Crash tests have been part of the IIHS's playbook for years to make sure drivers are protected, but this year it chose to add tests to see how well passengers are protected.
Fifteen vehicles earned the IIHS's top safety pick award including several of Hyundai'sKia and Genesis models. It was this test that caused the significant drop in the number of vehicles earning the top rating.
"We developed this test when it became clear that some manufacturers were not paying attention to the passenger side", said Adrian Lund, IIHS president.
The Institute's headlight ratings also are relatively new, with the first ones being released in March 2016. Initially, few performed well in IIHS track tests, which measure how well low beams and high beams illuminate the road ahead on the one hand, and the amount of glare they produce for drivers of oncoming vehicles on the other.
The models that earned the top ranking for 2018 so far are the BMW 5 Series, Kia Forte sedan, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, Lincoln Continental, Kia Soul, Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Subaru Impreza, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Subaru WRX, and Toyota Camry, according to Consumer Reports. All but one of the seven vehicles in Subaru's lineup, the BRZ, qualified for one of the awards.
Four of the top 15 this year were made by Subaru.
The vast majority of award winners only qualify when optionally equipped with front crash prevention and acceptable or good headlights aren't part of their base trims, the institute said.
As more 2018 models are tested, IIHS will expand the list.
"All automakers have pledged to make auto braking standard equipment on their vehicles by 2022", said Lund. If the pattern holds, they'll have to score a good rating next year to make the 2019 list.
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