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New headlight tests reduce number of IIHS Top Safety Pick+ winners

It's interesting how adding one new criterion can change things.


Last year, 79 vehicles achieved Top Safety Pick+ honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This year, a new test culled the herd significantly, with only 38 models on the list.

This year marked the addition of a headlight test into IIHS' criteria. Cars that offer insufficient illumination or excessive glare are unable to achieve Top Safety Pick+. Only seven 2017 models received a "Good" rating for headlights -- Chevrolet Volt, Honda Ridgeline, Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai Santa Fe, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Prius V and Volvo XC60.

Some cars missed out on Top Safety Pick+ due to the way their features are bundled together. The Infiniti Q70, for example, bundles its crash prevention systems with a set of headlights the IIHS rated "Marginal." The Hyundai Tucson suffered a similar fate, since the headlights offered on cars equipped with crash prevention systems were rated "Poor."

This is in addition to last year's testing change, which required some semblance of autonomous emergency braking to capture the group's top safety honor. IIHS noted that more models now come with autonomous emergency braking as standard equipment. In fact, 21 of the 38 winners this year (both TSP and TSP+) include this system as standard equipment.

Toyota and Lexus walked away from this year's testing with nine different Top Safety Pick+ winners, the most of any automaker. Right on its heels was Honda and Acura with five winners.

The list will probably grow again next year. Every time the IIHS adds new criteria for Top Safety Pick+, automakers spend the next year preparing cars to meet and beat these tests. It happened with the small-offset crash test, it happened with the autonomous emergency braking requirement, and it'll happen again with headlights.