Here’s Every Car That Earned an IIHS Top Safety Award for 2023

mazda cx 50 2023 iihs jpg 2023 Mazda CX-50 | IIHS photo

A vehicle’s safety rating can be a make-or-break decision when shopping for a new car, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s annual Top Safety Pick awards provide a cheat sheet to identify which cars performed best in the agency’s crash tests and crash-avoidance evaluations. IIHS has released its list of Top Safety Picks for 2023, which includes 48 models across both Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ categories — less than half compared to the 101 models that qualified in 2022.

Related: 10 Mid-Size SUVs Ace New IIHS Crash Test, Popular Models Fall Short

Although the shrinking list of Top Safety Picks may alarm safety-minded shoppers, it’s important to note that a number of IIHS crash tests and crash-prevention criteria have been updated for 2023 with more stringent standards — a vehicle that received a Top Safety Pick award in 2022 wasn’t guaranteed a spot on this list. Shoppers shouldn’t assume these vehicles are no longer safe, however; the Top Safety Picks listed below simply held up better under the tougher testing conditions.

The Stricter Standards

IIHS Subaru Outback Crash Test scaled jpg 2022 Subaru Outback IIHS crash test | IIHS image

The most significant update to the 2023 awards is a new side impact crash test, which was launched in 2021 and now determines Top Safety Pick qualification. The side crash test uses a larger barrier moving at a faster speed to simulate a large SUV or pickup truck and evaluates how the test vehicle holds up under impact. To qualify for a Top Safety Pick award, vehicles must earn an acceptable or good rating; a good rating is required for the Top Safety Pick+ designation.

Another key update for 2023 involves preventing pedestrian crashes after dark. After finding that pedestrian detection systems often fail to work in the dark, IIHS required a Top Safety Pick+ vehicle to score an advanced or superior rating in the vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention test for both nighttime and daytime pedestrian evaluations. Only an advanced or superior daytime rating qualifies a vehicle for the lesser Top Safety Pick.

Lastly, IIHS updated the criteria for a qualifying vehicle’s headlight rating. In order to earn either award, a vehicle must offer acceptable or good headlights as standard across all trims — a change from previous years, when the Top Safety Pick designation required only one trim level to have acceptable or good headlights available.

2023 Models Earning IIHS Top Safety Pick+

  • Acura: Integra, MDX, RDX
  • Genesis: G90
  • Honda: CR-V, HR-V, Odyssey
  • Hyundai: Palisade
  • Kia: Telluride
  • Lexus: NX (including plug-in hybrid), RX, UX
  • Nissan: Pathfinder
  • Rivian: R1T
  • Subaru: Ascent, Outback, Solterra (examples built after October 2022)
  • Tesla: Model Y
  • Toyota: Camry (examples built after January 2023), Highlander, Sienna, Tundra (crew cab and extended cab)
  • Volkswagen: ID.4
  • Volvo: XC90, XC90 Recharge

2023 Models Earning IIHS Top Safety Pick

  • Ford: Explorer
  • Honda: Civic (hatchback and sedan, excluding Type R)
  • Hyundai: Sonata (examples built after December 2022)
  • Lexus: ES 350
  • Lincoln: Nautilus
  • Mazda: Mazda3 (hatchback and sedan), CX-30, CX-5, CX-50, CX-9
  • Nissan: Rogue
  • Subaru: Forester, Legacy
  • Toyota: Corolla (hatchback and sedan), RAV4, RAV4 Prime, Venza

Japanese Brands Top the Safety Charts

toyota tundra 2023 exterior oem 02 jpg 2023 Toyota Tundra | Manufacturer image

The top three automakers with the most overall awards for 2023 were Toyota, Honda and Mazda, and fellow Japanese automaker Subaru wasn’t far behind. Between Toyota and its luxury Lexus brand, 15 models earn a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ award; Honda and its luxury Acura brand earned eight total awards; and Mazda and Subaru qualified for six and five awards, respectively.

On the other hand, domestic and European brands had notably fewer vehicles earn an award compared to 2022. All-electric automakers Tesla and Rivian each came away with one Top Safety Pick+ for the Model Y and R1T, respectively. Meanwhile, Ford and its luxury Lincoln brand only earned a total of two awards compared to nine for 2022. GM brands Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC failed to earn any awards for 2023.

As for European automakers, Volkswagen only had one vehicle qualify — the all-electric ID.4 — while its Audi luxury brand along with rivals like BMW and Mercedes-Benz also fell off sharply and did not earn any awards for 2023.

SUVs, EVs Abound

honda crv 2023 01 exterior front angle scaled jpg 2023 Honda CR-V hybrid | photo by Jonathan Earley

As the popularity of SUVs holds strong, shoppers will find a wide range of options among the Top Safety Picks for 2023. Mid-size SUVs performed well in the agency’s updated side impact crash, so it’s not a surprise the class earned the most Top Safety Pick+ awards with a total of nine. Perhaps more surprising is that small SUVs earned the most awards overall (12 in total) despite the fact that many models faltered in the agency’s preliminary side impact testing.

Also notable is the number of all-electric and plug-in hybrid models that came away with a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ award: The Lexus NX 450h+, Rivian R1T, Subaru Solterra, Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4 and Volvo XC90 Recharge each earned a Top Safety Pick+, while the Toyota RAV4 Prime earned a Top Safety Pick.

What Changes for 2024?

img 1278144859 1442932074487 jpg 2019 Honda HR-V in IIHS driver's-side small overlap front crash test | IIHS image

IIHS says it will further tighten its award criteria in 2024 (which doesn’t necessarily mean such criteria will apply to model-year 2024, as IIHS typically applies these updates by calendar year). Only a good rating in the updated side impact crash test will qualify a vehicle for Top Safety Pick or higher — an acceptable rating will no longer cut it. Additionally, the agency’s updated moderate overlap front test will take effect, requiring a good or acceptable rating for the Top Safety Pick+ designation, which could spell bad news for small SUVs. However, a good rating in the original test will continue to qualify a vehicle for a Top Safety Pick.

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Former News Editor Jane Ulitskaya joined the team in 2021, and her areas of focus included researching and reporting on vehicle pricing, inventory and auto finance trends. Email Jane Ulitskaya

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