The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently added a new test that should make it harder for a vehicle to earn the NGO's highest safety accolade, but nobody told that to the 2018 Hyundai Elantra.
The IIHS announced that the 2018 Elantra has earned the Top Safety Pick+ award, which is given to a vehicle that performs admirably in a battery of safety tests and performance evaluations. Previously, it had earned the second-best award, Top Safety Pick, but it passed the IIHS' latest crash test, earning itself a promotion.
That new test is the passenger-side small overlap front crash test. A mirror of the driver-side test instituted a few years ago, the IIHS started testing this crash on the passenger side to ensure automakers would protect front passengers as well as drivers. While the Elantra received a rating of Good for the driver side test, it only scored Acceptable on the passenger side, which is still a passing grade. The Elantra received a Good rating for four other crash tests, as well -- moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and seats/head restraints.
It should be noted that only Elantras built after December 2017 have earned the Acceptable rating for passenger-side small offset collisions. Hyundai added reinforcements to the door pillar and sill to reinforce the passenger side, likely specifically to score well on this test. Automakers have made similar moves in the past to ensure the highest ratings possible, even if it means making adjustments in the middle of a car's product cycle.
But it's not just about crashes. The IIHS also evaluates driver-assist systems, and the Elantra received a Superior rating when equipped with its optional automatic emergency braking system, part of the car's Ultimate Package. That same trim also gives the car a set of HID projector headlights that received a Good rating for illumination and lack of glare. Its standard headlights are rated Poor for inadequate visibility.
The 2018 Elantra is one of five small cars (and the only Hyundai) with the IIHS' highest safety rating -- the other winners are the 2018 Kia Forte, 2018 Kia Soul, 2018 Subaru Impreza and 2018 Subaru WRX. The Elantra's five-door cousin, the , remains stuck in the Top Safety Pick bucket.