IIHS releases picks for safest cars of 2018

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released its list of the safest vehicles for 2018.

Most cars on the top pick lists only qualified when they came with optional equipment, such as automatic emergency braking.

The models that earned the top ranking for 2018 so far are the BMW 5 Series, Kia Forte sedan, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, Lincoln Continental, Kia Soul, Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Subaru Impreza, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Subaru WRX, and Toyota Camry, according to Consumer Reports.

This year, vehicles must receive a good or acceptable rating passenger-side protection in the small overlap front crash test to get the institute's highest ranking.

"We're pleased to have so many vehicles recognized by IIHS, especially with the completely redesigned 2018 Camry receiving its highest safety award", said Chris Nielsen, executive vice president of product support and chief quality officer of Toyota Motor North America.

They've also bumped up standards for headlights. The sole Subaru model that did not qualify was the BRZ.

In contrast, headlights weren't factored in for 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK, and an acceptable headlight rating was enough to bump a 2017 award victor into "plus" territory.

New passenger offset tests lowers number of top-ranked vehicles. This institute conducts crash tests and evaluates automobile safety standards.

The first official passenger-side ratings were released in October, following research tests previous year. Fifteen of those earning its highest award despite tougher criteria requiring better headlights and enhanced passenger side protection.

Across manufacturers, the vast majority of winners qualify only when optionally equipped because front crash prevention and acceptable or good headlights aren't part of their base trims.

IIHS is placing more emphasis on the impact of headlights on the safety rating of new vehicles. In order to meet the top ranking, and in some instances, simply being a "Top Pick", the vehicle must be upgraded. Automakers have committed to making this technology standard by 2022. Over the years, IIHS has added to and strengthened criteria for both awards, pushing automakers to speed up safety advances.

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