• IIHS rates safety in three categories.
  • Vehicles with the best possible ratings are named Top Safety Picks.
  • All four models are new for 2013.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit dedicated to reducing injury, death and property damage that results from motor vehicle crashes, named four new models that earn its Top Safety Pick designation. All with new designs for 2013, Dodge Dart, Subaru XV Crosstrek, Hyundai Santa Fe and Lexus ES scored the best possible ratings in each of four categories.

IIHS performs three crash tests--front impact, side impact and roof strength--and also evaluates performance in rear-end collisions by evaluating seats and head restraints. IIHS recently introduced a new test called the small overlap front crash test, but it has not yet evaluated these four models using that test. Any vehicle that scores a top rating of Good in every test category gets the Top Safety Pick designation.

Through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal government rates vehicle safety, too. But none of these new models has yet been rated on the NHTSA's 5-Star scale.

The 2013 Dart is an all-new compact sedan. Safety is bolstered by 10 standard airbags and extensive use of high-strength steel, which is lighter but stronger than conventional steel. Reid Bigland, Dodge-brand President and CEO and Head of U.S. Sales, says expectations for the Dart were high.

"Since its launch, the 2013 Dodge Dart has consistently outperformed in the area of fuel efficiency, technology, value for the money and now safety," Bigland said. "It is truly a groundbreaking new car."

The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek is also a new model, but it's based closely upon the Impreza, which was new for 2012 and was already named an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The Hyundai Santa Fe arrives completely redesigned. Its predecessor, the previous generation from 2007-2012, was also a Top Safety Pick.

Not so for the 2013 Lexus ES. This sixth-generation luxury sedan is the first ES to earn a top rating from IIHS.

Neither IIHS nor NHTSA rates every vehicle, every year, so checking both is important in researching new car safety. And ratings do not always agree. But a Top Safety Pick designation from IIHS is certainly an important endorsement for any new model.

What it means to you: Four new models in four categories offer Top Safety, according to IIHS--the efficient Dodge Dart, the adventerous Subaru XV Crosstrek, the spacious Hyundai Santa Fe and the luxurious Lexus ES.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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