Safety First

America's Safest Vehicles: These 23 cars and SUVs earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating for 2020

Mazda is the automaker with the most vehicles to earn the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

This week the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released their list of the 2020 Top Safety Pick+ vehicles. The models earning this designation are the cream of the crop earning high marks for their safety features, crashworthiness, and headlight visibility.

To qualify as a 2020 Top Safety Pick+ winner, vehicles must score at least a Good rating in the driver-size small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. They must also get an Advanced or Superior rating for available front crash prevention — vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations. Finally, their headlights must be rated as Acceptable or Good.

The vehicles listed below checked all those boxes.

Acura RDX

2020 Acura RDX

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

The Acura RDX is a four-door midsize luxury SUV. It earned all Good crash test ratings and a mixed Good and Acceptable headlight rating (varies by trim level). It has Superior front vehicle-to-vehicle crash protection and Advanced front vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention.

Audi A6

2020 Audi A6

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The Audi A6 is a luxury large four-door sedan. It earned similar marks to the RDX with all Good crash test ratings and a mixed Good and Acceptable headlight rating (varies by trim level). It performed better in the front crash protection scenarios earning two Superior ratings.

Cadillac XT6

2020 Cadillac XT6Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Cadillac XT6 is a four-door midsize luxury SUV that is new to the market for 2020. This award only applies to models built after October 2019. It earns all Good crash test ratings, an Acceptable headlight rating, and Superior front crash protection ratings for its standard and available systems.

Genesis G70

2020 Genesis G70

Photo courtesy of Genesis Motor LLC

Despite being the smallest car Genesis builds, the G70 is categorized by IIHS as a four-door luxury large car. The ratings it earned apply only to models built after December 2019. While it earned all Good marks for crashworthiness, the car faltered a bit in the headlight test with the available headlights earning a Good rating while others got a less distinguished Passing rating. It has Superior front vehicle-to-vehicle crash protection and Advanced front vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention.

Genesis G80

2020 Genesis G80

Photo courtesy of Genesis Motor LLC

IIHS also categorizes the Genesis G80 as a four-door luxury large car. It too earned all Good crash test ratings. Its headlights took home Good and Acceptable marks. It has Superior front vehicle-to-vehicle crash protection and Advanced front vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention.

Honda Insight

2020 Hyundai Insight

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

The Honda Insight is a four-door small sedan with big appeal for commuters. It has earned the highest marks IIHS gives in each area it was evaluated. The Insight is one of the few models to earn just high praise.

Hyundai Nexo

2020 Hyundai Nexo

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Despite being from the Hyundai brand, the four-door hydrogen-powered SUV is categorized as a midsize luxury SUV by IIHS. This probably has something to do with its high price tag. The Nexo scored nearly all top-tier ratings. The exception is in the vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention test where it earned an Advanced rating.

Lexus ES

2020 Lexus ES

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

The 2020 Lexus ES 350 is a four-door midsize luxury car that was redesigned for the 2019 model year. It scored all Good ratings in the crashworthiness tests but earned just Good and Acceptable headlight ratings as the lights vary by trim level. It has Superior front vehicle-to-vehicle crash protection and Advanced front vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention.

Lexus NX

2018 Lexus NX

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

IIHS categorizes the four-door Lexus NX as a midsize luxury sedan. It, like the Honda Insight, earned all top-tier marks inn every testing category.

Mazda CX-3

2020 Mazda CX-3

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

As far as four-door small SUVs go, the Mazda CX-3 is one of the safest. It scored all Good ratings in the crashworthiness tests but earned just Good and Acceptable headlight ratings because the lights vary by trim level. It has Superior front vehicle-to-vehicle crash protection and Advanced front vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention.

Mazda CX-5

2020 Mazda CX-5

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

IIHS's ratings of the four-door Mazda CX-5 small SUV apply only to models with the available front crash prevention system. When equipped with that system, the CX-5 gets rated as having Good crashworthiness, Good and Acceptable headlights because the lights vary by trim level, Superior front vehicle-to-vehicle crash protection with its optional system, and Advanced front vehicle-to-vehicle (standard) and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention (available) with the systems.

Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback

2020 Mazda Mazda3

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The four-door Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback earned all top-tier ratings from IIHS except in the headlight test where it just had an Acceptable rating.

