Along with style, power and high gas mileage, you want a new car that will protect you in a crash. A good place to start is with vehicles awarded the top safety pick rating for 2012 by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which released its list Thursday of 115 winners.
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To get that top rating, a car, van or SUV must stand up to crash tests simulating front, side, rear and rollover accidents. The rollover standard has proved especially difficult for many models in the past. IIHS President Adrian Lund noted that the original 2005 ratings contained only 11 models as top picks. The 115 that qualified this year are "a testament to the commitment auto makers have made to go above and beyond minimum safety standards," Lund said.
Companies with the strongest showing included Subaru, which got top ratings for all five models it sells in the U.S. Toyota Motor North America got the most top picks, with 15 of its Toyota, Lexus and Scion models. That includes a top pick rating for the first time for the redesigned 2012 Camry.
The Camry also got a 5-star rating in tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- more difficult now that those tests have been toughened for 2012 models.
Strong improvement from Honda
IIHS also cited Honda of America for the most improvement. Of the 18 vehicles new to top safety pick status this year, 10 of them were Honda or Acura models. "Honda buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection," Lund said.
If you are shopping, you can find a top pick model in almost every category. Among high-mileage green cars, the Toyota Prius V -- the bigger version of the original Prius -- qualifies. So do the plug-in Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. IIHS is keeping its top rating for the Volt despite an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into battery fires after Volt crash tests. The Institute says it found no special battery problems during or after its crash tests.
Safe bigger vehicles
Among bigger vehicles, three pickups got top rating: The Ford F-150 crew cab models, the Honda Ridgeline and the Toyota Tundra crew cab. Minivans offer an even bigger choice: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Volkswagen Routan all got the top rating.
Here is a full list of vehicles that got the top safety pick designation:
| Fiat 500 built after July 2011 ||Ford Fiesta sedan & hatchback |
| Honda Fit ||Toyota Yaris 4-dr hatchback |
| Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic, Volt || Ford Focus || Honda Civic sedan |
| Honda CR-Z, Insight || Hyundai Elantra || Kia Forte sedan |
| Kia Soul || Lexus CT 200h || Mazda 3 sedan & hatchback |
| Mini Cooper Countryman || Mitsubishi Lancer (except Ralliart & Evolution) || Nissan Cube, Juke, Leaf |
| Scion tC, xB, xD || Subaru Impreza except WRX || Toyota Corolla, Prius |
| Volkswagen Golf 4-dr || Volkswagen GTI 4-dr || |
Midsize moderately priced cars
| Audi A3 || Buick Verano || Chevrolet Malibu |
| Chrysler 200 4-dr || Dodge Avenger || Ford Fusion |
| Honda Accord || Hyundai Sonata || Kia Optima |
| Subaru Legacy, Outback || Toyota Camry, Prius v || Volkswagen Jetta sedan |
| Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen || || |
Midsize luxury/near luxury cars
| Acura TL built after Sept. 2011 || Acura TSX sedan & wagon || Audi A4 |
| Lincoln MKZ || Mercedes C-Class || Volkswagen CC except 4wd |
| Volvo S60 || || |
Large family cars
| Buick LaCrosse, Regal || Chrysler 300 || Dodge Charger |
| Ford Taurus || Toyota Avalon || |
Large luxury cars
| Audi A6 || BMW 5 series except 4wd & V8 || Cadillac CTS sedan |
| Hyundai Equus || Infiniti M except M56x 4wd || Lincoln MKS |
| Mercedes E-Class sedan || Mercedes E-Class coupe || Saab 9-5 |
| Volvo S80 || || |
| Honda CR-V || Hyundai Tucson || Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags |
| Kia Sportage || Subaru Forester || Volkswagen Tiguan |
| Chevrolet Equinox || Dodge Durango, Journey || Ford Edge, Explorer, Flex |
| GMC Terrain || Honda Pilot || Hyundai Santa Fe |
| Jeep Grand Cherokee || Kia Sorento || Subaru Tribeca |
| Toyota Highlander, Venza || || |
Midsize luxury SUVs
| Acura MDX || Audi Q5 || BMW X3 |
| Cadillac SRX || Infiniti EX35 || Lexus RX |
| Lincoln MKT, MKX || Mercedes GLK, M-Class || Saab 9-4X |
| Volvo XC60, XC90 || || |
| Buick Enclave || Chevrolet Traverse |
| GMC Acadia || Volkswagen Touareg |
| Chrysler Town & Country || Dodge Grand Caravan || Honda Odyssey |
| Toyota Sienna || Volkswagen Routan || |
| Ford F-150 crew cab ||Honda Ridgeline||Toyota Tundra crew cab|