no matter their budget or transportation needs. All Acura and Subaru models earn Top Safety Pick awards. The IIHS doesn’t test two-seat roadsters, but three four-passenger convertibles made the grade: the Saab 9-3, Volkswagen Eos, and Volvo C70.

In addition to the 72 Top Safety Picks, another 26 models earn Good front- and side-crash-test scores and offer electronic stability control, but don’t have good head-restraint designs. While rear impacts are rarely fatal, they produce a high percentage of injuries in auto accidents.

Virtually all cars now earn Good front crash scores, but not all have Good side-crash scores and rear-impact scores.

It is important when choosing a new car to also consider its dynamic performance relative to safety. Consumer Reports Safety Ratings factor insurance industry and government crash tests, when available, as well as our own dry braking, wet braking, and accident avoidance test findings. On the model overview pages at ConsumerReports.org, we provide a complete breakdown of how each tested model fares in the full range of safety evaluations.

Below are the lists of 2009 Top Safety Picks, as well as those "Also-Ran" models that lack only good seat/head restraint designs.

Large cars
Acura RL
Audi A6
Cadillac CTS
Ford Taurus
Lincoln MKS
Mercury Sable
Toyota Avalon
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Acura TL, TSX
Audi A3, A4
BMW 3 Series sedan
Ford Fusion with optional ESC
Honda Accord sedan
Mercedes C Class
Mercury Milan with optional ESC
Saab 9-3
Subaru Legacy
Volkswagen Jetta, Passat

Midsize convertibles
Saab 9-3
Volkswagen Eos
Volvo C70

Small cars
Honda Civic sedan with optional ESC (except Si)
Mitsubishi Lancer with optional ESC
Scion xB
Subaru Impreza with optional ESC
Toyota Corolla with optional ESC
Volkswagen Rabbit 4-door

Minicar
Honda Fit with optional ESC

Minivans
Honda Odyssey
Hyundai Entourage
Kia Sedona

Large SUVs
Audi Q7
Buick Enclave
Chevrolet Traverse
GMC Acadia
Saturn Outlook

Midsize SUVs
Acura MDX, RDX
BMW X3, X5
Ford Edge, Flex, Taurus X
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe, Veracruz
Infiniti EX35
Lincoln MKX
Mercedes M Class
Nissan Murano
Saturn Vue
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota FJ Cruiser, Highlander
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V, Element
Mazda Tribute
Mercury Mariner
Mitsubishi Outlander
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Large pickups
Ford F-150
Honda Ridgeline
Toyota Tundra

Small pickup
Toyota Tacoma

Also-Rans
These 26 vehicles earn good ratings in front- and side-crash tests. They have ESC, standard or optional. They would be 2009 Top Safety Pick winners if their seat/head restraints also earn good ratings:

Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler Sebring, Sebring convertible, Town & Country
Dodge Avenger, Grand Caravan
Infiniti G35, M35
Kia Amanti
Lexus ES, GS, IS
Mazda CX-7, CX-9
Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Endeavor
Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, Quest, Xterra
Saturn Aura
Smart Fortwo
Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Prius, Sienna


by Colombo Law
Last updated on - Originally published on