The safest cars on the road: Is yours on the list?

Along with style, power and high gas mileage, you want a new car that will protect you in a crash. A good place to start is with vehicles awarded the top safety pick rating for 2012 by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which released its list Thursday of 115 winners.

To get that top rating, a car, van or SUV must stand up to crash tests simulating front, side, rear and rollover accidents. The rollover standard has proved especially difficult for many models in the past. IIHS President Adrian Lund noted that the original 2005 ratings contained only 11 models as top picks. The 115 that qualified this year are "a testament to the commitment auto makers have made to go above and beyond minimum safety standards," Lund said.

Photos: Safest 2012 cars -- See all 115!

Companies with the strongest showing included Subaru, which got top ratings for all five models it sells in the U.S. Toyota Motor North America got the most top picks, with 15 of its Toyota, Lexus and Scion models. That includes a top pick rating for the first time for the redesigned 2012 Camry. The Camry also got a 5-star rating in tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- more difficult now that those tests have been toughened for 2012 models.

Strong improvement from Honda

IIHS also cited Honda of America for the most improvement. Of the 18 vehicles new to top safety pick status this year, 10 of them were Honda or Acura models. "Honda buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection," says IIHS President Lund.

If you are shopping, you can find a top pick model in almost every category. Among high-mileage green cars, the Toyota Prius V -- the bigger version of the original Prius -- qualifies. So do the plug-in Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. IIHS is keeping its top rating for the Voltdespite an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into battery fires after Volt crash tests. The Institute says it found no special battery problems during or after its crash tests.

Safe bigger vehicles

Among bigger vehicles, three pickups got top rating: The Ford F-150 crew cab models, the Honda Ridgeline and the Toyota Tundra crew cab. Minivans offer an even bigger choice: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Volkswagen Routan all got the top rating

Here is a full list of vehicles that got the top safety pick designation:

Minicars
Fiat 500 built after July 2011
Ford Fiesta sedan & hatchback
Honda Fit
Toyota Yaris 4-dr hatchback

Small cars
Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic, Volt<
Ford Focus
Honda Civic 4-dr
Honda CR-Z, Insight
Hyundai Elantra
Kia Forte sedan
Kia Soul
Lexus CT 200h
Mazda 3 sedan & hatchback
Mini Cooper Countryman
Mitsubishi Lancer (except Ralliart & Evolution)
Nissan Cube, Juke, Leaf
Scion tC, xB, xD
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Toyota Corolla, Prius
Volkswagen Golf 4-dr
Volkswagen GTI 4-dr

Midsize moderately priced cars
Audi A3
Buick Verano
Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler 200 4-dr
Dodge Avenger
Ford Fusion
Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Subaru Legacy, Outback
Toyota Camry, Prius v
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

Midsize luxury/near luxury cars
Acura TL built after Sept. 2011
Acura TSX sedan & wagon
Audi A4
Lincoln MKZ
Mercedes C-Class
Volkswagen CC except 4wd
Volvo S60

Large family cars
Buick LaCrosse, Regal
Chrysler 300
Dodge Charger
Ford Taurus
Toyota Avalon

Large luxury cars
Audi A6
BMW 5 series except 4wd & V8
Cadillac CTS sedan
Hyundai Equus
Infiniti M except M56x 4wd
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes E-Class sedan
Mercedes E-Class coupe
Saab 9-5
Volvo S80

Small SUVs
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
Kia Sportage
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

Midsize SUVs
Chevrolet Equinox
Dodge Durango, Journey
Ford Edge, Explorer, Flex
GMC Terrain
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander, Venza

Midsize luxury SUVs
Acura MDX
Audi Q5
BMW X3
Cadillac SRX
Infiniti EX35
Lexus RX
Lincoln MKT, MKX
Mercedes GLK, M-Class
Saab 9-4X
Volvo XC60, XC90

Large SUVs
Buick Enclave
Chevrolet Traverse
GMC Acadia
Volkswagen Touareg

Minivans
Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan
Honda Odyssey
Toyota Sienna
Volkswagen Routan

Large pickups
Ford F-150 crew cab
Honda Ridgeline
Toyota Tundra crew cab

More from MoneyWatch:
Hottest new small cars for 2012
5 used cars NOT to buy
NTSB proposes ban on all cell phone use by drivers

  • Jerry Edgerton On Twitter»

    View all articles by Jerry Edgerton on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

Comments

Market Data

Market News

Stock Watchlist