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You’ll often hear the acronym IIHS, and it stands for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In short, these are the folks that independently test cars, trucks and SUVs and measure their safety. It’s different from the NHTSA, which is the government agency that tests cars for safety. In its tests of 2023 models, however, only two midsized cars earned the IIHS’s top grade.

What makes the Subaru Outback four-door wagon and the 2023 Toyota Camry four-door sedan so safe?

What is the Midsize Cars IIHS Top Safety Pick + designation?

The IIHS rates cars as Top Safety Picks or Top Safety Pick +. While the Top Safety Pick is a safe car, the little plus symbol means a bit more. In this case, it’s based on five bonus criteria in addition to meeting other safety criteria:

  • Good ratings for the driver and passenger side tests
  • A Good rating for the updated side impact test
  • Acceptable or good headlights standard
  • Advanced or superior raring for daytime vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention
  • Advanced or superior rating for nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention

As you can see, the IIHS doesn’t just worry about the people in the cars, but pedestrians who aren’t in your car, too.

The 2023 Subaru Outback is a 2023 IIHS Top Safety Pick +

2023 Subaru Outback Parked in a Field - SUV Owner Loyalty Ranks the Outback Pretty High
2023 Subaru Outback | Subaru

The Subaru Outback is a capable, all-wheel drive, four-door wagon that does a great job of of approximating and SUV. The Subie is not known for its power or thrills, but it makes up for that with better ground clearance than most sedans and its wagon back adds practicality. The Outback starts at about $29,620, but for $6,000 more you can upgrade from the base 182-horsepower four-cylinder to a 260-horsepower turbocharged motor that significantly improves acceleration.

However the base car comes well-equipped. Every Outback has heated and powered seats, as well as a large screen or in upper trim versions, two stacked screens, and dual-zone climate control. On the safety side, it comes standard with what Subaru calls EyeSight, which adds forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and you can order blind-spot monitoring. That safety system likely helped the Subaru earn the + in the Top Safety Pick +.

The 2023 Camry is an IIHS Top Safety Pick +

Front angle view of 2023 Toyota Camry midsize sedan, showing most common complaints, how reliable it is, and repair costs
2023 Toyota Camry | Toyota

The Camry has long been one of the best-selling midsize cars available. It’s easy to see why because Toyota has made sure it’s reliable, comfortable, safe, economical, and for 2023 even kind of stylish. The base car starts at about $28,000 and does everything you want a car like this to do very well. Sure, the base engine is boring, and the optional V6 adds power. But you’re never going to take this car to a dragstrip, even if you get the upgraded TRD version.

You can order a Camry with a hybrid booster, which means you can get up to 53 mpg on the highway, however that’s not much better than the base car’s 47 mpg with the four-cylinder motor. These cars are indeed frugal. But they’re also safe, with standard lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning and even automated emergency braking. For 2023, you even get two years of free scheduled maintenance.