Mazda Mazda3 Sedan

2020 Mazda Mazda3

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Like the hatchback variant, the four-door Mazda Mazda3 small sedan earned all top-tier ratings from IIHS except in the headlight test where it just had an Acceptable rating.

Mazda Mazda6

2020 Mazda Mazda6

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The four-door midsize Mazda Mazda6 is slightly further into its current generation than the Mazda3, which could justify its less stellar ratings. Still, it got all Good marks in the six crashworthiness categories, Superior in the front crash prevention: vehicle-to-vehicle ratings, and Advanced in the front crash prevention: vehicle-to-pedestrian categories. The car's headlights earned Good and Acceptable headlight ratings as the lights vary by trim level.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, equipped with the available front crash prevention technology, earned nearly perfect ratings. The one holdback is the headlights category where the standard headlamps were only rated Acceptable whereas the available ones received a Good mark.

Mercedes-Benz GLE

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz GLE, equipped with the available front crash prevention technology, earned the exact same marks as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Nissan Maxima

2020 Nissan MaximaPhoto courtesy of Nissan North America

The four-door Nissan Maxima sedan is one of the models that earned a nearly perfect score. The only place where it faltered is with its headlamps, which scored just an Acceptable rating.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

The Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, earned a perfect score in all the categories IIHS tested.

Subaru Forester

2020 Subaru Forester

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

The Subaru Forester small SUV very nearly earned a perfect score. The one holdback is the headlights category where the standard headlamps were only rated Acceptable whereas the available ones received a Good mark.

Subaru Legacy

2020 Subaru Legacy

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

The Subaru Legacy's scores are the same as the Subaru Forester's. It got all Good marks except for its standard headlamps, which were only rated Acceptable whereas the available ones received a Good mark.

Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

The Subaru Outback's award only applies to vehicles built after October 2019. Those wagons all earned a perfect score in every category except the headlight test. The headlights earned Marginal, Acceptable, and Good marks, depending on the trim level.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Photo courtesy of Tesla

The Tesla Model 3 all-electric sedan earned all Good ratings in its crashworthiness test but didn't score quite as well in the front crash prevention: vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluation where it got just an Advanced rating.

Toyota Camry

2019 Toyota Camry

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

All of the Toyota Camry sedan's crashworthiness scores earned a Good rating. Its headlamps were only rated Acceptable whereas the available ones received a Good mark. The car's front crash prevention: vehicle-to-pedestrian system received an Advanced rating.

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The CX-50 is surpsingly capable off-road.

Mazda

I have driven all of the Mazda vehicles that have been sold in the US market over the past three decades. On everyday roads and on racetracks. I’ve appreciated their “zoom-zoom”. Good power. Punchy torque just where it was needed. Well-balanced and sporty handling. A bit of growl for the versions that called for it. Plus, tasteful-but-modest styling and more or less elbow room, depending on the model. Mazda’s have been made for sports-car enthusiasts and to ferry families. But, I had never known a Mazda called an “overlander”. Until now.

2023 Mazda CX-50Towing capacity extends to 2,000 pounds.Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 moves this traction-sophisticated automaker into the lands where the pavement ends and now takes the brand ‘off-track’. Although it’s not a new thing for many of today’s carmakers to add a backcountry model or two to their lineup, it’s new for Mazda. I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to check out this all-new crossover built on Mazda’s seventh-generation small SUV platform that is shared with the smaller CX-30. This 5-passenger utility is longer, lower and wider than the CX-5 that rides on the previous generation’s underpinnings. The CX-50 has been crafted with a roomier second row and more cargo room for the goods and gear that weekend warriors and adventurers want to carry.

The CX-50 comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation that gets 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbo-charged powerplant with 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque; both shift through a six-speed automatic transmission. The sport ute can tow up to 2,000 lbs. with the naturally aspirated motor and up to 3,500 lbs. with the turbo-charged mill and Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) that brings a tow mode as well as Normal, Sport and Off-Road. The newest Mazda model has been made for North America only and is built in Alabama. It is the first Mazda vehicle with auto start/stop that can be deactivated.

2023 Mazda CX-50Mazda is a master of upscale interiors. Mazda

The new crossover starts at $26,800 and comes in S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, and S Premium Plus with the base motor. Turb-charged versions come in Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus that tops out at close to $42,000. A long list of technology and safety features are standard or available. Mazda says that Meridian, a fourth turbo trim will arrive soon with even more off-road cred; it will be set up with 18-inch black wheels AT, hood graphics and other backcountry goodies.

