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IIHS rates the safest cars of 2012

Jerry Edgerton
December 16, 2011

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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.

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.

2012 Toyota Prius V
2012 Toyota Prius V

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.

2012 Ford F-150
2012 Ford F-150

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:

Minicars






Fiat 500 built after July 2011               
Ford Fiesta sedan & hatchback               


Honda Fit
Toyota Yaris 4-dr hatchback


Small cars






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


Small SUVs






Honda CR-V     


Hyundai Tucson   


Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags


Kia Sportage


Subaru Forester


Volkswagen Tiguan


Midsize SUVs






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


Large SUVs






Buick Enclave                


Chevrolet Traverse                   


GMC Acadia


Volkswagen Touareg


Minivans






Chrysler Town & Country


Dodge Grand Caravan


Honda Odyssey


Toyota Sienna


Volkswagen Routan





Large pickups






Ford F-150 crew cab


Honda Ridgeline Toyota Tundra crew cab