The safety advocacy group, which performs a variety of crash tests on vehicles, added two new tests in the past year: one for improved headlights, which was included in the 2017 "Top Pick Plus" ranking, but not in the "Top Pick" results, and the new passenger-side small overlap front crash.
They've also bumped up standards for headlights.
The institute rates front crash prevention by conducting low- and moderate-speed track tests of vehicles with automatic braking systems.
To qualify for either award, vehicles must earn the a good rating in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations, as well as earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
"Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are", said IIHS President Adrian Lund.
The 2018 list of the safest vehicles is out, and just 15 earned the highest rating, down from 69 past year.
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Overall, Hyundai posted six vehicles and Subaru four in the "Top Pick Plus" category.
"Cars are safer now than they ever have been", Lund believes with even more improvements in crash test performance and headlights, vehicles will be even safer down the road.
The Crosstrek, Impreza, Legacy, Outback and WRX were top performers in the test according to IIHS and received its "Good" rating. Kia and Subaru models were among the highest rated; no minivans, pickups or mini-cars made the cut.
Across manufacturers, the vast majority of winners qualify only when optionally equipped because front crash prevention and acceptable or good headlights aren't part of their base trims.
As more 2018 models are tested, IIHS will expand the list. Automakers have committed to making this technology standard by 2022.
"The improvements in occupant protection have been awesome over the past decades", he said in a statement.
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