Safest Cars of 2023

Each year, we post a list of the safest new car models as chosen by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). For 2023, the IIHS is strengthening its requirements for its top tier TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+ award winners.

IIHS Strengthens Requirements

To allow a vehicle to be awarded, the IIHS is requiring better side crash protection and better pedestrian detection crash avoidance systems than in years past. It is also requiring better headlights from qualifying cars, trucks, and SUVs.
 
Because of these new criteria, the field of award winners for 2023 has been narrowed to just 48 cars and only 28 of those earned the highest ranking as TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners. By way of comparison, last year, before these changes to award requirements, there were 101 winners, and 65 vehicles earned the highest ratings.

What is the IIHS?

Before we reveal which new vehicles won the nation's most coveted safety awards for 2023, let's look back at what the IIHS represents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit scientific organization that is focused on reducing injuries and deaths from automobile crashes through its research of all makes and models of vehicles.
 
According to the IIHS, it was founded in 1959 by three major insurance associations representing 80 percent of the U.S. auto insurance market. It was originally conceived to support highway safety efforts and reinvented a decade later as an independent research organization focused on reducing crash losses. The IIHS carries out vehicle research to test cars for crash avoidance and crashworthiness. The organization works to improve vehicle design for safer cars as well as looks for ways to improve road design and driver behavior.
How IIHS picks the Safest Cars
The IIHS puts automobiles through a series of tests including crash-testing new cars models. It determines safety rating by measuring crash-test dummies, checking survival space, as well as seatbelt and airbag effectiveness. Basically, the IIHS is dedicated to preventing automobile crashes and mitigating the damage they cause.
 
Cars being tested are drained of fluids and gasoline is replaced with a less volatile substance. Each car is prepped with targets and inch tape to measure deformation and how they collapse in a crash scenario. Video cameras and crash-test dummies are placed in the car. Sensors in the dummies measure impact to the body and measurements from vital organs matter most. Greasepaint on the dummy's face, hands and legs is used to determine contact with hard surfaces in the vehicle.

Tests conclude how much of the occupant compartment is crushed in a crash and how effective seat belts and airbags are to the survival of passengers. IIHS analysts review crash-test video to check how fast airbags deploy and how well seatbelts keep the dummies from sustaining injuries that would kill a human being.

In order to determine a car's safety rating, the IIHS uses six kinds of crash tests on each vehicle. Because frontal crashes are the most fatal, there are three frontal crash tests at various speeds and crash scenarios. There are side impact tests to both the driver and passenger side that simulate being hit by an SUV or pickup truck. It also employs a roof strength test to see if a vehicle's roof would be crushed more than five inches in a rollover crash. For the Whiplash Test, the car's seat is attached to a sled with a crash-test dummy seat belted firmly. This test simulates the impact of a rear-end collision. Readings determine if the dummy would sustain neck injuries.
 
When all the tests are completed and evaluated, the IIHS assigns a rating to the car. These ratings are Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor. Each year the organization changes the criteria for these awards and recommends that consumers consider purchasing vehicles that have received TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards.
This Year's Winners
"The number of winners is smaller this year because we're challenging automakers to build on the safety gains they've already achieved," said IIHS President David Harkey. "These models are true standouts in both crashworthiness and crash prevention."

 Vehicles must earn a Good or Acceptable rating in overall testing to qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK and must ace all Good ratings to get a TOP SAFETY PICK+ award. An updated side crash test now involves 82 percent more energy than previous tests to simulate side crashes by bigger SUVs and pickup trucks. Another new evaluation this year involves nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention, collision warning systems, and the effects of  headlights in new cars. In years past, a model of car could win an award by just having certain trim levels that include headlights that win Good evaluations. Now, all trim levels must include better headlights as standard. Vehicles must also have an automatic emergency braking feature (known as AEB systems) to help prevent collisions with pedestrians.
 
For 2023, Toyota and Lexus brands took the most awards in each category earning nine TOP SAFETY PICK+ and six TOP SAFETY PICK awards. Honda and Acura took Six TOP SAFETY PICK+ and two TOP SAFETY PICK awards. Mazda came in third place with four TOP SAFETY PICK wins. According to the IIHS, vehicles of almost every size and class made the cut, including plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. "It's exciting that these manufacturers have been so swift to implement the substantial design changes and technological advancements that these new requirements demand," said Harkey. "We're confident that the number of winners will continue to grow throughout the year.

Please note that as of this writing, many automakers had not submitted their 2023 models for evaluation under the new requirements.



TOP SAFETY PICK Winners

The following vehicles have achieved Acceptable or Good ratings in all testing including the new side crash test, the new rating for headlights, and an Advanced or Superior rating for daytime pedestrian crash avoidance.
  • Honda Civic (sedan and hatchback)
  • Mazda3 (sedan and hatchback)
  • Toyota Corolla (sedan and hatchback)

  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Mazda CX-30
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Subaru Forester
  • Toyota RAV4 and RAV4 Prime Plug-in Hybrid
  • Toyota Venza
  • Ford Explorer
  • Mazda CX-9
  • Lincoln Nautilus

TOP SAFETY PICK+ Winners

The following vehicles took the highest ratings by the IIHS for 2023 models. All have Good ratings in the new side crash tests as well Good or Acceptable ratings for the new headlight evaluation, and Advanced or Superior ratings for nighttime pedestrian crash prevention.
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota Camry
  • Genesis G90
  • Honda CR-V
  • Honda HR-V
  • Lexus UX
  • Subaru Solterra EV
  • Hyundai Palisade
  • Kia Telluride
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Subaru Ascent
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Volkswagen ID.4 EV
  • Acura MDX
  • Acura RDX
  • Infiniti QX60
  • Lexus NX and NX Plug-in Hybrid
  • Lexus RX
  • Tesla Model Y EV
  • Volvo XC90 and XC90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid
 
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Toyota Sienna
  • Rivian R1T EV
  • Toyota Tundra (crew cab and extended cab)