This Year's Highest Raters in IIHS Safety Crash Tests

This Year's Highest Raters in IIHS Safety Crash Tests

It's similar to the existing small front overlap test, a rigorous evaluation that crashes a vehicle into a barrier at 40 miles per hour with just 25 percent of the driver-side front end striking the obstacle.

"That company had six Top Safety Pick+ winners there", Lund said.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is out with its latest list of the safest vehicles. The addition of optional curve-adaptive headlights that earn a good rating boosts the Camry to TOP SAFETY PICK+. Toyota led the pack with 11 vehicles in the "Top Pick Plus" and "Top Pick" categories combined with Hyundai (9) and Subaru (7) taking the next two spots.

"Fifteen vehicles meeting these new tougher criteria for top safety pick plus is a good news story for consumers", said Lund.

"Toyota and Lexus remain committed to providing safe and reliable vehicles and we're proud to have Toyota Safety Sense and Lexus Safety System+ as standard equipment on nearly every new model in our line-up".

IIHS in October began evaluating the passenger side of vehicles in its small overlap front crash test after it said it became clear that automakers were neglecting that side of the vehicle as they focused on improving driver-side protections.

This year, only 15 vehicles met the stricter criteria for the TPS+ award and another 47 earned the regular TPS (without the +) award.

"Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are", says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "We've been doing small overlap frontal crash tests on the driver's side since 2012 and we've seen a lot of improvement on that side but we weren't seeing that kind of for passengers".

However, there is a problem with the rankings overall. The TOP SAFETY PICK+ accolade was introduced in the 2013 model year to recognize vehicles that offer a superior level of safety. In short, base models rarely make the grade.

Four of the top 15 this year were made by Subaru. Seven models with standard autobrake - the Toyota Camry, Corolla, Prius, Prius Prime and Highlander and the Lexus IS and NX - also have standard acceptable or good headlights and qualify for TOP SAFETY PICKwithout any added options. Automakers have committed to making this technology standard by 2022.

The Institute's headlight ratings also are relatively new, with the first ones being released in March 2016.