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27 vehicles (19 cars and 8 SUVs) earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick award for 2010, substantially lower than for 2009, the IIHS announced recently.  The main reason for the lower number of recipients is that the IIHS added a requirement that the vehicles must score a “good” in a roof strength test to measure protection in a rollover is required to win. 94 vehicles earned the Top Safety Pick for 2009.

Ford was the big winner for the 2nd year in a row, earning 6 Top Safety Picks, while Volkswagen and Subaru were next with 5 each.  Chrysler earned 4, and IIHS commented specifically on Chrysler’s efforts, saying, “… continuing a recent trend of improving the crashworthiness of its vehicles.”  Notable in their absence from the list are Toyota (which includes 28 Toyota, Lexus and Scion models), and BMW.

3 of the best selling midsize cars notably didn’t make the list. Honda Accord and Ford Fusion just missed scoring a “good” on the roof strength test or they would have earned the Top Safety Pick.  Toyota Camry would have qualified with good ratings, except for its rear crash evaluation.  Camry’s seats and head restraints are rated marginal for protection against whiplash injury.

Keep in mind that all cars and trucks have to pass certain safety standards to be for sale in the US; the IIHS evaluates vehicles to determine which are the safest, according to their own standards.  In some ways, the IIHS is at odds with the federal government, which promotes fuel economy.  In the IIHS press release, they say, “Keep in mind vehicle size and weight, because larger, heavier vehicles generally afford better protection in serious crashes than smaller, lighter ones.  Even with a Top Safety Pick, a small car isn’t as crashworthy as a bigger one.”  All things equal, a “larger, heavier vehicle” will get poorer fuel economy than a “smaller, lighter vehicle.”  The smaller, lighter one will also generally be more maneuverable, thus helping avoid the accident in the first place.  My point is simply to remind you that there is no one way to evaluate a potential vehicle purchase.  Use your common sense (if you have any) to look at how the vehicle scores on many different criteria.

Here is the IIHS’s complete list of Top Safety Picks for 2010:

Large cars
Buick LaCrosse
Ford Taurus
Lincoln MKS
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Audi A3
Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler Sebring 4-door with optional electronic stability control
Dodge Avenger with optional electronic stability control
Mercedes C class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Passat sedan
Volvo C30

Small cars
Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
Kia Soul
Nissan Cube
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Volkswagen Golf 4-door

Midsize SUVs
Dodge Journey
Subaru Tribeca
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Honda Element
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

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