With a total of 11, Hyundai has the most Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ vehicles in the industry. It’s an accolade the company last held in 2018 and a lot of the improvement is driven by better visibility.
The awards come from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from motor vehicle crashes. It is an industry trade group funded by insurance companies.
Top Safety Pick SUVs
Hyundai’s Top Safety Pick+/Top Safety Pick SUVs are
Hyundai Venue SUV – TSP with specific headlights
Hyundai Kona SUV – TSP with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights
Hyundai Tucson SUV – TSP with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights
Hyundai Santa Fe SUV – TSP with specific headlights
Hyundai Nexo SUV – TSP+
Hyundai Palisade SUV – TSP+
Hyundai Palisade SUV (2020 Model Year) – TSP with specific headlights
Top Safety Pick Cars
Hyundai’s Top Safety Pick winning cars are:
Hyundai Elantra – TSP with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights
Hyundai Elantra GT – TSP with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights
Hyundai Veloster – TSP with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights
Hyundai Sonata – TSP with specific headlights
To earn the Top Safety Pick+ designation, a vehicle needs good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It also needs an advanced or superior rating for available front crash prevention — vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations. Finally, it must have acceptable or good headlights standard – not available just as an option.
It’s headlights that earned the Hyundai Palisade its Top Safety Pick+ rating. It had the rating previously for some models until Hyundai eliminated inferior headlights on some trims. It now has LED headlights across all trim levels for the 2021 model year.
Why Headlights Are Important
As Torque News writer John Goreham pointed out, headlights are an important consideration when it comes to a vehicle’s safety rankings. In an article he posted, he writes, One of the most common reasons for headlights to earn a low score on IIHS testing is excessive glare. The headlights you see in oncoming traffic will blind you less due to the pressure IIHS is putting on automakers to do their jobs better.
Hyundai needs to up its headlight game across all trim levels. The company needs to make a commitment to offering the best lights to all buyers. It’s a price worth paying if the company is truly committed to safety.
As IIHS reminds us, “About half of all fatal crashes in the U.S. occur in the dark, and more than a quarter occur on unlit roads. Nevertheless, manufacturers have historically sold many models with several different headlight systems of varying quality.”
IIHS rates headlights on the distance that their low beams and high beams illuminate straight and curved roads. On a straightaway, good-rated low beams illuminate the right side of the road ahead to at least 325 feet. Poor ones might light up 220 feet or even less.
IIHS engineers also deduct points for headlights that produce glare that can momentarily blind oncoming drivers. Extra credit is awarded for systems with high-beam assist, a feature that automatically switches between high beams and low beams, since research shows that most drivers don’t use their high beams enough.
Here’s a video that explains the science behind how IIHS rates vehicles for headlight safety.
What do you think? Is too much emphasis placed on headlights? Should other measures be more important? Will these new headlights decrease nighttime accidents?
Keith Griffin covers Hyundai and Kia at Torque News. He has been writing continuously about cars since 2002. Keith used to be a researcher/writer for US News & World Report, as well as numerous car sites, including Carfax and Car Gurus, and a contributor to The Boston Globe. Most recently, Keith was the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter, on @LinkedIn and on his Indepth Auto Facebook page.