• 2013 Toyota RAV4 named Top Safety Pick
  • Scored Good in four IIHS tests
  • Still must undergo new small overlap front test

The all-new Toyota RAV4 is a Top Safety Pick. That's the latest from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which recently examined the redesigned RAV4 in a series of crash tests.

To earn the Top Safety Pick designation, a vehicle must earn the highest score of Good in four IIHS crash tests: moderate overlap front, side, rear and rollover.

In the moderate overlap front test, a car crashes head-on into a barrier on the driver's side. The side test assesses how a vehicle performs when hit in the side by an SUV or pickup traveling 31 miles per hour. The rear test focuses on how occupants deal with whiplash. Finally, the rollover test assesses a vehicle's roof strength.

While the Top Safety Pick designation was once the IIHS's highest honor, the group now awards an even more coveted Top Safety Pick + award. To earn that distinction, vehicles also must perform well in the new small overlap front test. In that test, vehicles crash into an object on the driver's side front corner. The IIHS says the test simulates hitting a tree or utility pole.

The RAV4 is still eligible for the Top Safety Pick + award, since it hasn't yet completed the new small overlap front test. In earning the Top Safety Pick award, it joins many rival compact SUVs, such as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. The Mazda CX-5 and Chevrolet Equinox are also Top Safety Picks.

The RAV4 was completely redesigned for the 2013 model year. Now in its fourth generation, the latest RAV4 dropped its V6 engine and available third-row seating. Today's model offers a 176-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and a standard automatic transmission. Prices start at around $24,000 for a base-level RAV4 LE.

According to IIHS, the only crossover to earn the Top Safety Pick + rating so far is the Volvo XC60. Other models may soon earn the distinction as the group conducts more small overlap front tests.

What it means to you: Families interested in the 2013 Toyota RAV4 can breathe easier knowing the compact crossover is a Top Safety Pick.

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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