Honda, Subaru and Volvo are making strides protecting the occupants of their cars, while big manufacturers such as General Motors are lagging behind, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety said Thursday, as it gave 22 vehicles its top safety pick rating.
Between its Honda and Acura lines, Honda landed six of the top spots.
To earn the "Top Safety Pick Plus" ranking, vehicles had to rate as "good" on four crash tests and have "good" or "acceptable" performance on a small-overlap crash, in which the front corner of a car hits an object. The vehicles also must have at least an optional forward collision warning feature that alerts drivers to the possibility of running into another car.
The requirements are stiffer than in previous years and are likely to get even harder as the institute works to make the collision warning standard on all cars.
"We want to show consumers which high-tech features are worth the money and encourage manufacturers to make them more widely available," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. "We intend to raise the bar higher."
Already, the forward collision warning is reducing vehicle-to-vehicle crashes by about 7 percent, according to insurance industry data. When it includes an automatic braking system, crash reduction more than doubles to 15 percent.
Honda has become an innovator, incorporating the latest technology into many of its vehicles and redesigning cars to better meet crash tests and protect occupants, Rader said.
Honda placed its Civic hybrid, both the two-door and four-door Accord sedan, its Odyssey minivan and Acura's RLX and MDX on the list.
Subaru's Legacy, Outback and Forester received the top rating, as did Volvo's S60, S80 and XC60. Mazda planted its Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5 in the highest ranking. Ford had two vehicles, the Fusion and the Lincoln MKZ. Toyota also had two, the Prius, as long as it was built after November, and the Toyota Highlander. Other top-ranked vehicles included the Infiniti Q50, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.
The number of vehicles earning the "Top Safety Pick" rating fell by 130 models from last year as the insurance institute raised criteria. There are now 139 models — the bulk of the market — without any safety endorsement from the institute.
Some of the largest manufacturers have lagged behind in adding active safety systems, such as collision warning and adaptive headlights. General Motors, for example, placed only its Chevrolet Spark, a small car that accounts for a tiny fraction of the nation's largest automaker's sales, on the "Top Safety Pick" list.