For studying 2010 models, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety added a new roof-strength test to the already-rigorous test it used before. Increasingly, the tests address specific circumstances under which drivers and passengers are injured and killed in collisions.
Aimed at protecting passengers in roll-over collisions, the new requirement reduced the number of top-rated vehicles to 27 for 2010 models, compared with 94 in 2009.
To become a top safety pick, a vehicle has to have the group's top rating in front, side, rollover and rear-impact crash tests. It must also have electronic stability control, which helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles in situations that might result in crashes, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Large cars that received the top rating were the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS and Volvo S80.
Midsize cars with the top rating were the Audi 3, Chevrolet Malibu built after Oct. 2009, Chrysler Sebring with optional ESC, Dodge Avenger with optional ESC, Mercedes C Class, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Jetta 4-door, Passat 4-door and Volvo C30.
Top safety picks for small cars were the Honda Civic 4-door, Kia Soul, Nissan Cube, Subaru Impreza, and the Volkswagen Golf 4-door.
Top picks for midsize SUVs were the Dodge Journey, Subaru Tribeca, Volvo SC60 and Volvo XC90.
Among small SUVs, the winners were the Honda Element, Jeep Patriot, Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Toyota, says its Camry came close to perfection but fell short in the rear-impact test. Their spokesman called the institutes findings “extreme and misleading” since only three of their 38 vehicles were tested for roof strength. BMW had no picks but says its cars pass rollover tests conducted internally.