The Weekly Driver

Website • Podcast • Newsletter
Established 2004

Ford, Volvo, Honda, Acura dominate Institute For Highway Safety's 34 Vehicles Top Pick

Ford, Volvo, Honda, Acura dominate Institute For Highway Safety's 34 Vehicles Top Pick 1The Institute for Highway Safety has selected its 2008 Top Safety Pick award recipients, and automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet the criteria. The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on ratings in the Institute’s tests.


Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC), which research shows can significantly reduce the risk of crashing.

At the beginning of the 2007 model year, 13 models qualified, but as manufacturers have made changes and introduced new and safer vehicle designs, 10 additional vehicles qualified during the year. Now another 11 vehicles are being added to the list for 2008. Designating winners based on the tests makes it easier for consumers to identify vehicles that afford the best overall protection without sifting through multiple sets of comparative crash test results.

Eight vehicles from Ford and its subsidiary, Volvo, make the list of winners for 2008. Seven winners are from Honda and its subsidiary, Acura.

For first time pickups are eligible: Pickup trucks haven’t been eligible to win Top Safety Pick until now because the Institute hadn’t begun side testing them. The Toyota Tundra is first to qualify. Pickups aren’t as likely as cars or SUVs to have side airbags or ESC, and Toyota has made these features standard in the Tundra.

Protection in rear impacts improves: Crash tests have driven major improvements in the designs of all kinds and sizes of passenger vehicles.Ford, Volvo, Honda, Acura dominate Institute For Highway Safety's 34 Vehicles Top Pick 2

The Institute began frontal crash tests for consumer information in 1995. Side tests were added in 2003 and rear tests in 2004. Most vehicles now earn good ratings in the frontal test, but significant differences still are apparent in vehicle performance in side and rear tests.

The Institute’s frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of frontal offset crash tests at 40 mph. Each vehicle’s overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures from a Hybrid III dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.Ford, Volvo, Honda, Acura dominate Institute For Highway Safety's 34 Vehicles Top Pick 3

Each vehicle’s overall side evaluation is based on performance in a crash test in which the side of the vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph that represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented SID-IIs dummies, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle’s structural performance during the impact. compartment.

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry — the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. Seats with good or acceptable restraint geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph.

Here are the 34 Top Safety Pick Award Recipients:

Large Cars
Audi A6, Ford Taurus (with optional electronic stability control), Mercury Sable (with optional electronic stability control), Volvo S80.

Midsize Cars
Audi A3, A4, Honda Accord, Saab 9-3, Subaru Legacy (with optional electronic stability control).

Midsize Convertibles
Saab 9-3, Volvo C70.

Small Cars
Subaru Impreza (with optional electronic stability control).

Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona.

Midsize SUVs
Acura MDX, RDX, BMW X3, X5, Ford Edge, Taurus X, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Veracruz (built after August 2007), Lincoln MKX, Mercedes M class, Saturn VUE (built after December 2007), Subaru Tribeca, Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC90.

Small SUVs
Honda CR-V, Element, Subaru Forester (with optional electronic stability control).

Large Pickup
Toyota Tundra.


Twenty-three vehicles earn good ratings in front and side crash tests. They have ESC, standard or optional. They would be 2008 Top Safety Pick winners if their seat/head restraints also earned good ratings:

Acura RL/TL, BMW 3 series, Chrysler Sebring (convertible), Infiniti M35/M45, Kia Amanti, Lexus IS 250/350, ES 350, GS 350/460, Nissan Pathfinder, Xterra (both with optional side airbags), and Quest; Toyota Avalon, Camry, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Prius, RAV4, and Sienna; Volkswagen Eos, Jetta, Passat, Rabbit.


To get our weekly newsletter with automotive news and commentary delivered to your email inbox.