The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has honored 15 vehicles with their Top Safety Pick+ honor.
The organization has long used crash tests as a key element for rating vehicles, including hits to the front driver's side, but this year the institute added a new test: crashes to the front on the passenger side.
New model-year 2018 vehicles to earn the plus designation include the BMW 5 Series; Genesis G80 and G90; Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport; Kia Forte sedan and Soul; Lincoln Continental; Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan and GLC; Subaru Impreza, WRX, Legacy and Outback; and Toyota Camry.
The institute conducts crash tests and evaluates automobile safety standards. The latest awards are the first to factor in a passenger-side crash test.
"Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are", said IIHS President Adrian Lund.
Every year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety names only a handful of vehicles with its Top Safety Pick+ honor.
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Of the hundreds of vehicle models on the road today, only 15 have earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating for 2018 due to tougher safety requirements when it comes to passenger side front collisions.
Two automakers make up much of the list. Hyundai, also the owner of the Kia and Genesis brands, produced six models earning the top award, while Subaru has four, the IIHS said in announcing its annual list.
Headlights weren't factored in for the 2017 Top Safety Pick, and an acceptable headlight rating was enough to bump a 2017 award victor into the "plus" category. All but one of the seven vehicles in Subaru's lineup, the BRZ, qualified for one of the awards.
Despite safer vehicles, there was a 5.6 percent uptick in US auto crash deaths in 2016, the second consecutive year numbers were higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"The improvements in occupant protection have been awesome over the past decades", IIHS president Adrian Lund said in a statement. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.