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When people think of car safety, they typically consider carefully negotiating traffic, pedestrians, and other objects while driving from point A to point B. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests many of the most popular vehicles each year and awards the safest models its highest honor, Top Safety Pick+. Historically, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have received top honors. But their 2022 models fall behind rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson. And the IIHS promises to add even more stringent testing criteria in 2023. 

Let’s take a look at this year’s IIHS awards and why the CR-V and RAV4 failed to earn the highest ratings.

2022 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award winners

IIHS awards Toyota RAV4 Honda CR-V Top Safety Pick
IIHS Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards | Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

For 2022, 65 vehicle models received IIHS Top Safety Pick+ awards, including Honda and Toyota models. The Small SUV category saw 10 winners from automakers such as Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Volvo. However, Honda and Toyota failed to capture Top Safety Pick+ awards in the Small SUV category. Instead, they received the lower Top Safety Pick award for their CR-V and RAV4 models. 

The IIHS awards Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ to vehicles that pass a series of crashworthiness tests such as the small overlap front from driver and passenger side, the moderate overlap front, and the original side crash test. In addition, they perform tests on roof strength, seats, and head restraints.

The organization also evaluates other criteria, including child seat anchors, automatic crash prevention systems, and headlight effectiveness. A car must score acceptable or good in every category to receive Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+.

The criteria for both awards are similar, but the key difference lies with the availability of acceptable or good headlight options. IIHS awards Top Safety Pick honors to vehicles with the option for acceptable or good headlights on select trim levels. At the same time, Top Safety Pick+ is only for cars with acceptable or good headlights across all trim levels. 

The IIHS began awarding Top Safety Pick to eligible vehicles in 2006. As technology progressed, the nonprofit organization added Top Safety Pick+ in 2013. The methods the IIHS uses in crash testing and the tests themselves continue to evolve over the years. Since the beginning, as far back as 2003, the institute has used the standard side crash test. In 2012, it added a small overlap front crash test for the driver’s side. And five years later, the IIHS added a similar test for the passenger side.

The 2022 Honda CR-V’s IIHS testing results

The Honda CR-V is a safe, reliable, and popular small SUV. With seating for five, enough cargo space for a family’s groceries, and good fuel economy for an SUV, the 2022 CR-V deserves consideration.

In any trim level, the CR-V is a safe and reliable vehicle. The only marks the IIHS gave against Honda’s compact crossover are marginal headlight performance on the base model and acceptable rather than good ratings for the updated side crash test and the child seat anchor LATCH ease-of-use categories.

The 2022 Toyota RAV4 at a glance

Like the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 isn’t unsafe because it failed to win the IIHS’ top honor. Except for its headlight score being acceptable or marginal depending upon trim level, every other test is top-tier.

The 2022 Toyota RAV4 received good ratings in IIHS crash tests and even a good+ rating for child seat LATCH ease of use. However, it missed Top Safety Pick+ because the RAV4 offers an upgraded headlight system only on select trim levels.