It all boils down to headlights when it comes to earning the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ award. Certain versions of the 2019 Toyota Avalon improved to a Top Safety Pick+ designation thanks to better headlights that augment its strong crash-test results, the IIHS said Thursday. Conversely, the latest award criteria dinged the refreshed 2018 Mazda 6 for its sub-optimal headlights.
Toyota’s bigger, grille-heavy 2019 Avalon full-size sedan received “Good” crash test scores all around minus an “Acceptable” for the challenging passenger-side small-overlap test. However, the Top Safety Pick+ designation applies to only Avalons fitted with optional LED projector headlights, which rated “Good.” The IIHS said that the standard LED reflector lights on Avalon XLE and XSE trims rate “Poor,” a big disparity.
The refreshed and newly-turbocharged Mazda 6, on the other hand, dropped the “+” from its designation previously to receive just a Top Safety Pick award, due largely to the change in requirements to earn the IIHS’s top-tier award. The institute deemed the Mazda’s headlights only “Acceptable” with the curve-adaptive lights in the range-topping Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trim levels. The non-adaptive headlights in other trims earned just a “Marginal” score.
That was enough to warrant the slight dip in ratings for this year, despite acing all crash tests and offering “Superior” optional crash prevention technology.
The IIHS rates headlights on a four-level scale. “Good” is the best rating, followed by “Acceptable,” “Marginal,” and “Poor.”
The new awards criteria have been a scourge on the small SUV market, with just the 2018 Mazda CX-5 receiving a top score, but sedan models have fared slightly better, with the 2018 Hyundai Sonata, 2018 Kia Optima, 2018 Subaru Legacy, and 2018 Toyota Camry all receiving the Top Safety Pick+ designation in the mid-size sedan segment.