Japanese brands dominate the insurance industry's rankings of the safest vehicles for the 2016 model year.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said Thursday that 48 vehicles earned its highest rating of "Top Safety Pick Plus." That's up from 33 a year ago.
Toyota, Honda and Subaru had the most winners, with 23 combined. Volkswagen and its luxury brand, Audi, had seven winners. Volvo, Hyundai and Mazda each had multiple winners. The Chrysler 200 was the only domestic car to earn the designation.
To be a "Top Safety Pick Plus," vehicles must get the top score in all five of the group's crash tests. Winners must also offer advanced front crash-prevention systems with automatic emergency braking. The institute says several vehicles added automatic braking in 2016 so they could compete for the top prize, including the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon.
Before this year, winners could get a lower score on the small overlap front crash test, which is the institute's newest and most challenging test. It replicates what happens when the front corner of a car hits a fixed object. Some previous winners, such as the Toyota Sienna minivan, dropped off the list this year because they didn't earn the top score on that test.
Adrian Lund, the institute's president, said the group tightened its requirements in order to recognize the progress that some automakers are making and encourage others to follow.
The institute noted that automatic braking is standard on the Scion iA, a $16,000 subcompact. It was the only minicar to earn the designation. Only a handful of other vehicles, all of them luxury models, offer automatic braking as a standard feature. Most offer it as an option.
Thirteen vehicles, including five made by General Motors Co., earned the institute's second-highest rating of "Top Safety Pick." Among those was the Buick Encore, which earned the highest scores on the institute's crash tests but doesn't offer automatic braking.
Rankings from the Insurance Institute - which is funded by the insurance industry - are closely watched by automakers and consumers.
How Vehicles are Scored
A vehicle can make the Top Safety Pick list by scoring a "Good" rating in the small overlap front test, the moderate overlap front crash, side crash, roof strength and head restraint tests.
To qualify for the Top Safety Pick+ list, a vehicle must meet the above standards and also include a frontal collision autobraking system that scores as "Advanced" or "Superior."
2016 Top Safety Pick+ List
Minicar: Scion iA
Small cars: Acura ILX, Lexus CT 200h, Mazda3, Subaru Crosstrek, Subaru Impreza, Subaru WRX, Volkswagen Golf (four-door and SportWagen models), and Volkswagen GTI (4-door)
Midsize moderately priced cars: Chrysler 200, Honda Accord coupe, Honda Accord sedan, Mazda 6, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius V, Volkswagen Jetta, and Volkswagen Passat
Midsize luxury/near-luxury cars: Audi A3, BMW 2 Series, Lexus ES, Volvo S60, and Volvo V60
Large family car: Toyota Avalon
Large luxury cars: Acura RLX, Audi A6 (built after January 2015), Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti Q70 (not V8 AWD models), Lexus RC, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Volvo S80
Small SUVs: Fiat 500X (built after July 2015), Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4
Midsize SUVs: Honda Pilot and Nissan Murano
Midsize luxury SUVs: Acura MDX, Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Lexus NX, Volvo XC60, and Volvo XC90
2016 Top Safety Pick List
Small cars: Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Soul, and Nissan Sentra (autobrake not tested)
Midsize moderately priced car: Chevrolet Malibu Limited (fleet model)
Small SUVs: Buick Encore and Nissan Rogue (autobrake not tested)
Midsize SUVs: Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, and Kia Sorento
Midsize luxury SUV: Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class (autobrake not tested)
Minivans: Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona
Large pickup: Ford F-150 SuperCrew
2016 IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus and Top Safety Picks revealed
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