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Insurance Institute: Top 10 safest cars
See the top 10 as rated in crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
December 5, 2005: 12:12 PM EST
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Ford Five Hundred
Ford Five Hundred

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego, when equipped with optional side airbags, earned a Gold "Top Safety Pick" award for large cars from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Audi A6 was given the Silver award for large cars.

The Five Hundred and Montego are corporate "twins," stylistically different versions of the same car.

Vehicles that received Gold awards earned "good" ratings -- the best possible -- for front-, side- and rear-impact protection. Vehicles that were rated good for front- and side-impact protection and "acceptable" for rear-impact protection earned Silver awards.

Pickups and SUVs weren't included in this round of awards because side impact tests of most of these vehicles haven't been conducted yet.

Ten vehicles in all achieved those ratings. Of those, five are made by sister-companies Volkswagen and Audi. Those vehicles all won Silver awards.

Among midsized cars, the Saab 9-3 and Subaru Legacy received Gold awards. Among small cars, only the Honda Civic earned a Gold award, the only car in its class to perform well in the side-impact crash test.

The are some surprising omissions from the list of winners. There no Volvos, for example, among the winners. Volvo, which is part of Ford Motor Company, has traditionally marketed its vehicles as being particularly safe.

"Volvo is lagging behind its competitors," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Institute. Other car companies with strong reputations for safety also did not have vehicles represented among the winners.

A spokesman for Volvo denied that the company's vehicles are any less safe than the Institute's top-rated vehicles.

"Not true," Dan Johnston, a Volvo spokesman, said of the notion that Volvo was "lagging" in safety.

"It's just a philosophy on safety that is different from building cars to pass these kinds of tests," he said.

The company's cars are extremely safe based on Volvo's own tests and they are built to protect occupants in real-world crashes, he said, which are more complex events than a crash test could reasonably reproduce.

The Institute did not choose any pickups or SUVs because side-impact tests on most of these vehicles have not been completed yet.

No minivans were selected because none met the criteria for an award. While the Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna minivans performed well in front and side crash tests, their headrests, which protect against neck injury in rear-end impacts, were rated Marginal or Poor, the Institute said.

"The new awards mean consumers can compare cars' ratings more quickly and easily," said Institute president Brian O'Neill. "And when we test new car designs as they are introduced next year, it's possible that some additional models will be added to the 2006 Top Safety Picks."

All of the winning vehicles have side airbags designed to protect occupants' heads.

Automakers were told earlier this year that the Institute would be giving special recognition to cars that performed best on the Institute's safety tests. The Institute offered to conduct early tests on any vehicle a manufacturer felt might win a safety award.

"A number of automakers requested early tests, and based on our discussions with the automakers we believe no other 2006 models would meet our Top Safety Pick criteria," said O'Neill.

The top 10 follow:

Large Cars

Gold: Ford Five Hundred/Mercury Montego (Twin vehicles)

Silver: Audi A6

Midsized cars

Gold: Saab 9-3

Gold: Subaru Legacy

Silver: Audi A3

Silver: Audi A4

Silver: Chevrolet Malibu with optional side airbags

Silver: Volkswagen Jetta

Silver: Volkswagen Passat

Small car

Gold: Honda Civic 4-door


No winners

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