Car and Driver
Even when it was just seatbelts and airbags a lot of work went into determining if new vehicles are safe or not, and now manufacturers are adding more driver-assistance safety features as standard equipment to new models. The effort has helped, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded 90 new cars with Top Safety Pick ratings. That’s a dramatic increase from the 64 vehicles that earned it previously.
We’ve put together a list of 2021 model-year crossovers and SUVs that scored Top Safety Pick+ ratings, the IIHS’ highest honor. Many were also given five-star crash-test ratings from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). To earn a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, a model must score Good ratings in all six crash tests. It must also earn a Good or Acceptable rating for headlights and score a rating of Advanced or Superior in front crash-prevention systems. If you’re still curious about how the IHHS and NHTSA preform these tests, we’ve explained all of them here. Just remember, keep your eyes on the road, your hand off your phone, and your seatbelt buckled.
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With 25 vehicles, the compact luxury crossover and SUV segment is crowded, but the Acura RDX is one of just two with a five-star rating from NHTSA and high honors from IIHS. It rides with Good ratings on its IIHS crash-test report card, and Superior and Advanced for crash mitigation. Forward-collision warning and an automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control are all standard safety features. Adding the $2900 Technology package unlocks blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic monitoring.
GM’s new C1xx platform is the underpinnings of the Cadillac XT6 and GMC Acadia. According to the IIHS, the passenger-side front door hinge pillar and A-pillar were reinforced, and models built after October 2019 received improved side curtain airbags. Cadillac’s newest three-row also received a five-star rating from NHTSA. Its safety ratings are strong, and safety features like automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist are both standard. A $1300 Driver Assist package available on XT6 Premium Luxury trim or higher, adds adaptive cruise control, rear-automated emergency braking, and seat belts that automatically tighten during emergency braking.
If you’re in the market for an eight-passenger three-row SUV that starts at under $34,000, the Kia Telluride is a good choice, but its cousin, the Hyundai Palisade, has higher safety ratings. The difference is in the headlights. The Palisade received a Good rating for its standard LED Projector high- and low-beam headlights, where the lower trim Telluride’s halogen projectors were given a Poor rating. The nearly identical vehicles were given the same ratings in all six crash tests. Both received a five-star rating from NHTSA. The Palisade has important driver-assist features like automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptable cruise control on every model.
A new Lexus NX is in the works for this year, but for now, the current NX comes with a slew of standard safety features. Every NX comes with automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Not only did the NX receive a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, it’s also been given a five-star rating from NHTSA. Across all six IIHS crash tests, the NX returned Good ratings. A Superior rating was awarded for both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention systems, and the NX avoided impact with the crossing child and crossing adult dummies in those four tests.
We put 40,000 miles on our long-term Mazda CX-5 in under two years—40,000 trouble-free miles, we might add. The CX-5 is rated Good across all crash tests, with a Superior rating in vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention, and an Advanced rating for vehicle-to-pedestrian mitigation. NHTSA gave it a five-star rating as well. Standard safety tech includes automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. The bigger 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen added for 2021 should help too, especially for Signature models with an improved 360-degree camera and rear automated emergency braking.
Sure the Mercedes-Benz GLE-class might have the second-highest base price on the list, but it’s the only one here designed to bounce its way out of a bad situation. Unfortunately, the air suspension’s party trick isn’t part of the testing. The GLE-class SUV and Coupe received a five-star rating from NHTSA, and a Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS. Standard features like automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The safest way to play is to add the optional $1950 Driver Assistant Package Plus, which adds over 10 extra assistant features like adaptive cruise control, active speed-limit assist, and evasive steering assist. Adaptive high-beam assist can also be added as part of the $900 Exterior Lighting package.
Several SUVs in Nissans lineup received a restyling or debuted a completely new generation model. The Nissan Rogue, Rogue Sport, Armada, Pathfinder, Kicks, hell, even the 16-year old Frontier pickup finally got some attention. Not the Murano. Although it looks like the same ole mid-size SUV, Nissan did make its optional Safety Shield 360 driver’s assistance package standard across trims for 2021. That means every Murano now includes automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beams, among others. It was recently added as an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and given a five-star rating from the NHTSA.
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
The Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid is an impressive fuel-sipper with an EPA-estimated 90 MPGe combined mileage. This little hybrid goes far, and it’s one of the safest subcompact crossovers for sale today. The Crosstrek earned Good and Superior IIHS ratings in every test. With an extra credit given for easy-to-access child-seat anchors. The model is so closely related to the Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback that both models share the same ratings. We crashed our long-term Subaru Impreza hatchback a crash mitigation comparison test. Of the four cars, the Crosstrek was the only vehicle to avoid a collision using its EyeSight Driver Assist at 45 mph. The Cadillac CT6, Tesla Model S, and Toyota Camry all hit the target at lower speeds. The Crosstrek Hybrid is the most expensive version of the model, and as such includes a bunch of safety features optional in lower trims. Every Crosstrek Hybrid has EyeSight Driver Assist that includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, as well as high-beam assist, blind-spot detection, cross-traffic alert. The Crosstrek Hybrid will also alert you if a pedestrian is walking near the vehicle if you’re traveling under 20 mph.
The Toyota Highlander seats up to eight passengers (seven on higher trims with second-row captain’s chairs), and is available with a 295-hp V-6 or a hybrid powertrain that gets an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined. The Highlander received a five-star rating from NHTSA, and a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. During vehicle-to-vehicle crash prevention tests, the Toyota Safety Sense detection system prevented collision for 12 mph and 25 mph tests. The Highlander earned a Superior rating for front crash prevention, and Good ratings across all six crash tests. Every Highlander comes with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic high-beam assist.
Volvo XC60 and XC60 Recharge
The XC60 and the XC60 Recharge plug-in hybrid are compact luxury crossovers with the likes of the Porsche Macan, the BMW X3, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC-class. The XC60 was given a five-star rating by the NHTSA, and awarded a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS for scoring Good in all six of its crash tests. Its front-crash mitigation systems scored a Superior rating against vehicles, and an Advanced rating when avoiding pedestrians. Every XC60 uses the same LED reflector high- and low-beam headlights, which the XC60 scored an Acceptable rating for, after the IIHS noted low-beam glare, but adequate in all other areas. Standard safety features for X60 include automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode.
Volvo XC90 and XC90 Recharge
Like the rest of the Volvo lineup, the XC90 offers a copious standard safety features, a few of which are only available on optional packages elsewhere. The biggest standard features are forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and active cruise control. The XC90 scored Good ratings in all six IIHS crash tests, with Superior and Advanced ratings in front crash mitigation. A five-star rating from NHTSA was also awarded.
NHTSA and IIHS Crash Test Safety Ratings Explained
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