November 22nd, 2006 by Jeb Foster
The kind of car you drive affects your insurance premium. If you drive a muscle car, the chances are good your insurance costs will be higher than if you drove a station wagon.
In general, a safer car means a lower premium. (Unless you drive a really safe Bentley or Rolls, in which case the value of your car might offset any safety savings. Luxury cars are more expensive to insure.)
On Tuesday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognized 13 cars for their safety features. Four cars, seven sport utility vehicles, and two minivans earned “Top Safety Pick” distinction.
The institute says this year’s crop of cars underwent an even more rigorous evaluation process. The ratings were based on performance in high-speed front-, side- and rear-impact crash tests.
In addition to giving a performance grade for the three crash tests, the institute required that winners have ESC, or electronic stability control. (Read Insurance Blog posts on ESC here and here.) It is the first year the institute has imposed the restriction. The result is that no American cars made this year’s list. Two made it last year.
Showing the import of making the institute’s list, at least one U.S. car manufacturer is scrambling to modify one of its cars to be eligible for next test. Ford says it will add ESC to its 2008 Freestyle in hopes of getting the safety nod.
The German carmaker Audi, whose A6 was snubbed last year because of poor whiplash protection, changed its headrests in order to make the list this year. Their A4 and A6 models earned Top Safety Pick awards.
CNN Money has pics of all 13 award-winning cars. (Incidentally, they have a gallery of the most reliable cars, too. The only car that makes lists for safety and reliability: the Honda CR-V, which is pictured above.)
The best images, though, are the nine renderings of futuristic green (as in environmentally friendly) cars. The most unlikely appearance on this list comes from Hummer. Strange as it sounds, their 02 may be the most fascinating concept on the list–that and the VW Nanospyder.