The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated three new 2010 models for crash safety and the results are good. The new Honda Insight hybrid, Kia Soul, and redesigned Toyota Prius earn the Institute’s Top Safety Pick award. The criteria for that award: cars must offer Good protection to front occupants in front, side, and rear collisions, as well as offering electronic stability control (ESC).
The Soul and Prius have standard stability control and standard front and rear curtain airbags and seat-mounted torso airbags. While the Insight also has standard curtain and torso airbags, its stability control comes only on uplevel versions. And that exposes a problem.
In Consumer Reports’ extensive testing, the Insight proved to be a handful in emergency situations, even with our uplevel EX’s stability control helping out. Given that the base Insight LX lacks stability control, the most basic Insight is likely to handle even worse in emergency situations. Omitting this important safety feature blunts the appeal of the Insight’s $20,510 base price.
We wish that the IIHS Top Safety Pick award required standard stability control, rather than bestowing it on cars where it remains optional. Although more and more cars now have standard ESC, some cases remain where a buyer may think they’re getting all of the safety of a Top Safety Pick, but then they miss out because they bought a version without ESC. Other 2010 cars that are IIHS Top Safety Picks with optional ESC include the Honda Fit and Civic and Mitsubishi Lancer.
IIHS rates cars in an offset frontal crash that mimics real-world accidents when hitting a car in the same weight class. Side crash tests are conducted to simulate a vehicle being hit in the side by a tall, heavy SUV. Vehicles are rated on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor.
To see how the Insight and Soul perform in our tests, check out our Ratings, including fuel economy and safety in our model overviews (available to online subscribers). Also, read our initial impressions of the Toyota Prius.
Learn more about crash tests in our guide to car safety. View more than 300 crash tests performed by the IIHS in our crash test video player.
—Liza Barth and Tom Mutchler