When you look at the CX-50, the first thing you’ll notice is exterior styling that speaks to its adventure-ready mission. Muscular bodywork, such as extra cladding, wide fender flairs and larger, more aggressive tires mean that this crossover has been designed not only to give a nod to the looks of a rugged crossover but to provide enhanced traction and a tad more suspension stretch for motoring over uneven terrain and along bumpy dirt roads. Planted on its haunches with functional air vents, it eschews minivan styling with a low and wide footprint that allows owners to have easy access to high-strength roof rails for loading gear on top; the roof has been made stronger than other Mazda crossovers to accommodate heavier loads, such as a roof-top tent. A panoramic moonroof- a first for Mazda- and attractive antiglare hood graphics and are tasteful additions.

The interior is attractive and roomy, with horizontal lines and “cleanable” surfaces as a nod to outdoor endeavors. Our Turbo Premium Plus model had bright orange reverse stitching that popped the cabin that has been crafted with uplevel trims and materials and brought heads-up display. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard, while the top models get a 10.25-inch version. A wireless charging pad and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims. Of note, is the rear power and programmable liftgate to the wide and deep rear cargo compartment, with a load floor that flush with the liftgate opening to help slide heavy items in and out of the back. An available line of cargo accessories makes stowage easier.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 is family roadtrip ready.Mazda

How did it handle over the 200-plus miles of our ride and drive? The Turbo Premium Plus CX-50 offers a lot like; many of its driving attributes are consistent with Mazda’s tuning and handling priorities across its product line. Traveling along coastal highways, carving mountainous twisties with tight turns and accelerating on flat and straight well-graded pavement, it has great Mazda manners: i.e., there is enough power and torque in the right bandwidth to move it well; precise steering with a slightly heavily-weighted leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-modulated brakes, especially with towing a 3,500-lb. load. We enjoyed using Sport mode for carving corners, as it brings elongated shifts from the six-speed automatic; a crisp response comes when sport shifting in “manual mode” and provides a quick throttle response.

We tried out the Off-Road mode on a course that included flat and uneven dirt roads, as well as hill climb and descent. Although there is no downhill descent control system, the brakes worked well, along with manual gearing. Of note, Mazda would be wide to add downhill descent engineering for steeper and slicker terrain. We were able to test the difference between Normal and Off-Road over a special section of the course with sandy corners and a winding track at a speed of 30 mph showing the improved traction in the Off-Road programming and the aid of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control that brings a bit of magic to transfer torque to the wheels where it is needed to keep the intended track-think of it like an enhanced traction control program that helps with steering and yaw control.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 comes with off-road driving modes. Mazda

Other aids for off-road and backcountry travel are: the i-Activ All-Wheel Drive system that is standard equipment on all CX-50s, with a 50/50ish power transfer front to back; 8.6 inches of ground clearance; an 18-degree approach angle and a 24-degree departure angle; and an optional 360-degree camera system.

*EPA reports: base motor fuel economy 24 city/30 highway mpg, while the turbo option gets 23/29 mpg and can run on regular or premium fuel.

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New electric SUV

Honda teases its first EV

The Prologue will go on sale as a 2024 model.

Honda

Honda is nearing the unveiling of its first electric vehicle, the Prologue, and today the automaker gave us our first glimps of the new vehicle. It's just a sketch, but Honda did share some production details and information on its product roadmap.

Honda DealerHonda plans to sell half a million EVs by the end of the decade. Honda

Honda says the Prologue will be an adventure-ready SUV "capable of satisfying everyday driving and weekend getaways with a strong hint of the well-received Honda e in the front fascia." The SUV was developed in Honda's Design Studio in Los Angeles, and was designed with an eye on Honda's global EV models. Honda said it focused on aerodynamics and fine-tuning the body to reducelines and improve range.

The Japanese automaker developed the Prologue alongside GM, but it has other EVs coming to market by 2026. By 2030, Honda says it will release 30 new EVs globally with a production volume of two million units. The co-developed vehicle is the first, but the rest will be built on Honda e:Architecture. In 2027, the automaker will begin building and selling a line of affordable EVs using the architecture developed with General Motors. Honda says it plans to sell half a million EVs in North America by the end of hte decade.

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